How to Charge More as a Private Practice Therapist: The Consultant Mindset

In 5 subsections, this article aims to shift your thinking as a budding private practice therapist about your pricing and fees from a guilt-ridden perspective of "unfair financial burden" to a perspective of meritocratic value exchange.  We'll use the example of a business consultant to better understand WHY you should charge ALL of your full-fee with your ideal clients.

Pricing is a challenge in any business.  We want to entice our audience to our services based on competitive and reasonable rates, yet maximize our own earnings at the same time.

Of course we need to charge enough money to actually support ourselves, let alone live a life of modest abundance.  But getting the guff to charge what we know we’re worth can be scary, an easier option just negotiating or sliding our prices down with the slightest hint of hesitation.

Today, you’re going to become a business consultant and through this change in thinking, you’ll realize why you must be charging your full rate to your ideal clients, as well as a few tips on how to find them.

Shifting Gears into the Consultant Mindset

Just like sorting through problems within our own lives, seeking external advice and consultation from weathered professionals when starting a business is usually a highly valuable habit, regularly providing a net-positive “return on investment”.

As an example: you pay a consultant $1000 for help with marketing and the ideas you learn generate $2000 in new business for you, earning you money.

Yes, you had to deal with that initial painful $1000 check and some faith that it will be worth it, but when you did commit the money, you commit yourself as well, as it turns into more value down the road.

(This ‘commitment principle’ applies to investing money time or energy in anything:  the more we invest, the more we commit ourselves).

What You Charge is The Value You Offer

With providing mental health services, measuring ROI is not simple!

“How much extra happiness do I get for investing $150 in therapy today?”

Not really a fair way to look at it.  Yet, we are put in situations where we really do measure the value we receive from something as nebulous as long-term private pay therapy in terms of dollars and cents.  Ridiculous, but the above question asked in a different way feels easier to answer:

“Was the 3 months of private pay therapy I did before ending my marriage worth the cost in terms of dollars and cents?”

Suddenly, situating the actual value of therapy makes us realize how important therapy is to the clients in their lives.

Like with a business consultant, if you know that you are going to dramatically improve the health and longevity of the small business you are consulting for, you naturally feel good about charging what you deserve for your services, again, knowing that you will return that “value” back to them and then some.

 If You Slide Your Fees for People Who Can Afford Your Services, What Does That Say About Your Services?

Let people tell you that they cannot afford your services FIRST before you offer to slide down your fee based upon a pre-determined metric.

In consulting, you may offer them a less exhaustive consultation and follow up for a slightly cheaper price, but only after  you offered your full-fee services pitch, tailored specifically to them, because you know that the full-fee consultation would help them the most.

Explain to your new clients that you charge a full fee rate of $120 (or whatever it might be) and that there are other therapists who can offer similar services with perhaps less experience and education for a cheaper rate.

Be up front with them about why you charge what you charge: because the benefit of your services are well worth their cost.

And likewise, be comfortable with them walking away to find a cheaper alternative.  Saying no to a client who is unwilling to invest in themselves today will give you the time, space, and energy to take on those super-star clients who invest in your sessions and really benefit from your services (potentially telling others).

Your Ideal, Guilt-Free Client

It isn’t fair to ask someone to pay more than they can for your services and in this case, either the client needs to choose a different provider or you would need to slide your fees to serve this client.  Unlike with buying a new TV or even business consultation, where the purchase isn’t absolutely necessary, sometimes for some of your prospective clients, they really need help from a professional mental health counselor.

Let’s keep this client in mind and acknowledge there is a definite time to work for less than normal to help someone in need.

That being said, many of your prospective clients can afford and need excellent mental health services.  You should not feel guilty about asking for your full fee in helping these clients.

Likewise, when you know you will return double the cost of your investment for a small business, you feel comfortable about reassuring that small business or new client that your services will have a distinct, visible benefit.

Spend ten minutes right now to profile your ideal client.  Grab a pen and paper and answer these questions:

  1. What are the types of mental health issues you help your clients handle?  Write specific problems they have.
  2. What methods do you teach and utilize to help your clients understand their mental health issues?
  3. Write down treatment methods, educational courses and continued education, and other activities you’ve spent time and money on to better your services for your clients.
  4. What outcomes to clients achieve when utilizing your services?  Write specific results, changes, and habits that clients take away after working with you.
  5. In the eyes of each client undergoing his or her mental health issue, imagine how important it is for that client to make progress on that issue.  From their perspective, imagine the relative benefit to cost ratio of the outcomes he or she achieves.  Write down how you imagine they would rate the importance of handling their problem vs spending their money.

This exercise teaches us all that, in the eyes of the client or small business, getting help is so so so important!

And maybe you should seek consultation services and mentors to help grow your business too!

The Final Step: Actually Charging What You Deserve

You made it to the end, you answered a set of questions revealing just how valuable mental health services are to clients, and now.. you actually have to charge them your full fee.

Here’s the average example:

My full fee rate is $120 but many of my clients are on a sliding scale so let me know if you have a financial burden and we can discuss a reduced rate per session.

Here’s a simply script to use for your next prospective client:

.. I wanted to let you know that right now I’m currently not taking on new clients that cannot pay my full rate.  I completely understand if this would be too much of a financial burden right now and will try my best to refer you to a professional who can provide you services at a lower rate.

You do not need to provide any more reason than that: you simply aren’t taking on clients who cannot pay our full rate.

If you 9 out of 10 of your clients paid your full rate and are raving about the ROI they received from their consultation, you simply wouldn’t discount your services, you would probably raise your rates.

Again, it is hard to say “no” when you are struggling to have 2 out of 10 clients who pay you your full rate but you have to in order to get to 9 out of ten.  

Focus on the value you provide your clients and how important your services are to them, especially when they invest and commit to your higher rates.  Focus on and provide excellent service to your clients.   And work on your marketing skills to increase the flow of clients into your inbox.  (Talk to some referring physicians and follow up with them regularly, work on your online marketing skills, and join our newsletter!)

Let us know in the comment below what you thought of this article!

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