The "M" Word: Talking to Therapists about Money


So this weekend Kelly and I presented at the 2013 Annual California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) conference. We go to present for 1 hour on Top Tips for Going Paperless. And while we did our best to pack as much in as we could in such a small amount of time- it wasn't enough! (We had sent in a 4 or 6 hour proposal for this topic and they gave us a 1-hour slot! (Which we are SO glad we got to talk and meet some awesome therapists!) 

So... as we were agonizing about what we include on our slides, I noticed how uncomfortable I was with the idea of putting any words up that related to money or profits. Why? Because I knew that it would set off alarm bells in our audience. 

And, of course, even as we began our talk, as the conversations about taking credit cards, or using any external services came up- the energy in the room shifted. People started going back and forth about how to save money and I saw more than a few people's anxiety rise (yes- we can see that when giving a presentation). 

So- I told the room that the slide we were discussing about "sustaining a private practice" actually started as a slide about money. I asked the room why I would've agonized and avoided any words associated with money when speaking to a group of therapists... silence... 

Agonizing, pregnant pause... and I waited... and waited... for what seemed like forever...

And then one lone person spoke up- therapists don't like to talk about money! 

We don't like to talk about it, think about it, or plan for it. And that makes sustaining a therapy private practice almost impossible. People end up not developing fees, practices, and business plans that allow them to be happy, healthy, balanced people. We often do the exact opposite of what we encourage our clients to do. 

And then something really uncomfortable hit me... 

As Kelly had been talking and fielding questions about what paperless practice to use, or what specific apps to use- she had mentioned that we do coaching, and that people pay us for specific recommendations about their individual needs and practices. She said this not to sell coaching, but to help people understand that each person's practice and needs are very different. And so, the solutions that the 68 people who registered for our talk each needed were very different based on things like: 

  • Are they mac or pc?

  • Do they internet access at their office?

  • Do they have a smartphone?

  • How paperless do they want to go?

  • Do they take insurance?

  • Do they want to continue to take insurance?

  • Do they have administrative staff?

  • How many clients do they see per week?

  • Do they do groups?

  • Are they ready to take credit cards?

  • What mode of therapy do they practice and are their any niche needs (storing lots of images, multiple forms or assessments for clients to fill out)

  • And on and on...

So even though I knew exactly why she had highlighted the individualized nature of each therapist's needs, and the insanity of trying to educate, answer questions, and make specific recommendations in a 1-hour talk- I felt really uncomfortable... and nervous... 

She had mentioned money... 

I worried that our audience would think we were "salesy" that people would shut down, that people wouldn't respect what I was trying to say, and that my reputation would be trashed by people...

Apparently, simultaneously with me preaching to therapists that we need to be comfortable talking about money, services, and valuing our unique skills- I was finding I was really uncomfortable with even mentioning a service that I am really quite proud of. A very unique service that nobody else provides... Talk about parallel process. 


So, all that to say- I get it. I really do. As much work as I have done to feel confident in talking about money as it relates to my therapy practice- I still find I've got "work to do" in other money areas. Good thing I have an appointment this week with my money coach