Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: Thoughts on investing and getting paid as a therapist
Curt and Katie chat about money: considerations for investing and getting paid as a therapist. We look at typical unpaid opportunities and how to decide whether to do them. We also talk about client care practices that may take time, but could keep clients.
Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.
Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.
In this podcast episode we talk about money mistakes that many therapists make
We talk a lot about making sure that therapists get paid, but thought it was worth talking about when therapists should invest in their business and when they may want to work for free.
What are the lessons Curt and Katie learned around investing in their businesses?
- Electronic Health Records/Practice Management systems are very helpful
- Automation helps your business to run without you
- Sometimes visibility is worth working for free
How do you decide if you should do something for your business?
“I gave a presentation, it’s gotta be more than 10 years ago at this point, for a group of students. I think, like five people showed up… But I still get referrals from one of the people who came there. And it turned into a really wonderful relationship, because I sounded like I knew what I was talking about.” – Curt Widhalm, LMFT
- What are the practical benefits and challenges?
- What are the other potential benefits (like enjoyment)?
- What is the investment of time, money, and expertise?
- What is the return on investment?
Specifics on deciding to take unpaid work
“There are elements of this where it’s really looking at is the audience strong enough? Is there any money eventually? And do you actually want the referrals from the audience that you’re going to be in front of? Because if all of those things are yes… I would consider – at least the first time out – doing some content creation (because I love content creation) without getting paid to see does it actually pan out. But you want to make sure you track that to determine: am I going to actually get anything from this this relationship and from this work that I’m doing?” – Katie Vernoy, LMFT
- What new relationships will be developed?
- Will you get visibility with the audience you’re seeking?
- Will you obtain access to relevant learning?
- Is the entity that is asking you legit and established?
- Are there other forms of compensation (like photos or videos)?
- Are you able to get clients from this work? (And what are new clients worth to you?)
Client care versus getting paid
“I don’t think it’s helpful, at least not for customer service purposes, to view your client as trying to take advantage of you.” – Katie Vernoy, LMFT
- Setting up appropriate boundaries and policies
- Avoiding additional costs, if you can (i.e., setting fees in a private pay practice to include these extras)
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Who we are:
Curt Widhalm, LMFT
Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at: http://www.curtwidhalm.com
Katie Vernoy, LMFT
Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at: http://www.katievernoy.com
A Quick Note:
Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.
Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.
Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:
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Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:
Voice Over by DW McCann https://www.facebook.com/McCannDW/
Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano https://groomsymusic.com/
Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide where therapists live, breathe, and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm, and Katie Vernoy.
Curt Widhalm 0:16
Welcome back modern therapists, this is the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm, with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast for therapists about things that we do, the things that we do with our practices, things that happen with our clients. And this is a episodes that we’re just going to run it with the idiom ‘penny wise. and pound foolish.’ As much as Katie and I talk about, like, get paid for the work that you’re doing. This, this might be an antithesis episode for us of maybe there’s some things from time to time that you should step into a little bit more as far as things that maybe don’t pay. But overall, what we’re trying to come to some decision on here is the decision making process of when to invest things into your business? Or how to invest things with your time? What’s respectful to you in the income that you need? And when do you take maybe those steps out there in situations where the payoff might not be right up front? And it might pay off later. And it might not. So we are definitely calling this ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ and Katie, how have you been a fool before?
Katie Vernoy 1:42
Many, many ways. In regard to this, I think the biggest things I did in the beginning, especially were the kind of bootstrapping stuff. I initially started my practice with a, I created a whole like series of spreadsheets for for my electronic health record or kind of notes. I was trying to do my own bookkeeping. And that in fact, went awry. I spent a whole year just putting the receipts in a in a drawer, when there were still receipts to gather. And I also I think, wasted a lot of time, creating my own website initially. It was really ugly, and pretty ineffective. And so to me, there was there was things I did not invest in that I think potentially would have helped me get off on the right foot a little bit more quickly. But I think there’s there’s other parts that I feel like I see other people take advantage of or don’t do that surprised me that feel a little bit ‘penny wise pound foolish.’ I mean, we’ve got folks that will refuse to do anything outside of a session because of not getting paid for it. And, and I want to talk about that, because I think there’s a lot of nuance in that conversation. But it feels like there’s folks that get really down into kind of nickel and diming folks, their clients. Or are setting some really, really strong boundaries with their clients that I don’t set. So how about you? What, where are you? Where have you been a fool?
Curt Widhalm 3:18
I also like you did a lot of bootstrapping when I was first launching my practice of creating a lot of marketing materials that weren’t necessarily the quality of any.
Katie Vernoy 3:35
You mean like you passed out flyers that look pretty crappy?
Curt Widhalm 3:38
Yeah, stuff like that. I held on to websites way longer than when when they seem dated. So I know that you’ve seen the pictures where I look like a child’s on…
Katie Vernoy 3:49
Yes, you kept your headshot way too long.
Curt Widhalm 3:55
I have waited too long to hire, whether it be people like a bookkeeper. I definitely did not do a great job of bookkeeping for a while. And that ended up costing me in accounting fees later on with my accountant who was like, dude, like…
Katie Vernoy 4:18
What did you do?
Curt Widhalm 4:20
So I have made a lot of those mistakes. And I think in the spirit of our show helping people to not have to make some of the same mistakes that we have. And maybe coming from a place of wisdom and this you know, we are trying to piece together just like how do we take, you know, several 100 episodes of Curt and Katie talking when it comes to putting money into your business, where are things that you can actually do things when you don’t have that much money? And what ends up being most worthwhile because the other side of this conversation is, what are some of the wise decisions that you’ve made where a good investment has ended up being something that has paid off even though it it was scary to spend that money upfront, or spend some time doing something upfront?
Katie Vernoy 5:10
Well, I I definitely appreciate having a practice management system that does a lot of stuff for me. It just makes it a lot easier. And I think I just didn’t know that they existed. This is how long ago this was. And so I see folks really concerned about is it $29? Is it $39? Is it $79? Is it $99 a month. And I think those fees cover I think a lot. And so as soon as I heard about electronic health records and found one that I liked, and I got it all set up, it was like, Oh my gosh, I’m not double and triple or entering things. Like there’s all of my systems got a lot more streamlined. And, and I did that, I think, seven years ago. And so for me, that was that was huge. And it really saved me time. In the in my wanderings. I also got a lot of different automation help from my friend, Bibi, we have an episode with her, we’ll share that in the show notes. And being able to make things really automated, whether it’s scheduling or emails that go out, different stuff like that. There was a lot of times when I was able to have my business running when I was not directly available, whether I was in session or on vacation, or whatever. And that was a really strong choice for me, because I would go on vacation, and I’d come back and I’d have consults scheduled, which you can’t do if you’re, you know, kind of doing that manually. Which is what I was doing initially. How about you? What are the big decisions that you think were really maybe a little scary upfront or a little work intensive, upfront, but paid off as far as what you were looking to do?
Curt Widhalm 6:49
Also, like you moving over to an electronic health system ended up being a very, very big step that I wish that I had done earlier. And a lot of my fears had proven not to be true. It was a lot of work to switch over at the time, but what would have been less work is just starting that way in the first place.
Katie Vernoy 7:08
Curt Widhalm 7:11
I think as, some of the aspects of where I have chosen to spend some of my time has in one way paid off and in some ways has really helped to grow the exposure that I have, the exposure of our podcast and some of the, you know, speeches that I give, sometimes that can end up being kind of a mixed bag of both. Of ending up being committed to you know, something like a board position on a group or I love my teaching job, you know, shout out to my students here. But sometimes it just the steps of being involved in being in a academic institution sometimes ends up coming at the cost of where I could be seeing clients. Where I would, you know, make more money. And I think that this comes down to some of the decision making process. And, you know, I think ultimately, what we’re going to find here is that everybody’s answering in this is differently, you’ve got to take into account your situation. Just because Katie and I have our opinions on this kind of stuff and what’s worked for us doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to work for you. So sit back, think about you know, alright, where in my life: can I make some of these things where in my life is this a couple of years away from me where my life has just Curt and Katie talked about being old before things like electronic health systems out there. But, you know, I, take my teaching job, for example. You know, part of it is I love I love teaching. I love you know, especially now that we’re back in person, I love having people that we can have really robust conversations with in in person. And I love that, in case I ever need to switch health insurances, I’ve got an institution that has a great health insurance plan that I can switch to if I need it. And this this kind of my safety plan, sort of job in the background that I feel like I’m pretty good at what I do. And I love the content that I teach. I love the program, the faculty that I work with, and there’s some safety aspects in there. And it does not pay me nearly what I would make if I was spending the same amount of time focusing on my practice. And so…
Katie Vernoy 9:39
Well, I think that’s a good one because I actually was offered to teach not at the level that you were, but I was offered a teaching gig so to speak at one of the universities that you were teaching at. And it the numbers didn’t work out for me. I would, I would spend hours in the car, you know when for an in person job and it was something where it would stress me out. I love teaching, but not to that schedule. I like to kind of create my own things. And so the the numbers didn’t work out for me on something like that, and I don’t think they would, whereas they do for you.
Curt Widhalm 10:11
Well, and we’re going to be very cryptic. So that nine of you who know the different locations where I’ve taught is; where I currently teach is 15 minutes from my house, as opposed to the institution that you’re talking about, which is still an hour away from where I live, and ultimately…
Katie Vernoy 10:30
Two or three hours from me.
Curt Widhalm 10:33
So the time investment is a really big thing. And this comes to maybe, you know, the part of the shownotes, the SEO search words that are going to be coming up for some people here, but it’s, you know, getting paid for your work is only one piece of this. It’s also the time investments into things. And we have been big proponents of you know, make sure that you get paid, or there’s at least some sort of payoff for it. And I think that this is the nuance of this episode is sometimes we see people that are fields that may include Katie and me from time to time of getting rigidly stuck in this rule of Well, I’m not getting paid, therefore, I’m not going to do it. And this is where maybe what we’re trying to do is soften up this like, not every single thing if it’s not paying you isn’t worth doing, because there might be some sort of other payoff that comes along with it.
Katie Vernoy 11:38
Well, one are the things that I’ve done over the last several years, that was probably most beneficial to me for my enjoyment of it, the learning experience, relationships I made was free. And that was being on the CAMFT board. I mean, for me, that was really instrumental in how I’ve developed my career. It’s given me, it gave me an opportunity for advocacy, it gave me an opportunity for leadership. I loved it. It also was a very, very time intensive and not paid. And not everybody can do that. You know, I think that’s, that’s definitely something that I feel very blessed that I was able to do it. But I think it’s something where that kind of a role helped establish a lot of things for me, and it fed me, you know, kind of emotionally as well. And so, I don’t know that I would choose to do that, now. I don’t have the bandwidth to do it now. But it was definitely a very important thing. And it was timed well for me, because it was right when I was starting to grow my practice. So I had a little bit more time. It wasn’t, it didn’t cost me money, which I think people worry about that. Everything is paid for. Expenses are paid for. But it was something where I got to meet really great people. And it really provided a different level of visibility for me and my practice and what I what I’m doing as a leader. And so when we think about the opportunities that, that face us, I think it’s really important to look at all of the pieces and not solely rest the value of it on whether or not I’m gonna get paid for it.
Curt Widhalm 12:29
And I know as part of the exposure that as our businesses, as our podcast, as many of the opportunities of the way that we’ve put ourselves out there has continued in this space. Many of the connections that we’ve made with other movers and shakers in the therapy world. We tend to also get invited to do a lot of things with other up and coming people and startups and those kinds of things. And I think this is really maybe the space where a lot of our audience could benefit from hearing some of our experiences with this. We’re not naming names. We’re not shaming anybody here, people. We’re talking about like, Okay, your time on the campus towards campus was pretty well established at the time a couple of people had heard of them. They weren’t going anywhere.
Katie Vernoy 13:14
They have, I think they have 35,000 members now they had 32,000 when we started.
Curt Widhalm 13:37
So CAMFT, you know, they were pretty well established. You knew what you were getting into. You knew the potentials for it. There was people who had been in those positions before that you could talk to. Some of the opportunities that I think that a lot of our audience see now is people who are maybe moving into an influencer space looking for a therapist to back up a certain idea, maybe do a little video or something or a series of videos for like a startup or something like that, where the pay is in the exposure or the pay is, you know, a video for your website or something like that, that ends up being something where it’s not as straightforward as far as things like, Oh, you’re giving back to the community. You’re taking advantage of opportunities to go and advocate for mental health on a higher level, with more established connections already. There’s some good in this, there’s some bad in this, there’s some ugly, there’s some really wonderful things. But I think that this is where how do you at this point, end up making a decision on some of these kinds of things as far as participating? Because some of these things as you and I have experienced; Yeah, right, you invest a bunch of time into creating some new material, you spend hours or days being involved with it. So it’s got a time component to it. And it never goes anywhere. And other times, you know, this is something where it’s like, Oh, you do some work. And then you end up getting practice referrals, you end up getting introductions to other people that end up being the gift that keeps on giving.
Katie Vernoy 16:18
Yes. There’s a lot of things that I think are important to consider when these opportunities come up. And one of the ones that you’ve already said is: are they established? There are some startups that I’ve talked to, and I talked to a lot of startups because I am the person that does the vetting for the sponsorships, or at least the initial vetting for the sponsorships for the podcast. And so I talked to a lot of folks who want to get in front of our audience. Because we have an amazing audience, right. And so I feel like there’s a part of me, that’s a little jaded about startups, because there’s a lot that happens, that’s very similar. Most of it is, is really dependent on investors and angel investors, funding cycles, that kind of stuff. And with the interest rates going up right now, I think a lot of startups and big tech companies are going to have a little bit harder time getting investors. And so I think a lot of those startups are having a little bit of a challenge right now, in being able to promise that they can do big things, because they’re pretty far in debt. And so, so talking with startups say they’re very excited, they have a big vision for what they want, and potentially a lot of momentum and trying to build an audience. Which if they have a big audience, awesome, because then they can put you in front of their audience. And their audience is usually fresh and exciting, because they started their business like six months ago. But a lot of them because they’re startups, because they aren’t really, they can’t rely on funding, they do ask you to do stuff for free. And so whether it’s the startup that’s asking you to do something for free, or an established company that’s asking you to do something for free, it’s it’s kind of a different calculus, the startup may not be there, they may not succeed. And so you want to get a sense of the startup like, are they, do they have momentum? You know, definitely make sure you take a look at their product, make sure it’s actually put together well, make sure that you know what you’re actually aligning with. Because if you’re aligning with something that’s a hot mess, that can be really bad. And I’ve not always made the best, you know, assessments of that. But I think that it’s something where the solidity of the solidity, is that a word? That how solid the business is, really makes a difference in whether or not you should invest the time. I think that the next step is, is their audience and audience, you actually want to get in front of? You know, for example, if your target client is a, you know, kind of an executive, and you’re asked to, you know, kind of weigh in on kids issues, it’s not too far off, because executives have kids. But if you’re, if you’re going to put the effort in to kind of frame yourself as someone that is, is in this space, you’re going to get referrals for those folks who want that. And so I’ve had a lot of consultant clients actually say like, oh, I’m having this opportunity this and I’m like, Do you want more referrals for that? And they’re like, No. I was like, okay, then don’t do it. You know, and so I think there’s, there’s elements of this where it’s really looking at is the audience strong enough? Is there any money eventually? And do you actually want the referrals from the audience that you’re going to be in front of? Because if all of those things are yes, all audience is solid business is solid. It’s a niche that you want to be in front of, and and all of that. I would consider, at least the first time out doing some some content creation because I love content creation, without getting paid to see does it actually pan out? But you want to make sure you track that to determine am I going to actually get anything from this this relationship? And from this work that I’m doing?
Curt Widhalm 20:04
How do you track that kind of stuff?
Katie Vernoy 20:08
Well, the simplest way is just asking where people heard from you or heard about you. When I was really doing a lot of this, I was making different links for, you know, different sales pages, different links for each, each set of content that I did for other folks. And so I could see how many people were landing on the page that was for this podcast that I went on, or this free webinar that I did for this big company, or whatever. And so it was something where I could see where people were popping in from, and recognize which one was actually getting me clients. Or at least if not clients, where they were getting me people onto my mailing list onto my newsletter list.
Curt Widhalm 20:53
So look at even some of the stuff that you and I have done together with our award winning podcast here and…
Katie Vernoy 21:01
And all the amazing webinars we’ve done for people.
Curt Widhalm 21:03
And that’s exactly, that’s exactly what I’m thinking is we’ve done webinars for people with some of the larger, more established platforms, not not those platforms, but some of the larger established platforms that we can get…
Katie Vernoy 21:06
Business to business for therapists.
Curt Widhalm 21:19
Yes, those those platforms. But we’ve done webinars and stuff like that, that they’ve sought us out to do content that we do very well for them, and gotten approximately 0% return on our efforts into those kinds of things.
Katie Vernoy 21:39
Well, you would think so. But actually, we’re still getting people added to our newsletter from a number of those, I would have to go back and look at it, I think it’s still on lead pages, the ones that get the most hits. But the way we’ve done that is we have a downloadable that we mentioned, and then people go there and get it. And so a lot of these webinars, if it’s a one time live event, that’s one thing. If it’s, if it’s a webinar that’s going to be evergreen, you can keep getting little drips over the years.
Curt Widhalm 22:07
And that is…
Katie Vernoy 22:07
We’re still getting drips, we’re still getting more people on our newsletter from that.
Curt Widhalm 22:11
And that is something that I have seen before in some of the presentations that I’ve done. I’ve I gave a presentation, it’s gotta be more than 10 years ago at this point, for a group of students, I think, like five people showed up at one point, but some are at for that presentation. But I still get referrals from one of the people who came there. And it turned into a really wonderful relationship, because I sounded like I knew what I was talking about.
Katie Vernoy 22:43
Yeah, well and sometimes even if you get one client, and if it’s like a consulting client, and they drop $2,000 to $5,000 on a package, or if you get a therapy client, and they stay for years, and they dropped $20,000 on therapy, that free talk that you did is really worth it.
Curt Widhalm 23:00
Katie Vernoy 23:00
I think the challenge is that you actually have to show up and do do a good job and be in front of the right audience and all of that. And we have to trust that. We have to trust that we’re going to get paid later for the stuff that we’re doing today for free.
Curt Widhalm 23:14
And that’s the part of the next steps that needs to be a part of your plan. Because it’s not just: I’m gonna go up and I’m going to do this thing. It’s having the next pieces of here’s how this fits into my overall vision. And you’re talking about the drip campaigns, you’re talking about, you know, having a vision for Are these the kinds of referrals that I want? How do I continue to engage those people? Because what’s the magic number in business? Like you need seven points of contact with somebody before?
Katie Vernoy 23:46
Curt Widhalm 23:46
Eight is damn inflation. But it’s having a picture of how does this fit overall for things? And I’ve got some stuff that I’m still under NDA stuff about that I had invested a fair amount of time in last year that, all right, I got some, at worst, I got some new content that I wrote and created for it. And we’ll be able to kind of weave in and it’s benefited some of my existing clients as far as how I’ve fit that into sessions and had people consider it. I got some new headshots at a time when my style was changing and didn’t have to go and pay a photographer at the time, I got a new video that will be weaved into my new website here. So I got I got some soft stuff out of it. But when it does roll out it is stuff that I think has the potential to either expose me to a new audience, or at the very least the content that is on there is stuff that I can point to as far as Hey, here is some new things, new populations that can fit within my practice quite well.
Katie Vernoy 23:56
Well, and I think the quote unquote soft stuff is actually not that soft. Because when we’re looking at getting a, a speaker reel, if you want to speak, being able to speak for a video is not a bad notion. Like it’s, it’s really helpful. And getting headshots are worth hundreds of dollars. And so I mean, if you’re gonna get professional headshots done, if you’re gonna have your friend take a picture of you in the backyard, that’s very different.
Curt Widhalm 25:27
Yeah, the days where I had friends taking pictures of me for my websites.
Katie Vernoy 25:32
But I think those types of things helped to up, you’re up your game, even if you don’t have the money to do them. And that’s, that’s the assessment of do I have more time? Or do I have more money? And if you have more time, might as well do these types of opportunities that get you some of these things that could cost you money in other other locations. Whereas if you don’t have time, yeah, set up your own headshot time or figure out when you’re going to do a speaker reel, if that’s something that you’re looking to do, and spend the money on it. But if you can get an additional benefit of potential visibility, potential relationships or referral stream, I think that’s, that’s worth considering. But it really comes down to Do you have the time to invest in it to do a good job? And does it get you something that you actually want now, and also in the future?
Curt Widhalm 26:24
So a particular point where I see this is the people early in their careers who might be maybe more in their, their pre license hours, the associates, the ones who are working towards licensure, who are wanting to end up being in private practice on their own one day. And are really kind of stuck in that decision of like, Hey, student loans cost a lot of money. I need to get paid to be able to afford to live. And all of the systemic issues that Katie and I are, and a bunch of other people are trying to address to leave this world in a better place. But also wanting to forge a pathway towards being their own entrepreneur someday, but also get into this time versus money sort of, in decision making. And you know, we’ve got a whole episode on Katie and my opinions on differing of when to do that kind of stuff. But this time versus money thing for people who are at that critical point: How do you suggest that they go into looking at all right, I don’t have a lot of time, I don’t have any money to start to do this stuff? How do I get to picking and choosing which one of these things might potentially pay off for me?
