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Talking To Clients About Raising Your Fee

Last week I blogged about 5 signs that it’s time to raise your fees. Once you’ve decided to raise your fees, the next steps are notifying your clients about this change, explaining your rationale and preparing to manage your client’s varied responses. During my 10 years in private practice I’ve raised my fees three times. I’ve also consulted and coached many therapists on how to handle fee raises.

Here are a few tips to help you feel more confident talking to clients about increasing your psychotherapy rates.

1) Raise your fees at milestones

I’ve found that it’s easier to tell clients about a fee increase around natural milestones such as the beginning of a new year, the beginning of summer, or the beginning of a new school year. Professional milestones such as a new degree or certification are a also a great time to raise fees.

2) Give clients plenty of notice

I always give clients at least 30 days notice of fee increases to allow them to process their emotions and to plan for the additional expense. I suggest bringing the subject up in a therapy session first and follow up with a written letter. Therapist and private practice consultant Tamara G. Suttle M.Ed., LPC suggests following up your verbal notification with a formal letter indicating the amount and the date the increase will become effective.

3) Raise your fees in waves

I have found it helpful to raise my fees for new clients initially, while keeping current clients at the same rate for an additional 6 months. Existing clients have expressed appreciation for allowing them to remain at the lower rate for an extended period of time and they often find new motivation to work harder and wrap up their therapy before the fee increase goes into effect.

4) Be prepared for a variety of responses

Money is a loaded issue. Be prepared for a variety of emotional responses in your clients and in yourself. Clients may respond angrily, passive aggressively, or they may seem unaffected. It’s not uncommon for clients to have a delayed response to your fee change. Notification of fee raises brings up a lot of good clinical “grist for the mill” to process in upcoming sessions.

Do you have any suggestions for handling this delicate topic with clients?


(c) Can Stock Photo

About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her book The Burnout Cure is available now and The Assertiveness Guide is available now.

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Comments

Tamara G. Suttle, M.Ed., LPC

Julie, thank you for writing this post and also for linking to my blog post,too.

I’m definitely taking a couple of your suggestions to add to my practices, too! I love the idea of raising fees at milestones. Although I realize that I have intuitively done that, it certainly wasn’t intentional and I can see how it can make the transition go more smoothly.

I also like the idea of raising fees “in waves!” I have historically raised fees only for my new clients and kept my old fees for current clients. However, your “waves” seem like a much more sound business practice and also a way to lessen the “shock” that can come when a client terminates and returns a year later to a new (and higher fee). Effective immediately, I’m introducing my consulting clients to “Julie-waves.” (Hope you don’t mind the nod:)

Alien

Clients have to be informed about regular fee increases before the commencement of treatment. They have to know your financial policies before they commit to working with you, and fee increase is part of the therapist’s financial policy along with payments for missed sessions and other rules regarding payments you might have. You have the right to increase your fee, as long as you inform clients about it before the commencement of treatment. It’s also up to you as a practitioner how you want to do the fee increase: annually, semi-annually or otherwise. But whatever your procedure is, it has to be clearly laid out in your informed consent, which clients are supposed to be given before the beginning of therapy work. It is UNETHICAL to surprise clients by changing your contract with them whether in regards to payments or anything else when therapy is in progress even if you give them an advanced notice. If this shakes their trust in you, I wouldn’t blame them. The mistrust would certainly be based in reality and not come as a result of their emotional issues.

Tamara G. Suttle, M.Ed., LPC

Allen, while I agree that it is good to inform clients as far in advance as possible of any changes in therapy, I do not believe that the ACA, APA, AMA, or the NASW code of ethics would support your statement that it is unethical to raise fees after beginning therapy without including the possibility in the initial disclosure statement.

Finances change. Circumstances change. Work schedules change. Life changes. And, most clients understand this. My dentist and my physicians increase their fees as they see fit. I know and expect that to happen. My clients are high functioning enough to understand that the cost of living continues to rise and do not begrudge me making a decent living.

New and inexperienced therapists in private practice often fail to take into account the “soft costs” associated with the services that they provide and need to adjust their fees accordingly. I’m not recommending “surprising” anyone with a fee increase. However, when finances dictate or professional achievements justify it, it is entirely appropriate for a professional in mental health to give sufficient notice to clients that fees will be increased.

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