Last week I blogged about 5 signs that it's time to raise your fees. Once you've decided to raise your fees, the next steps are notifying your clients about this change, explaining your rationale and preparing to manage your client's varied responses. During my 10 years in private practice I've raised my fees three times. I've also consulted and coached many therapists on how to handle fee raises. Here are a few tips to help you feel more confident talking to clients about increasing your psychotherapy rates.
1) Raise your fees at milestones
I've found that it's easier to tell clients about a fee increase around natural milestones such as the beginning of a new year, the beginning of summer, or the beginning of a new school year. Professional milestones such as a new degree or certification are a also a great time to raise fees.
2) Give clients plenty of notice
I always give clients at least 30 days notice of fee increases to allow them to process their emotions and to plan for the additional expense. I suggest bringing the subject up in a therapy session first and follow up with a written letter. Therapist and private practice consultant Tamara G. Suttle M.Ed., LPC suggests following up your verbal notification with a formal letter indicating the amount and the date the increase will become effective.
3) Raise your fees in waves
I have found it helpful to raise my fees for new clients initially, while keeping current clients at the same rate for an additional 6 months. Existing clients have expressed appreciation for allowing them to remain at the lower rate for an extended period of time and they often find new motivation to work harder and wrap up their therapy before the fee increase goes into effect.
4) Be prepared for a variety of responses
Money is a loaded issue. Be prepared for a variety of emotional responses in your clients and in yourself. Clients may respond angrily, passive aggressively, or they may seem unaffected. It's not uncommon for clients to have a delayed response to your fee change. Notification of fee raises brings up a lot of good clinical "grist for the mill" to process in upcoming sessions.