Feb 8, 2021
I am grateful to be joined by two private practice rock stars, Kelly Higdon and Miranda Palmer, in The Practice of Therapy's latest episode. Our conversation revolves around the money mindset that we should have as therapists and as private practice owners. The one silver lining that has come out of Covid is that people are finally starting to understand mental health services' true value. So, join me, Kelly, and Miranda as we talk about what you should be charging, why you should consider outsourcing, and the reason therapists should never compare fees.
Kelly Higdon, LMFT is the co-founder of ZynnyMe and co-creator of The Business School Bootcamp for Therapists, a flagship course that helps therapists in all parts of their private practice journey solidify their business foundation and growth. When she isn’t coaching or hosting retreats for her clients, you can find her playing roller derby or spending time with her family. To learn more about Kelly check out kellyhigdon.com and zynnyme.com
On any given day you will find her writing, meeting with her psychotherapy or coaching clients, running a webinar for therapists, providing consultation with private practice owners, and making lots of room for playtime with her family. Kelly's hair constantly changes. She cares about the people that she works with. AND her most FAVORITE THING is to push, educate and inspire in the Business School Bootcamp.
Miranda Palmer built a cash-based private practice during the recession. But, she is most proud that she did it to take care of her family and created a work-life balance that allowed her to avoid the all too common burn-out a lot of therapists experience.
Today her primary business is inspiring and teaching therapists private practice marketing. Miranda teaches them business skills, and not because she is all about money. Miranda sees how clinical outcomes, burnout rate, and overall passion can be impacted positively or negatively by how our businesses run.
How much is therapy worth? Most of us know that it's a silly question! Well, people are priceless, and you cannot put a value on a therapy. How are you going to monetize transgenerational trauma and healing? So then that brings us back to, well, how do we know what to charge? What do we need to do good work and to live the life we teach our clients?
Money is a resource; that is part of the outcome that we are working towards. We're working towards an outcome with our clients, a clinical outcome, and we want them to have a great experience. We want to be able to be present to provide that outcome. So we need to look at our outcome; money is just one resource that we need to get there. Time and energy are also resources that we require as therapists. Now, we start to calculate, what does that number really come out to?
When you take all of this into account, then you no longer feel shame or guilt about how much you charge for your services. When you think about running a business, you need sick time; you need to pay your rent, you need to pay your mortgage, health insurance, vacation, technology, and utilities. All of these things that are part of being a business owner we need to consider. Most of us did not learn how to be business owners in graduate school, we have nonprofit training, and we have this nonprofit mindset. Nonprofit organizations will get grants for millions of dollars; then, they can use that money to pay for their positions. You never really get to see where all of the other money goes.
The mental healthcare system is not doing well. Access is challenging. As therapists, we are one part of that system. In order for that system to exist, to be sustainable, we all have to operate from that place of our highest and best. Then, we can raise the bar for these other systems, maybe to change with us.
We should not be looking at our peers and saying, "you charge too much; why are you doing that?" Because at the end of the day, you don't know someone else's situation. You don't know what that therapist needs to run their business. It can be totally different than what you need to run your business. A lot of us live paycheck to paycheck. Would you want your clients to live paycheck to paycheck? No! So, you shouldn't have to live paycheck to paycheck either.
Our relationship to money has a lot to do with self-care. Many private practice owners are starting to see their phones ring off the hook because of Covid. However, the clinician will not be able to see everyone that calls their practice. It wouldn't be fair to the patients or fair to the clinician. The pandemic has only highlighted the issues we have had as a system. Now, we see the cracks in mental healthcare widen. We will be treating anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, medical trauma, and all sorts of things in the next years to come. As therapists, we feel like we have a duty to do extra work during these times because it is such a crisis. However, don't forget about self-care!
When we get into private practice, we have to look at the bookkeeping, answering the phones, maintaining the website, and dealing with loans. If you are the business owner, you have to budget for those things that you're outsourcing, or you have to have time for those things that should be outsourcing.
Clinicians think private practice will be great because they are only going to see thirty clients a week. However, they find themselves working sixty or seventy hours a week because of all the extra tasks they have taken on. Unfortunately, Clinicians are a lot of times too slow to outsource stuff. When you don't outsource things, you'll be saving money. However, when you do outsource things, it will allow you to enjoy your life. Make outsourcing part of your business plan and charge a fee that covers that instead of stressing out about small things that don't necessarily matter.
One silver lining that has happened through Covid that a lot of the stigma around mental health and mental wellbeing is starting to lower. So many of us have experienced anxiety on different levels. More than ever, people are beginning to understand the value of therapy, and they need to pay for what the services are truly worth. We hope that therapists are really looking at those numbers and reevaluating what to charge. For instance, it's time that therapists start saying no to insurance contracts that are paying $25 or $35 for a session. It's appalling that those contracts are still out there, and therapists are still signing them. Therapists need to do the math - we have to do the math for ourselves and figure out what works.
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Gordon is the person behind The Practice of Therapy Podcast & Blog. He is also President and Founder of Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC. He is a therapist, consultant, business mentor, trainer, and writer. PLEASE Subscribe to The Practice of Therapy Podcast wherever you listen to it. Follow us on Twitter @therapistlearn, and Pinterest, “Like” us on Facebook.