As therapists, we LOVE to tend to love to see the big picture and help people find the path to ease in making deep changes in their life. Often, that shift happens when people become aware of what is driving them to repeat old patterns that don't serve their current life, circumstances, and goals.
And yet, when you talk to therapists about private practice finances or the financial success of a business, it often gets boiled down to- am I attracting enough clients? As a business owner, you can have a full private practice, and still not make a profit! Or, you can have a full private practice and still be struggling financially and not feel confident. You could even be making a great profit, and have a LOT of money saved up and still not feel safe or ok financially.
So, today, we want to talk to you about old money stories, thoughts, or beliefs that could impact your ability to feel confident, clear, and make rational choices as a business owner.
The Most Impactful Money Story: If I Take Care of My Money Needs, I Hurt Others
One of our bootcampers defined this struggle perfectly: "I used to believe that I would be hurting people if I charged them a living wage, but instead I was hurting me, limiting the clients potential and creating negative transference between myself and the client." I can't tell you the number of therapists from around the world who I have spoken with who struggle with this exact issue.
They want to take care of others. They want to make mental health accessible. And yet, when they set or accept fees that don't take into account the needs for running a business, and taking care of themselves financially- they end up feeling burnt out, fearful, and the clinical work suffers. We are taught in graduate school to take vacations, practice self-care, refer out clients who we aren't having success with or aren't trained to work with, value the work, be real about money etc.
Where Does This Money Story Come From?
And then we enter community mental health agencies where we are often given conflicting messages: work with everybody so you can get experience, learn to survive on a wage that doesn't even remotely allow for time-off, illness, or future planning, etc. We also often get just a little sliver of the money picture. As clients pay nothing for services, or a sliding scale fee, we may get the sense that this relates to the value of therapy, or believe that the sliding scale paid somehow actually sustain the non-profit. When in fact, a non-profit sustains primarily on grant funds- and the sliding scale does not provide even remotely enough income to keep the lights on.
Money is Just a Resource
The truth is, running a business and setting a fee is about being clear about your financial needs and the things you need to be a confident, secure, and cared for human. AND, that happens to allow you to be a well trained, confident and cared for therapist. You can't separate our human needs from our work as a therapist!
Money is a simple resource, just like time, energy, food, etc. You need the amount of money you need. As an employee you probably didn't feel guilty about the vacation time, sick time, retirement benefits, or health benefits, your job provided or the taxes they had to pay to the government to employ you. In fact, you might have resented your employer if they neglected to provide these benefits, reduced, or removed them.
The Cost of Doing Business
As a business owner, providing these benefits for yourself as part of your business isn't a luxury. It is the cost of doing business. It is the cost of making sure you create a sustainable private practice that provides excellent clinical services. Businesses that don't provide a livable wage and care for their employees cannot survive. And yet, I can't tell you how much of a money shift it is for therapists who go through our Business School Bootcamp to learn to plan for these costs and to start to see money as simply a resource and not something that relates to their value as a human.
Money Stories Impact Us
This money story and others can pop up in a variety of ways. Here are a few other negative beliefs about money that our bootcampers uncovered were keeping them stuck financially in their private practice. Read and then add your money belief or money block in the comments below!
People won't want to pay me what I think I'm worth.
I won't be able to pay off my student loans.
I won't be able to afford the lifestyle I want.
My needs to get full fee are less important than my clients pressing needs
Clients will be angry/resentful/rejecting if I charge for late cancellations.
I can't charge more than the "going rate" for MFT's.
Who do you think you are that you can charge more than what others can afford?!?! You need to be helping people not being an elitist!l.
I wouldn't spend that on myself why would anyone pay me that" - crushes me with doubt.
I will raise my fee for my new clients...but I am afraid to ask my old clients to pay the new fee. I like working with them and I don't want to lose them..."
"No matter how hard I work, no matter how much I invest, I will never make money"
It's exploitative to charge a high rate when people are hurting.
I would be helping more by taking their insurance regardless of what the insurance pays me because it's better for the client that way.
How can I really justify my worth to clients when I state my full fee rate AND that I do not take insurance? Then some resentment can come in like why so I even need to feel like I need to justify my rate?? I doubt this potential client gives their MD a hard time, or the person where they go for a massage, reiki, facial who charges the same price range as me
I'm not really a social worker if I earn a good living.
It's not right to ask a lot of money from people who need help.
It's too expensive for people to pay my fee if they come once a week.
Share your negative money story or belief about money in the comments below.