Are my fees too expensive in a ‘cost-of-living’ crisis?

Kim Page
Written by Kim Page

Before you think about lowering your fees, consider that choosing a therapist is based on more than the financial cost.

If you are considering lowering your fees, keep in mind there is more than financial cost involved in the process of searching for and then choosing a therapist. Clients are often advised to look out for three things when making their choice. These three things can work in your favour if you employ them in your branding and conversations with prospective clients.

The first is making sure therapists are qualified and skilled with the right qualifications and skills in their field. This entails showing that you are registered with appropriate governing and/or membership bodies, with insurance too.
The second is to choose someone they can connect with; someone they can see themselves being open with. This could be based on a therapist being culturally appropriate or in possession of a specific skill that gives confidence. As a therapist, you need to showcase your skills, experiences and personality traits that make you unique.

The third is the ease of contact. Clients often start a therapist search at night, when they feel the strongest need, have some free time or when they finally have some privacy to do so. Therapists who are reachable at all hours for appointment booking, without having to make a phone call or send an email are in a better position to cater to these clients.

Keep on reading as we delve into more details.

These days, everyone is looking for the best deal possible.

Be clear about what you offer and how much you charge for your services. Your business branding will have set a tone, but sometimes that is too subtle. Being clear and transparent about your service and prices really helps a prospective client to identify with you. Additionally, it helps them to be informed about the commitment they are making to this therapeutic journey. Everyone has a budget that they adhere to when it comes to therapy. They want to know what the cost will be up front so they can plan accordingly and know what their financial commitment will be for the duration of therapy with you or your practice. I have found that clients who do not understand this part of the process tend not to return for subsequent sessions because it feels like the expense is too great or because there are other pressing financial concerns at hand.

There is always room for a ‘Waitrose’ and an ‘Aldi,’ both provide excellent value for their tailored customer, but trying to be both will lead to confusion.

You should also outline your cancellation policy, whether you can accept insurance, and what your payment terms are.  

Next, make sure you can answer any questions that people may have about the process of scheduling an appointment with a therapist like you. Make it super simple.

Of course, if you are offering services at a low cost, that will certainly help in being considered, but price is often not the deciding factor.

The more important factors in choosing a therapist are experience, qualifications, and specific expertise.

Your qualifications and memberships represent 000’s of hours and £’s you have invested in being a Professional practitioner. You should be the best destination for the client of your choice, not just one of many. Highlight your qualifications, keep them updated and make them easy to read. People want to know how long you have been practicing, the formal training you have had in the field, and what your latest training involved.

Look closely at your language, be specific. If you treat depression, be clear about how that differs from anxiety, for example. Focussing in on your ‘niche’ is exactly the right way to be recognised as an expert that has something valuable to offer.

Remember, one of the advantages of Private Practice is being able to set your own prices. If you are clear about your costs over a monthly basis, you can easily determine the income you need.

There is something else critical to your business presentation: Whether someone is trying to find a therapist for themselves or for someone else in their family, your style of working is especially important.

What is your style?

People have different preferences and expectations when selecting a therapist. Sharing your style will go some way to making sure you have the best ‘chemistry’ with the clients you meet.
Some people are looking for someone who practices in-person therapy while they are doing their own research online. Some people only want online therapy. Others want hybrid therapy—a combination of both online and in-person sessions.

Also share how long (or short) each session tends to last, what someone can expect at the first appointment as well as how often these sessions take place per week (or month).

Discuss how you will communicate with patients between sessions (via email/phone or text messaging etc). Let your clients know what communication methods work best for you and get their feedback on what is best for them. Some clients may feel overwhelmed by constant contact/information overload. They may prefer quiet time alone after a session with you, and not wish to be checked up on. On the other hand, some clients may be looking for more constant contact. As a therapist, consider how you like to work and what you feel able and comfortable to offer as communication. Finally, share your consulting hours. Some therapists will only see clients during specific hours while others have flexible schedules which means they might be able to see clients outside normal business hours in case something urgent comes up (such as an emergency). What available hours do you offer?

So, they chose you, what’s next?

You have been chosen and the onboarding of your new client has now begun. When someone has made the decision to go ahead, the last thing they need to face is an obstacle. A voicemail message or an email with an Out of Office by return is an off-putting brick wall to a new client. Our lives these days mean that we have come to expect an immediate response.

Communicating with you is an extremely important part of the booking process. A client is giving time, money, and trust to someone who may or may not be able to help. Do everything you can to offer a smooth, frictionless experience. Let the process of booking happen with as little effort as possible. Use one route and point every avenue there. From Facebook to a recorded voicemail – send all your bookings through one channel. It can be tempting to include a booking link, an email, and a phone number in your LinkedIn profile aiming to provide choice. Consider that one process is more efficient, reliable and for these reasons preferable for you both. This is where a digital booking system is a huge help to your client and to you. It allows your clients to be able to book an appointment seamlessly when they are ready, and you as a therapist, do not need to be staffing the phones! Their appointments are booked in your calendar, in the slots you have chosen beforehand, and reminders can be sent automatically, hugely reducing the number of no-shows and admin that you need to go through.

With the right tools, you transform lives

As someone who has spent so many hours looking for assistance for my family, and working with Practitioners, I know how crucial it is for clients to be able to find you and get the best sense of how you work. When the first session is booked, the price was understood and agreed way back in the process.

Your value is more than your price

It is hard to find the right therapist. But some things are constant. Google and personal recommendations are the most common starting points, and every search uses a smartphone and computer. Be your own customer and your value will be so much more than your price.

However you wish to be branded, whatever your type of customer, choosing you was the hard part, make the booking as easy as you can. It is more valuable than you think!

Main photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash