When it comes to finances, it can be a bit tricky to discuss all the ins and outs with your clients. Especially when your main goal is to assess and treat their mental health, sometimes it can feel disingenuous or trivial when the time comes to sort out payments in treatment plans. In the case where counseling prices fluctuate, the financial aspect can be even more complicated. Fortunately, we’re here to help guide you through talking pricing updates in your counseling practice, so you know exactly what to expect and how to navigate these conversations.
Why you may need to raise your rates
You may be wondering why exactly you need to raise your rates. After all, you put a lot of time and effort into deciding on certain prices, and why should you change your online therapy costs? You might be surprised to know that there are actually various reasons why you should consider regular assessment and change your cost per hour.
Because of inflation, the price of living increases while the value of your dollar decreases. This means that one dollar today has far less value than one dollar 10 years ago, and in order to maintain a steady profit, your prices need to reflect these economic changes.
You will be able to raise the quality of your service
With a higher cost, you have a higher cash flow that can be invested into improving areas of your counseling business. The higher your qualifications and expertise, the greater justification you have to charge clients more, and thus, more incentive to elevate the quality of your services. You also won’t have to take on as many clients and stick with getting to know and treating your most loyal.
Will help in meeting your own needs
Naturally, increasing rates means more income for you to spend however you choose. You won’t have to worry about making ends meet, and you can avoid a whole lot of stress.
Ethical considerations on how to increase rates for clients
It’s important to recognize that there is an ethical way to increase rates for clients, and ideally, you should prioritize this when navigating these conversations with them. Your rates should allow you to work enough hours, invest more into growing the company, as well as enable you to achieve long-term financial goals. You should also have enough income to be able to live and function with minimal stress. While there are these components of rate changes that focus on personal gain, as stressed in most online counseling guides, it’s also important that rates focus on the client-side, and that you charge an appropriate amount that clients will be willing to pay. Raising fees too high can result in clients transferring to another counselor service, which is a big no-no! Continuously re-evaluating and assessing your rates is important as you gain more experience and expertise, and show that you can justify rate changes. It’s a vital aspect of every telehealth counseling guide, and so it’s important that you reflect on such considerations.
Tips to notify your clients about pricing updates in counseling practice
To help guide you, we’ve collated some of the top tips when it comes to notifying your clients about pricing updates. Therapy session prices can be tricky, especially when it comes to billing, however, we aim to address all your concerns and help you communicate your changes effectively and with no stress.
Consider giving your clients advance notice
It’s super important that you let your clients know in advance about changes in price concerning counseling sessions, as some clients may not be able to afford the new price. In such cases, the clients will need time to find and get situated with new counselors that are within their price budget.
Consider offering the change in a way that helps clients feel cared for
Changing prices for existing clients can take a bit to navigate, so your business may benefit from allowing some leeway when it comes to paying new rates. You may want to let existing clients have some sort of exemption for 30 to 90 days, in order to accommodate the new costs, whereas new clients can pay the change in rates immediately.
Raise in slow but steady increments
Large price increases are a surefire way to deter your clients. Make sure that you slowly increase these rates, and consistently, so clients don’t feel winded from your decisions. A big jump can make clients feel very unwilling to continue with your services. Slow and steady wins the race!
Start with your new clients
While you should deeply consider rate changes with new clients, as you certainly don’t want to lose any, it is however totally okay to charge new clients the higher costs. This way you can also avoid having difficult conversations concerning increases when there’s no need for them.
Have the talk with your existing clients
It is essential that you set aside time to discuss finances with your existing clients, as they do need to know that price rates will change. The worst-case scenario is no warning given, and your clients leave you with a negative review, so you should always take the time to work through any of their concerns, and lay it all out.
Put it in writing
Having a written document is a great way to formalize the process, and help clients remember everything you discussed. Naturally, it’s very easy to forget the small stuff, and so having the information in writing can clarify any issues before they become misconstrued.
Be ready to refer
You should have the expectation that not every client will be on board with your new rates. While this is unfortunate, it’s just a part of business, and being prepared with a list of other counselors always elevates your professionality.
How much notice should you give your clients?
Now you’ve increased your rates, and you’re ready to let your clients know; however, there’s still the issue of how far in advance you should notify them. While there’s no universal rule here, you should always double-check ethical codes in the case that the law in your specific area says otherwise. In the meantime, you could consider the size of the increase. If you’re only increasing your session fees by a small amount, a week’s notice could be sufficient. On the other hand, larger fees may need anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks, especially with clients who are financially struggling. If you’re dealing with a lot of clients who face financial concerns, you could also consider a case-by-case basis for who needs a fair warning in particular. Regardless of your approach, it is of utmost importance that you address fee changes before clients become concerned. Many clients do expect fees to increase over time, so just taking extra care is always appreciated.
Strategies to get your therapy clients to cope with the rate increase
Sometimes your clients may not take the pay increase well, and that’s okay! With the right techniques, you can help your client, and encourage them to stay in a way that best suits them and their resources.
Create a payment policy
A payment policy is the easiest way to be transparent about what is and what isn’t acceptable when it comes to finances. It allows you to communicate about your payment FAQs and keeps everyone in the loop when it comes to paying fees.
Include payment terms on your intake forms
Be straight up with your clients, and include payment information concerning counseling session costs on your intake forms. This way, your clients can sign, and immediately acknowledge that they’re aware of your financial operations.
Charge a deposit
Charging a deposit is a great way to prevent clients from missing appointments, as they’ve already paid for some of the sessions!
Offer discounts for clients who pay early
Late payments are frustrating to deal with, and so to encourage clients to pay on time, you may want to consider offering a small discount, usually 5% or less. This way, you can be paid on time, and clients have greater value for their money.
Accept different payment options
Not everyone uses the same payment options, so offering a variety can encourage more clients to use your services. Consider several card companies, as well as online and in-person payments.
Be willing to accept installments
Your clients may not all have the financial means to be able to afford your counseling cost per hour up front. So accepting installments allows you to continue to have a steady cash flow while retaining clients and accommodating their needs.
Take home message
Discussing finances with clients can be tricky, especially in knowing that everyone comes from different backgrounds, and is dealing with a myriad of issues that can affect their ability to pay. However, you also need to have a steady stream of income, so it’s important that when you need to raise your prices, you set aside the time to go through the details properly. You need to prepare in advance to ensure that you and your clients are on the same page when it comes to payments and that you can actively provide services at a price level that reflects your expertise. Whether this is through the help of practice management software or not, it’s important to prioritize patient concerns. Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand how to approach these situations, and ensure that you’re getting the best patient reviews.
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