Talking To Clients About Raising Your Fee

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.

Do you have any suggestions for handling this delicate topic with clients?

(c) Can Stock Photo

Social Media Ethics (part 2): Developing Your Social Media Policy

Social media ethics are starting to be addressed by mental health professional organizations or licensing boards but those guidelines, if they exist, are generally vague.

It's important for clinicians to take time to think through the implications of their online interactions on clients to avoid dual relationships, putting client's privacy at risk, or jeopardizing the therapeutic relationship.

Including a written social media policy as a client's initial treatment contract helps clarify how technology will be used in client-therapist interaction so it doesn't interfere with treatment.

On the forefront of the social media ethics discussion is licensed psychologist Keeley Kolmes. Psy.D. Dr. Kolmes' comprehensive social media policy has been a model for mental health therapists around the world. She generously allows clinicians to adapt her social media policy for their own use and frequently speaks, writes, and teaches on social media topics. I used it as a springboard for developing my own social media policy.

If you don't have a social media policy, I suggest that you develop one. The goal of your policy is to clearly outline your expectations regarding online interaction, educate the client of risks, and have a clear rationale for how you will or will not engage with clients online. Here are some suggested topics to cover in your policy and a few questions to help you solidify your philosophy regarding social media interaction.

Friending Will you accept friend requests on Facebook, Linked In, Google+? Why or why not?

Following Will you allow clients to follow you on Twitter, Blogs, Pinterest? If not, how will you handle it if they do follow you? Will you follow back?

Messaging Is it appropriate for clients to contact you via SMS? Or social media sites like Twitter DM? If so, what information is appropriate?

Business Review Sites What are the risks that clients take when reviewing your services on sites like Yelp or Healthgrades? Keep in mind that if a client gives you a negative review it is unethical to respond directly to the review as it breaks client confidentiality.

Google Reader What if a client wants to share an article with you through Google reader?

Search Engine Do you make a practice of Google searching your clients? Are there emergency situations where you would search for their information or information of someone close to them?

Location Based-Services If clients check-in to your location on GPS services like Foursquare or Facebook check-in are they aware of the risks that they might be identified as clients?

Email Correspondence What type of information is appropriate to send via email? How quickly a client can anticipate an email response?

Email/Newsletter Lists If you have a newsletter sign-up on your website do you expect clients to sign up on email or newsletter lists?

If you can think of a topic I missed in the list above, let me know.

Are you willing to share your social media policy? If so, please post the link in a comment below.