Please don’t ask for credit as refusal often offends

Money! Payment! Urgh!

You’d think by now I’d be better at this bit of Private Practice: I’m not.

Recently, I have had a number of unpleasant uncomfortable experiences around the payment side of working as a Counsellor. I am very clear on my website that sessions at the moment are £40, with a few sessions available at £30 if required. I have spent an awful lot of time developing my website in order to make it what it is and one of things I wanted was a simple, crystal clear payment amount and methods.

When clients enquire about sessions often location and cost are upmost in their minds: I have made a simple page to present these issues easily and clearly.

And yet, I have had a client attend a session, complete the session and then tell me that they do not have the funds to pay for the session. Awkward!

I appreciate that Private Counselling is expensive, I do get that: as I was training and now I am in practice I have to have my own personal therapy sessions which are obviously self-funded. My appreciation of cost is what keeps my prices as accessible as I can make them, its one of the reasons that I work from home in order to keep my overheads low and pass the savings on to clients.

I do feel that turning up for a session, completing the session all without admitting that you do not have the funds to pay for it is akin to filling up your car, and then driving off from a petrol station without paying. I would never, ever, ever even contemplate doing this so I was mortified that a client had done this to me. Why would the client consider that this was ok? We would never go to a restaurant enjoy a meal and then shrug and say “Oh I’m sorry I can’t afford it today”… would we? So I do wonder why my client thought that this was ok?

On another occasion, when a client suggested that I might forego the sessions fee and contribute it to a charity they were supporting, I demurred and then at the end of the session the client then queried whether I wanted the full payment. Again, I was professional but I was mortified, embarrassed and offended. I would never turn up to a private dentist, solicitor, beauty therapist etc. and try to get out of paying. Its rude quite frankly!

On each of these occasions I might have come to an agreement or arrangement with the client involved if I had been given prior notice and we had discussed it in a professional manner. However Counselling is a relationship, and like all relationships it is massively important in order for that relationship to remain safe and professional that boundaries are set, met and maintained. I do have a Counselling Agreement that sets out those boundaries very very clearly.

Perhaps because Counselling or Therapy is such a caring and personal profession, maybe people forget that an awful lot of things goes into it. It is not as easy as sitting in a room, tilting your head and saying “Oh Dear”, and making cups of tea.

I have blogged before about the route to becoming a counsellor and I have blogged about Charging for short notice cancellations, or DNA’s (did not attend)

Before even being considered for a place on a counselling course you have to have done some work or voluntary work to prove your interest, experience and commitment. The courses themselves are very expensive: this year’s Keele Fees are Year 1 £2,250, Year 2 and 3 £4,050 each. Ouch! Yup  but it gets worse then whilst you are most likely not earning or only working part time there are many additional costs:

  • Obligatory personal therapy sessions
  • Obligatory Voluntary Hours on Placement (clothing, travel, parking etc )
  • Obligatory Supervision Sessions
  • Membership of a Professional Organisation
  • Travel Costs, Parking Costs, Childcare whilst attending University
  • Text Books, Food, Coffee

I am sure others would add even more… Once you are trained and qualified the costs do not stop. Whilst you are in Private Practice there are lots of things to pay out for:

  • Professional Indemnity Insurance
  • DBS Checks
  • Membership of a Professional Organisation
  • Obligatory personal therapy sessions
  • Obligatory Supervision Sessions
  • Obligatory Continuing Professional Development (Course Fees, Travel Costs, Accommodation, Child Care etc)
  • Paying for Profiles on the BACP Find a Therapist site and Counselling Directory and others
  • Networking
  • Therapy toys, Materials, Books, Furnishings, Candles, flowers, coffee, water, tissues.
  • Rent or Upkeep of a Counselling space
  • Stationary and Software
  • Website Costs Broadband Costs
  • Advertising
  • Phone Line
  • Travel Costs
  • Accountant

So when you come to see me I have already paid all of this out, and I continue to do so. I blogged about all the things you get in a therapy session, backed up by all of the things (and more) listed on here.

So, please don’t ask for credit as refusal often offends!