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Earning a Living From Therapy Practice

A recent article in the Irish Times said that an average family spent between €45, 000 and €50, 000 between running their home and car, food, property and water tax, education and childcare. This figure does not include Photo no (23)income tax, PRSI or USC, nor does it include provision for retirement. If we estimate that those taxes might reasonably amount to €15,000, a therapist who is the main breadwinner of a typical family of two adults and two children, would need to earn at least €60,000 after all expenses in order to support their family.

To put this in context, €60,000 equates to 1,000 hours at €60 per hour, or 20 hours every week for 50 weeks. This takes no account of any of the costs of practising (such as rent, insurance, supervision, professional memberships, or CPD), takes no account of holidays or sickness, and takes no account of cancellations or discounts. It also takes account of face to face client hours only, and ignores the time needed to generate those 1,000 client hours, or to do any of the other tasks of running a small professional practice.
It’s a big ask.

The more you need to earn from your therapy practice, the most serious you’ll need to be about engaging with the business aspects of running the practice. Someone who has a pension or another income, or who is not the main breadwinner in the family will not be so reliant on the income from their practice, and so can afford to be more relaxed about it. However, if you know that you will need your week’s income in order to pay the mortgage, or to put food on the table, then that need puts a different complexion on things. It can work either way, you may feel more motivated to go out and look for clients, or you may feel so terrified by the prospect (consciously or not) that you will do anything rather than engage with it.

Photo no (39)Many people who are employed work much more than 20 hours, but therapists often say that it is not possible for them to work that long, that the nature of the work is such that longer hours would result in burn out, or compassion fatigue or a fall off in the quality of the service. This makes it difficult for those who are the breadwinners of their family to earn sufficient income from their practice. Does this deter people from pursuing therapy as a career? I don’t know. However, the profession attracts more women than men, and this may well be a factor.

For me, it is curious that an occupation that has a rigorous professional training, is subject to professional standards of ethics, continuous training, and supervision, and is soon to be subject to regulatory oversight, finds it hard to generate enough income from their work to support a family.

In his preface to my new book, This Business of Therapy: A Practical Guide To Starting, Developing And Sustaining A Therapy Practice, Ger Murphy suggests that strengthening the business aspects of the profession may lead to bringing a greater cross section of the population into the profession, and thus give clients, and in particular male clients of all ages, a real choice of therapists of both genders.This was not a driver for me writing the book, although if my work contributes to such a change, I would welcome it.

My motivation was much simpler. I wanted to name the elephant in the room.

If you are finding it hard to make enough from your practice to meet your financial needs, perhaps I can help you? Contact me here to make an appointment. Or browse my services to see what you might need.

Irish Times, Pricewatch, Monday, November 21st 2016
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