This is an interesting question, not only for newly qualified therapists starting out, but also those in practice for a while. And there’s no right answer. You are free to charge what you want. I personally believe that it is important that some fee changes hands, even if it is a nominal one, but it really is a matter for you to decide for yourself. Don’t forget to be clear with your client up front about what your expectations around fees are.
Here are some points to consider:
- You are not bound by what others are charging. If your rate is somewhere within the broad range of that charged by others it is likely that there will be clients available to you at that price point. If your rate is significantly above or below the majority of your peers, then you may have to work harder to get clients, as you will be going against the market’s expectations.
- You can charge different amounts for different clients. You can offer a sliding scale depending on the client’s circumstances.
- How you structure the fee can make a big difference, for example, are you going to charge for cancellations? If so, what is your policy? How many days notice do you require, and are you willing to rearrange the session, rather than charge a cancellation fee?
- One option is to charge on the basis of sessions attended, with no charge if adequate notice of non-attendance is given. Another option is that the fee is payable for a set number of weeks of the year, whether the client comes or not.
- The client is making a commitment that may last several months or even years. You can retain the same fee level throughout a client’s relationship with you, or you can change it. The possibility of future changes can be flagged at the outset of the relationship.
- Your starting figure, whether increased over time or not, will form the base line for the fee structure during your work. If you start too low, you will find it difficult to raise it substantially. If you aim too high, they may be put off before they start.
- A client’s financial situation is not your responsibility. Their situation may change during the course of your relationship depending on circumstances, and you may wish to be flexible, particularly in the short term, in order to enable the work to continue. Or you may not.
- Don’t assume that you know where the client is coming from as regards the fee. Some clients will make the decision about whether to start therapy with you based on what you charge. However, clients vary, and so do their circumstances, so while the cost will be a major factor for some, it will not be an issue at all for others. There are clients for whom €10 a week is too much, and there are clients willing to pay €100 or more. You choose who you want to work with.
- The level of fee you charge will be affected by your beliefs about what is appropriate and possible, and what you believe you have to offer and what that’s worth. It is useful to spend some time exploring these issues. Some of the limiting beliefs I have explored for myself around the fee include:
- I can’t charge more than (someone I know), who has years more experience.
- There’s something wrong in taking money for this work, when people are in so much pain.
- No one’s going to pay me that much, I’m just listening, not really doing anything.
- There’s a recession on, no one can afford to pay full whack for anything.
10. Consider how you intend to increase your fees over time. If you are planning to be in this business for a long time, you are unlikely to keep charging the same amount forever.
And remember, the choice is yours, and it doesn’t have to be one you stick with forever. One of the big advantages about being self-employed is that you get to make the rules. So what do you want to charge?
If you struggle with this or any other aspect of running your practice, maybe I can help. Contact me here with your question or query, or to avail of your free 20 minute consultation.