by Pamela Chilton, B.T., C.Ht.
I have been a therapist for two decades now. My experience, training, and expertise bring me top dollar ($120 hour) in my area for this work.
Often, the very people who need therapy most are the very people who can least afford it. I still charge these clients a $120 an hour.
Why? Here is what a therapist doesn't usually tell the client:
- Therapy is hard work for the therapist, too. It takes training, dedication, focus, and commitment to healing to sit and witness pain daily.
- The money is not worth it. Therapists "in it" for the money, (as well as therapists who have not healed themselves), "burn out" and leave the field or - worse - convince themselves and their clients there are "easier" ways to heal.
- What IS worth it is witnessing the healing. No amount of money can equal this personal and professional satisfaction.
- Therapists have budgets too. Neither personal nor professional satisfaction pays the bills.
- The amount of money the therapist charges reflects the value the therapist places on the therapy provided.
- The percentage of that amount a client is willing to pay reflects the value the client places on the therapy provided.
- When a client does not pay what the therapy is worth, the therapy suffers.
There is always resistance to this point. I resisted it myself in my beginning years as a therapist. As often as I could afford to do so, I provided free therapy to those willing to commit to healing, but unable to provide the funds for it. I observed, as much as I didn't want to, a common pattern among my free clients: They did not value the therapy. By what measure? Forgetting appointments, chronic canceling and changing of appointment times, arriving late, wanting to leave early, ignoring steps important to take between appointments, and minimal participation in the therapy sessions. Eventually, I began charging everyone something. I used a sliding scale to determine these charges and began to note the following held true:
- The percentage paid of what the therapy is worth correlates directly to the percentage of commitment a client makes to healing.
- The greater the commitment to the therapy, the quicker the healing gained.
Discussions with fellow therapists confirms this. Perhaps the reason is due, in
part, to the commitment on the part of the therapist. Even therapists are not
immune to resentment, whether conscious or subconscious, when they are not
paid what they are worth.
- Clients paying for their therapy out of their own pocket heal more quickly.
Naturally, few therapists speak of this publicly, nor even want to entertain the thought privately. We all have clients whose therapy is being paid for by parents, a spouse, insurance, social services, and far too infrequently by the person who created the trauma for which therapy is needed. It would be cruel to cut off, deny, or somehow make less worthy, sources of funds for people committed to healing. Nevertheless, the observation holds: Clients who pay for their own therapy heal more quickly. (A suggestion: If you simply cannot afford to pay for your own therapy, a compromise that seems to work is to make the promise (but you must mean it) that you will, in the future, donate an equal amount to the cost of your therapy to a worthy cause. Choosing the cause, and setting aside money weekly for it is convincing to the subconscious that you mean it. Start with a $1 per week and increase as you can.)
So what is a person who needs therapy, but has no means of paying for it to do?
- Realize you cannot afford not to have therapy. Your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors - especially when they are subconscious - profoundly influence your relationships with everything and everyone around you. This includes family, friends, lovers, mates, associates, sex, money, even your spiritual source. The list is endless. To affect positive change in your life, you must address what it is creating the negative. Ignore what is undesirable in the present and you will meet it in the future.
- When you need therapy, make it your priority. Cut your budget to the bone. Movies, videos, restaurants (and fast foods and sodas), magazines, books, newspapers, ANY purchases beyond the basics can wait. (Remember your local library if you can't do without videos, magazines, books, or newspapers) YOUR healing MUST become your NUMBER ONE PRIORITY.
- Commit the amount of money you have cut from your budget to your therapy sessions. Do all you can to have at least one session a week. If this is impossible, make it one every other week and do A LOT of self-work - like journaling, meditating, and whatever your therapist recommends - in between.
- Suggest to your therapist you sign a contract, agreeing to pay the therapist's full rate, stipulating the amount you will pay per session and that you will continue to pay this amount per week (or every other week) after therapy has ended until the (interest free) balance is paid in full. MOST therapists will be happy to do this if they believe you are sincere and you are truly making sacrifices to get therapy.
- HONOR THIS AGREEMENT. Doing so encourages and enables your therapist to accept similar contracts with others.
- When you can, pay more than the agreed upon amount. This validates the healing.
- Always honor your appointment times and be on time. Short of a real emergency, pay for all missed appointments. Should you miss five appointments, even with real emergencies, you and your therapist should agree to temporally halt therapy.
While on the surface this may seem harsh, the truth is, missing this many appointments indicates you are either not ready or unable to make the commitment that therapy requires. It would be better, at this stage in your positive change, to first find ways of bringing the turmoil in your life to a balance that supports therapy.
Such methods include counseling, support groups, behavioral programs, 12 step programs, massage therapy, touch for health, herbal therapy, aroma therapy, flower remedies, homeopathy, positive programming, relaxation techniques, prayer, meditation, and for some conditions, medication. Some people will find this is all that was needed. When it is not, when undesirable thoughts, feelings, behavior, or conditions continue or reappear, seek therapy that brings both conscious and subconscious healing. The kind of therapy that attends to discovering the origin of what is undesired and leads to greater understanding of all the dynamics involved.
My observations were validated recently by Amy L. (Not her real name.) In our initial consultation, Amy confided she had been seeing a therapist for some while, but had decided to stop seeing her. When I asked her why, she replied, "She was always changing her appointment times with me. Sometimes she would cancel them altogether. It would always upset me, even though I did the same thing to her." I asked Amy her financial arrangements with this therapist and Amy replied, "Oh, she was very kind. She only charged me what I could pay and when I didn't have any money I didn't have to pay her anything." Amy paused. Then she looked at me in astonishment and exclaimed, "I just realized something. I was never a real client to her, was I?" My point exactly.