Self-pay therapists in private practice can set their fee at whatever number they want.
I know a therapist who works full time in an agency and sees clients on the side in her private practice. She sets her fee at $125/50 min because that meets her financial needs.
I know another therapist who sets her fee at $350/50 min because it is her full-time income, she wants a small caseload, and she wants to afford vacations and retirement.
I know a therapist who sets her fee at $65/50 min. She has the financial support of a partner and feels she does not need to make more money.
I’ve chosen to set mine at $300/80 min session (which equates to a $200/50 min rate). I chose this amount based on the number of clients I would like to see a week and the amount of money I need to meet my budget. I also chose 80 minute sessions because I am an art therapist and have found that 50 minutes sessions are just too short with all of the art making we do.
We all choose our fees based on our individual circumstances, desires, and more. When we set our fees intentionally, there is no “right” or “wrong.”
It’s when we’re not intentional with our fees that things can go astray.
When I told a fellow therapist a year ago that I was raising my fee to my current amount (you can read about how and why I raised my fee here), her mouth literally dropped open. She had just started her private practice and told me, “I feel guilty for only charging $75!”
There is nothing wrong with setting a fee at $75. But when there is guilt or other complex emotions attached to a choice (such as fear that we won’t get clients at a certain fee), it’s clear some deeper personal examination needs to be done.
I was not this therapist’s coach or therapist, nor did she request my help, so I did not dive into the deeper questions with her.
If I was, I would have asked her why she felt guilty about $75. I would have asked her about the money stories she learned as a child. I would have asked what self-criticisms would arise if she charged $150 (usually a lot of self-judgments like,“I’m a capitalist” and “I don’t care about those in need”). We would have excavated all of her beliefs and behaviors surrounding money. We would have taken her from a place of guilt and fear about her fee to one of intentional, grounded choice.
When therapists do not examine the emotions and beliefs attached to their fee, they can unknowingly select fees that do not meet their needs. They co-sign the money stories of their past and the harmful cultural norms of the mental health field, such as Martyrdom Mentality and the Invisible Therapist Myth.
Therapists who do not set their fee based on their needs end up having to see large caseloads and work longer hours to cover their budgets, which leads to exhaustion and resentment. This leads to poorer quality work and burnout from the field. We are literally sacrificing ourselves out of the business.
In setting our fees, we can work intentionally to select a fee that meets our needs and values (you can read more about how to do that here). We can then examine any emotions that it brings up and work through them.
I’m not saying every therapist needs a $300/80 min fee. But every therapist needs a fee that meets the needs of their lives. By bringing this intention to our fee choices, we set in place a solid foundation that can sustain us for a joyful career, impactful therapeutic work, and business that lasts for the long-run.
Thank you for reading. If you're a therapist struggling to set a fee
that honors your needs, I'd love to help.