If there’s one thing (other than erotic countertransference), that therapists in private practice dislike talking about, even with each other, it’s money.
Every therapist knows the problem, and we all, eventually, have to find our own way of coming to terms with it. New therapists, especially struggle with the question: how much do we charge? It’s our business, but few of us are experienced in running a business. How much do we need? How much do we deserve? How much will the market bear?
I remember well the night, in a Rosebridge class, when the instructor raised the issue of fees, and the next two hours were a swirl of conflicting emotions, attitudes and fears. Some of us pictured ourselves as Ghandian figures: a loincloth and wooden bowl, sitting under a tree and dispensing wisdom for which we asked no recompense, other than a few eggs or a basket of fruit. Some (perhaps more realistic) students were clear they would have rent to pay, but had no idea of how much was going to be enough. A few, perhaps having scoped out the field, already had a figure in mind that seemed excessive to the rest of us. I wonder how they’re doing, today.
What most of us had in common, when we dug into it, was our inability to believe that what we had to offer could possibly be worth the amount of money we’d heard therapists were charging. Hell, we scarcely believed in ourselves as potential therapists at all, never mind therapists who could charge a professional fee.
Sooner or later, though, one way or another, we figured out (most of us, anyway), that we have a right to ask enough payment for our services to cover our needs. We remind ourselves that we spent several years of our lives getting our Masters Degree. Then we spent another six or seven years, working as interns “in the trenches” for little (or no) pay, in order to qualify to pay the hefty fees that allowed us to take the examinations that allowed us to, finally, put a few letters after our name. We paid our dues. Now we deserve to make a living in our profession.
That’s one part of the money question. The other part (it seems to me) is, what makes therapy worth the cost to the client, assuming it is?
I’ll address that question in my next blog post. don’t move that dial.