I would like everyone to have access to art therapy, regardless of their financial means.
Therapists are a caring bunch. We recognize there is a mental health crisis and want to help
as many people as possible. We understand that our healthcare system does not meet the mental health needs of our country, and that many people struggle to pay for therapy.
Many private practice therapists try to address this systemic problem (the problems with our healthcare system, insurance companies, and poverty in the US) through making individual sacrifices. They offer sliding scales - which is when a therapist subsidizes a client by allowing them to pay a lower rate than their regular fee.
The result? Therapists have to take on higher caseloads to meet their financial needs, and then experience burnout due to the emotional and mental demands of a high caseload.
I know because that's how I used to run my business.
I was emotionally and mentally exhausted (you can read more about that here).
I realized the damaging impacts and decided to make some big changes. I raised my fees and restructured my business so it honored my needs.
I still wish I could be financially accessible to everyone. My values have not changed (sometimes we have competing values, and that’s ok).
As an experiment, I created an Art Therapy Scholarship fund. The fund provides scholarships to individuals who need financial assistance. It's different than a sliding scale in multiple ways.
A scholarship is a limited amount (where a sliding scale client will continue at that rate until they conclude therapy)
A scholarship allows a therapist to keep track of the amount of money they are donating to clients.
A scholarship allows for a community to provide for an individual in financial need. The burden does not fall solely on there therapist
A scholarship flips the narrative. It lets a client know they are receiving a generous gift provided by the community.
A scholarship can help therapy access be more than just someone's income level. For example, scholarships can be offered to marginalized communities.
A scholarship allows for a client to be more fully themselves. Individuals receiving a sliding scale rate due to their finances may feel hesitant to discuss finances with the therapist who is subsidizing their therapy. For example, they may be self-conscious to discuss going on vacation, a shopping addiction, or getting a raise.
My art therapy scholarship fund is an experiment at an alternative way of providing support to individuals.
I'm still figuring out how to keep it funded. Individuals can donate to the fund. I also donate my extra time and finances once I hit my thrive point (the amount of money I need to meet all of my needs in my life). Last year I donated $1,200.
It is my hope that the art therapy fund will address a community need through community effort and contribution (not solely by individual sacrifices that lead to compromised therapeutic care).
I am aware that the art therapy fund and my private practice are not enough to serve the entire community (I am only one person), but I would still like to live my values as fully as possible.
I would love to hear additional ideas and alternatives to sliding scale for private practice therapists.