Why Raise Your Therapy Private Practice Rates – And How To Do It

You might have noticed that some things are more expensive this year than last - rent, utilities, food. As our daily expenses inflate, for therapists in private practice, session rates may need to rise to meet them. Even though your business is one that helps others, you can only help your clients if you can keep the lights on. In this view, increasing session rates can be seen as a natural and expected process, key to running a business that supports your clients and yourself.

With many folks experiencing financial hardships related to the pandemic, it might seem daunting to think about raising rates now. But there is a way to do so with empathy and intentionality: read on for suggested questions to ask yourself before raising your rates, and how to approach the conversation with your clients.

1. Understand the reasons to raise your fees

(1) To keep up with inflation

Inflation generally trends upwards at a rate of 3% each year. This means that the costs of goods or utilities are, on average, 3% more expensive this year than last year. So, if you’re not at least increasing your rates by 3% per year, the same dollar amount that you are earning this year has less “value” than what you earned last year. In order to keep up with inflation rates, you need to raise your session fees to earn the exact same "purchasing power" as years prior.

(2) To take care of yourself

You need to take good care of yourself first and foremost. If you’re worried about how much money is in your bank account, you will likely question paying for things like a marketing budget or a new coffee machine. Those fears will affect the quality of your work with clients and may even lead to burnout if prolonged. In order to maintain your business (and your compassion!), it's important to ensure that your top employee (you) is comfortable.

(3) To match your increased experience

With more time under your belt as a therapist, you’ve become more experienced by working with more clients and being on cases for longer periods of time.

You may have even gained new skills or attended trainings that you bring into your practice, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy or yoga teacher training. This means that your services are worth more, and should be compensated accordingly!

(4) To invest in training and create protective time

By raising your therapy rates, your budget will look different. You may now have room in your budget for things like additional certifications or trainings, which can directly add value for your clients.

If you decide to raise your rates but see fewer clients (with your budget staying the same), you’ll have more time for yourself, which can be an important protective factor against burnout and lead to longevity for your practice.

Grow Your Practice With Zencare!

We're looking for clinically excellent and compassionate therapists and psychiatrists to refer clients to. Get started on Zencare today!

2. Overcome your fear, guilt, and self-worth doubts

Even with the mindset of raising rates as a strategic business decision, the act of charging your clients more might bring up difficult feelings, such as fear of losing clients, guilt of asking more from your clients, and/or questions about your self-worth. These are common reactions, so you certainly aren’t alone.

Because your businesses directly impact people’s lives, it’s hard to take their feelings out of the equation.

Overcoming your fears

Here are two prime examples of common fears when raising therapy rates and how to reframe and move past them:

Overcoming your guilt

Another common feeling associated with money is guilt. Considering that your private practice is a business might help you reframe this guilt and allow you to take care of yourself. Here are two examples of how guilt might show up - and how to deal with it:

Overcoming doubts about your self-worth

Lastly, reflections on your self-worth may come up when considering to raise your therapy rates. Take this as an opportunity to do some self-worth work and appreciate what you offer clients. Here are two doubts regarding self-worth that may arise and some ways to reframe:

3. Determine by how much you’ll raise your fees

Suddenly drastically increasing your fees could make it difficult for your clients and can come as a shock to them. Given inflation is 3% (and if you were working a corporate job, a standard raise would be 3% on the low end and 10% on the high end), you might consider an approximately 5% increase in your fees per year.

Not a fan of math? No worries: here are some sample fees and equivalent 5% increases!

Of course, the 5% figure is only a guide — increasing your fee by an amount like “$8.75” can feel like a random figure to clients, and a $10 increase can feel large for some clients. If this is the case, you might choose to increase your fees by $5 to start with. If your current sessions are $150 and you consistently increase your fee by $5 per session each year, you will be at $175 per season in five years and $200 per session in ten years. Consider if this rate of fee increase resonates and feels good to you!

4. Consider staggering fee increases: new clients first, financially struggling clients last

In your practice, you likely have a few different groups of clients: new clients, existing clients who can afford an increase, existing clients who are on sliding scales, existing clients who wouldn’t be able to afford your higher fees, and returning clients.

Consider the following when communicating your new fees with each of these client groups:

Each of these groups may require a different way of communicating the increased rate, which we will discuss in the next step.

5. Mentally prepare to share this change with your clients

To ensure that you’re being intentional and thoughtful about raising your therapy rates, prepare how you’ll share these changes with your clients. Remind yourself to put away your fear, guilt, or negative self-talk and focus on communicating in a clear, compassionate way.

Here are some ideas on framing and navigating the conversation:

Get the next email on managing your private practice!

6. Confirm what you discussed in writing via email

After you’ve verbally told your clients about the raise in therapy rates, send them an email that restates the upcoming changes. This ensures that you have all of your bases covered and that the increased fee is communicated clearly.

You may have to refer clients out, in the event that the increased rate is too much for them. Keep in mind that this isn’t personal and be ready to provide the appropriate support.

7. Update your listed fees across necessary platforms

Once you’re ready to officially charge more for your sessions, be sure to update all of the written information about your practice, including:

8. Up your marketing game

As a final step, place value on your marketing game — there’s a reason you’re increasing your rates. You are more experienced, have deeper knowledge, have fine-tuned your skills, and are ready to take on your next case! While you know that, prospective clients might not. Make sure that your marketing reflects who you are and what you have to offer.

Evaluate the language you use in your marketing. What does it say about you as a therapist or about your practice? List out your therapy approaches and your credentials: does this language make your services stand out as high quality? Adding a professional photo or an introductory video is an excellent touch and shows prospective clients that you’re savvy and worth a higher rate.

Grow Your Practice With Zencare!

We're looking for clinically excellent and compassionate therapists and psychiatrists to refer clients to. Get started on Zencare today!

It can be scary to take these steps to raise fees, but always remember that you work hard and deserve to get compensated accordingly. Your practice is important not only to you but to those you support. Making sure that you’re comfortable financially and that you’re being fair to yourself and what your services are worth is a great goal, and being thoughtful and empathetic about how you do this just speaks towards your professionalism and dedication to helping your community grow their wellness.