Today I want to talk about the elephant in the room: When your desire to help people at any cost wins out over your desire to provide for yourself and your family. Therapists undercharging for their services are at risk of burnout.
I know, I know. You want to do good work. You want to help people. You are burdened by the fact that a client may struggle with payment. Being in the helping profession, you’re in the business of providing accessible services, not creating barriers.
These professional struggles aren’t novel. Counseling professionals share that they feel guilty when a session isn’t as productive as they might’ve hoped; while at the same time, can feel undervalued after an extraordinarily challenging session they undercharged for.*
The problem is… you are in the unique position of being both an entrepreneur and also having a vocation – you didn’t exactly go into business for yourself because you’re in love with the commerce side of things, right?
You did it because you want to help people, you want to create impact, and support personal transformation for your clients.
So saying, “Cheque please” can feel pretty darn uncomfortable.
But here’s the thing: You are actually doing your clients a disservice by low-balling your rates.
How so?You enter the counseling session feeling undervalued. It is difficult to be an effective helper if you aren’t centered yourself or if you’re stressed out worrying about your own finances or lack of time. You risk fostering feelings of resentment towards your practice because it is keeping you stressed out, overworked, and financially stretched.*
Your client is statistically more likely to show up for sessions if they are paying you out of pocket. (98% more likely in fact vs just 20% with free counseling)*
Payment sets a much-needed boundary in your professional relationship. It kind of levels the playing field in an otherwise natural power imbalance. The client pays. They can continue to pay for your services; they can fire you. That is empowering.*
In another lifetime, before my marketing career building Facebook™ campaigns, I was a Social Worker working in non-profit mental health services. I loved that work.
And yet, I remember the stress of trying to meet my personal goals (you know, pay off student loans, buy a house, have a baby) with the insecurity of chasing government contracts.
I remember bringing it up to my manager: I want to buy a house, but I can’t without permanent status. I love my job, yet I want to meet these other goals, too…
I was told, “Well, you know, we don’t do it for the money!”
Okay, fair point. But as someone who is pretty anti-poverty for myself and others, I think it’s not unreasonable to advocate for our own self-care. And so that’s my life mission now – helping women in the helping professions reach more people, effect more positive change and make more money.
Working in the helping profession should not rob us of our own personal aspirations. If we let it, we are severely shortchanging ourselves.
I am here to tell you that it is totally possible to have it all: Greater impact, make more money, more personal freedom. And who doesn’t want that?
But in order for that to happen, a therapist needs to do two things:
First: Do your own personal work on getting comfortable with the fees that you are charging. I mean, really do. the. work. Find peace in knowing that you are making a decision to help your client by charging a fee (yes, to increase the likelihood of their participation. And to increase their own sense of personal power with money being the great equalizer in the therapeutic relationship*).
Second: Prioritize your own self-care, your personal aspirations and honor your physical and emotional needs as a human being needing to provide for yourself and your family. This will allow you to reconnect to the heart of your business, feel more present knowing you are also honoring and valuing yourself in that shared space.
So, dear psychologist, my takeaway for you is to dream bigger, allow yourself space and grace to reconcile your desire to help others, have a greater impact in this world, make more money, and give yourself the gift of more time and more personal freedom.
Sarah Thompson of Big Bark Digital, owns a woman-owned, boutique ad agency specialized in Facebook™ and Instagram™ advertising. The company was founded by lead ad strategist Sarah Thompson to provide support to service providers, coaches, infopreneurs, course creators, and other thought leaders and personalities striving to build their brands.