Katie Vernoy 27:52
I mean, I think this may be a longer answer than we can really fit into this episode. It’s such an individual decision that for some folks, I would recommend having a full time job and creating stuff on the side. And for other folks, I would recommend budgeting and digging into the private practice world and really getting a lot of visibility and doing a big push with time efforts, and potentially a little bit of money efforts up front to be able to get that visibility. It I mean, part of it is risk tolerance. Can you can you it’s risk tolerance. It’s also, you know, financial privilege. I mean, can you not make money for a while? But I think it’s that element of how can you manage the anxiety of not having a client right now and trust that the efforts that you’re doing right now will get you a client in the future? Versus Do you just fill up your caseload with insurance clients or other things, depending on the practice, group practice or whatever, or if you’re licensed, you know, kind of getting yourself on a ton of panels, so that you can start having consistent income? And clients can be referral sources, too. So that was I mean, that was kind of my, my method is I got a whole bunch of insurance clients, and then they referred people to me. And then eventually, I was able to go off insurance because it was how it was designing my practice. But I think it’s something where it’s such an individual decision, and some of it really comes from what level of stress and risk can you handle? And and what kind of financial needs do you have? And so I think that may be beyond the scope of this conversation. And maybe we have another one. But I think that there’s, there’s a thought process there that can be helpful. If you can get out of that fear state, if you’re really worried about finances, which is, you know, obviously a basic need that that we need to be able to take care of. So I don’t know. Did I did I answer the question enough?
Curt Widhalm 29:46
I think so. And stay tuned. You know, like and subscribe. We’ll get to that episode eventually. All right you want to…
Katie Vernoy 29:53
I think we actually have some folks coming on that can talk about that a bit more.
Curt Widhalm 29:56
You want to flip this to the other side as well?
Katie Vernoy 29:58
Yes, yes. I think for me the ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ stuff, I think, also seems to come not from do I do this thing for free, like go speak. But do I do this thing for my client? Do I do services outside of session? How strict to my, with my, my, you know, cancellation policy, those types of things. And I, I see a lot of folks, you know, kind of in Facebook groups in the comments saying, charge your worth. Which I agree, and or I guess don’t agree with that statement, but charge enough that you can have the living that you want, but don’t do anything for free, set the boundaries… dada da dada da da. And like all this stuff around, you know, how they set up, what their clients pay for, what they don’t. What they allow their clients to do, what they don’t. And to me, I think the mindset may be different for like an insurance practice versus a private pay practice. But I think that some of it when we get really down into nickel and diming, our clients, I think we shortchange ourselves. Because we lose clients.
Curt Widhalm 31:02
Absolutely. In some of the discussions we’ve had with people in our field, some of our listeners in this kind of stuff is I’ve at least set up my fee to include like, Alright, there’s gonna be some between sessions sort of contact for things. And I kind of account for that within, alright, here’s what I charge. And if that means, all right, I’m gonna hop on the phone with a parent for, you know, 10 or 15 minutes in between sessions, or it’s gonna involve talking with a school counselor, because there’s, you know, needing to work within more of a team environment to help support a kid. I’m more than happy, if those things are not taking up unreasonable amounts of time in between sessions to say, you know, what, this is part of good mental health care, and I don’t need to be, you know, going into my little EHR system, and you know, doing extra math of like, okay, that phone call took eight minutes, and my fee is this. And so you’re gonna, you’re gonna see a charge for $11.76, because I typed an email out, and this is a text message. So that took another 17 seconds. So you know, you’re gonna get 81 cents more just charged for this. I don’t feel the need to do that. I kind of say, Alright, here’s the life that needs to be accounted for within the fees of the clients that I see. And I’m going to set my fees appropriately on that. Sometimes when it’s, you know, alright, I need to go to a bigger, longer meeting. I need to write a report for court or something like that. I’ll be upfront with clients like, Okay, this, I estimate, it’s going to cost this much, because it’s gonna take me about this much amount of time in order to do that. And just being upfront with those kinds of situations, as they come up, seems to be working for my practice.
