Money and Paperwork: The Emotional Impact on Counselors

Get a group of counselors together (in person, in a Facebook group, anywhere) and a few topics will inevitably come up... 

How much they dislike marketing and selling (but how they know it's needed for a successful practice)...

Disdain for insurance and difficulty getting paid by insurance companies...

A true desire to help clients and passion for clinical work...

Fear of not being able to do that awesome clinical work and earn a decent living...

I have lots of amazing friends who are therapists and I know plenty of talented colleagues. So how come when we all get together there seems to be a pervasive fear of success and almost innate insecurity about our skills?

Don't get me wrong, that's not the case for all counselors. Many are confident in their skills and abilities as well as business savvy. But I do find that most counselors struggle with confidence. 

We could get into an infinite number of reasons for this and discuss endless related topics. But I'm going to stick with a couple areas that relate to my focus (because I only claim to be the Documentation Diva, not the Everything Diva).

So let's narrow this apprehension down to money and paperwork

This is something I ended up talking about with Matt over on his Virtual LPC podcast. And I notice it comes up with a lot of other counselors on his podcast as well. 

There is this fear that no one will want to pay for our services unless there is some sort of discount. I actually had this come up for myself recently. I immediately went to consider a big discount for a client... before they had waffled in their decision, before they asked about it, and even before I had run the numbers to see if it truly made sense.

Why the heck would I do that?! Because I was scared... afraid that someone wouldn't pay what I asked.

And it was totally irrational. 

I was offering a quality service at a very good price. It was an excellent investment for this customer. They saw the value in it right away and there was really no reason for this fear. 

Now imagine having this sort of fear or apprehension every time a potential client calls. That would be exhausting! And really unnecessary. 

But how do we overcome this? Well, as usual, I've got some tips for you...

  1. Talk about it. The best way to overcome fear is to face it head on. Talk with your friends and with colleagues. Talk with your own therapist. Figure out where any insecurity or fear may be originating and work through it.
  2. Surround yourself with successful people. Notice I used a general word here- people (not counselors or therapists). Make sure you connect with successful business owners. Soak up their strategies, their mindset. Be open to lessons you can learn from business owners both inside and outside the field of mental health.
  3. Surround yourself with generous people. Most of us got in to mental health because we genuinely enjoy helping others. However, this doesn't have to be mutually exclusive to financial success. Spend time with people who are successful and generous. It will not only help your mindset but will also give your more resources to help others.
  4. Read up on money mindset. There are tons of great books that offer inspiration on changing your money mindset. If you tend to have negative feelings around money (whether that's fear, resentment, desperation or lack) then make a small investment in a book or two and potentially see some significant change in your life. I mention one of my favorites on Matt's podcast :)
  5. Create a business plan. This is really freaking practical and necessary. There's no use worrying about money when you don't even have a clear idea of how much you need for personal and business expenses. Lay out everything- retirement, vacations, sick time, groceries, rent, etc. This sounds really intimidating to a lot of people and is something many of us avoid. However, this one thing will help you clear a lot of anxiety and get very focused on where and how you focus your philanthropy. 
  6. Incorporate a sliding scale or pro bono policy. I always recommend therapists have a clear policy surrounding sliding scale or pro bono clients. Some things to consider are... Do you require proof of income? What percent will you slide for each income bracket? What circumstances warrant a pro bono client? How many sliding scale/pro bono clients can you afford? Will you re-evaluate need at certain intervals (I recommend every 3-6 months)?

To make this whole process simplified I have a free cheat sheet for you. Click here to download my Sliding Scale Worksheet. This is a worksheet I give members of my Meaningful Documentation program so they can figure out exactly what type of fee feels right and fair for both themselves and their clients. 

Hopefully these tips and the worksheet will help ease any anxiety you may have around money and paperwork. But remember that this is an ongoing thing... it's not something you think about and address and never worry about again (which is why #1-3 are so important). 

What other tips do you have or what strategies do you find useful when fear or anxiety arise? Leave a comment below and share. Let's all be a support for one another... that's the biggest key to overcoming this in the long-term.