Katie Vernoy 32:55
I’m pretty much the same. I think there’s, there were specific things that folks, I think, seemed very adamant about that I was surprised. One was more of a like, I’m not going to write any letters outside of session, because I’m going to charge for that. Or if clients write me messages or send me things to read, I’m going to refuse to do those things because I don’t have the time for that, or whatever. And I think that sometimes you really don’t have the time. I get that. And you can read stuff in session, those types of things. But to me, having an engaged client that is working on things feels really great. And I think it is something that can be very helpful for keeping clients in. That being said, both you and I now have private pay practices. And so when I had an insurance practice, the expectations were a little bit different. And I still had set up my practice to be able to do some things outside of sessions. But I don’t know that I would have done long phone calls without charging for them, for example, or I don’t know that I would have done a lot of reading in between session from the client. But But I also prepare for sessions and so that, you know, if the clients helping me prepare, then that doesn’t, that it doesn’t, it just doesn’t some of these things were these boundaries of like, oh, the client is taking advantage of us.
Curt Widhalm 34:11
Now that now that you’re saying that, that is kind of where I guess without, you know, really having been prepared to say this. I’ve also embodied having boundaries amongst these kinds of things. I don’t, you know, pick up every phone call and be like, alright, yeah, let’s meander and talk for hours. It’s, hey, I’ve got 10 minutes that I can talk with you right now about this.
Katie Vernoy 34:32
Curt Widhalm 34:34
So, I, maybe I’m just trying to be like, after a while of having these be conscious boundaries. These are things that you just have implemented and you too can be like us in having this kind of thing where you don’t have to be rigid about things. It can just be something that you adopt in how you run your practice.
Katie Vernoy 34:58
And I think for me, the the piece Is that comes up, and I know that this is this can be a money story for some folks. But it seems like some of the ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ things that that surprised me comes from a place of they’re trying to take advantage of us. So a company that asks you to do something for free, they’re trying to take advantage of us. A company that charges more than you think they should, for the the program or the service that they provide, they’re trying to take advantage of us. Or if a client asks you to do something out of session, they’re trying to take advantage of us. And I think when there’s that adversarial ring to it, it does put you in an adversarial place and, and first, for some of the folks they are. You know, like maybe they’re charging too much, or maybe they’re trying to get too much of too much of your free labor. And I think we need to assess those appropriately. But I don’t think it’s helpful, at least not for customer service purposes, to view your client as trying to take advantage of you. I think it’s something where they don’t know the boundaries, they don’t know the limits, you have to set those and say what they are. And if you choose that you need to charge for for more than just the session, make it clear. And then it doesn’t become a thing. But I think but when I see people kind of like no, don’t do it, they’re taking advantage of you. I just I’m like, wait a second, let’s look at our clients as humans that have needs, and they’re just asking for what they need. And we just have to put it into the right container to that we can then help them with.
Curt Widhalm 36:25
So again, it comes down to like, how does this fit within what your values are? Because, you know, the the nickel and diming sort of aspects. So we, are we aiming to be more like attorneys in this? Where it’s like, I mean, I hate even talking about talking about my attorney, because I’m sure that they are you know, having somebody in their office is just going to be charging us for it. So it’s just kind of like, I don’t want people that I am in their life to help them achieve something, be hesitant to reach out to me for fear of being nickeled and dimed on things.
Katie Vernoy 37:06
Curt Widhalm 37:07
I think as long as my policies are clear, they’re consistent and I follow through on them; I don’t want to have people feeling like we are like attorneys in their lives. I want them to feel like oh, this is a health care provider who I know what I’m stepping into. And if it’s something on my end, where it doesn’t create feelings, where I’m feeling adversarial. I mean, trust me, as somebody who works in the laws and ethics end of our field that’s closest to the attorney ends of things, we don’t want to be like them. They don’t have a good reputation for a reason. We have enough of our own reputation problems as a field in general. Have some, have some good, clear, consistent policies that work for you and then do them. But look at the impact of how that is on your clients. How it is on how they come back to you. Or if it’s part of your decision making, your business decision making then it’s something where, okay, I can invest this amount of time or this into something because it pays off in later times. Next week, Maureen Werrbach’s joining us again, and it talks about how she just has time in her week where what she does is just like go on the internet and like look stuff up and like that is and think like. But I mean, this is something where once you are into running this stuff, you create some of these opportunities for yourself to do this. These are successful principles that people who level up their business do. And it’s not these nice, neat black and white rules that apply for everybody. So no universal truth on this. You can find our show notes over at mtsgpodcast.com. And follow us on our social media. Join our Facebook group, The Modern Therapists group. Let us know what you think. Continue to support the show. If you love our content, you can become a patron and we do some special stuff for our patrons and support us on Buy Me a Coffee and until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy.
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