Whenever I meet a new therapist or counsellor who is dreaming about going into private practice or just getting started in the launch stages, there is one conversation that I can almost guarantee will come up.
That conversation typically starts with a question along the lines of, “How can I make sure that my services are covered by my clients’ insurance?”, or “How do I handle clients who ask about insurance?”
After having dozens (possibly hundreds!) of these conversations, I’ve learned that there are several myths and ways of thinking that set us up to feel afraid and overwhelmed, and lead us to make poor decisions that hurt our business.
Myth #1 – You Must Sign Up With Insurance Companies To Get Clients
Many therapists and counsellors I’ve spoken to are under the false impression that if you sign up with or affiliate yourself with an insurance company, that you will be able to quickly and successfully grow your practice.
The problem with this is that you will likely get client referrals with a variety of presenting issues, and not all of them will be a good fit for you and your practice. You may find that you are spreading yourself too thin and working with clients you don’t particularly enjoy working with.
Additionally, most clients who are referred to a therapist through their insurance company, only have a limited number of sessions available to them. Chances are, you will see someone 3 or 4 times and then they will stop because their insurance runs out. This can be frustrating and leave you feeling ineffective at your job if the person needs longer than that (which most clients do) but are unable to continue.
Lastly, when you are affiliated with an insurance company and being paid directly by them, the rate is often significantly lower than what you would earn if that same client was paying your full rate. You may have a full practice, but chances are that you won’t be earning the kind of income you need or want.
Myth #2 – You Will Only Get Clients if Their Insurance Covers You
I am often surprised at how many counsellors in private practice believe that clients will only seek out your services if your designation is covered by their insurance.
I have been in private practice for over 5 years and have never had this problem. Of course, I have clients inquire about whether or not my services are covered, but if they’re not and the client goes elsewhere, I have not experienced that as a loss.
The majority of people who inquire about my counselling services expect to pay out of pocket and are willing to do so. In fact, over the years, and serving hundreds of clients, I would guesstimate that somewhere between 2-5% of my clients have some or all of their sessions covered by insurance. The other 95-98% pay out-of-pocket without an issue.
Myth #3 – You Have To Lower Your Expectations When You Are First Starting Out
This myth is probably the most important one to bust. The problem with it is that it sets you up for stress, burnout, and feeling resentful towards your work. When you are working with clients you aren’t excited to be supporting, for a wage that feels less than what you know you’re worth, resentment starts to build.
Lowering your standards is a terrible trap because many therapists become dependent on the steady influx of clients from insurance companies and get used to working under less than ideal conditions. Over time, it becomes harder and harder to know your worth, request a fair rate, and turn clients away who are only seeking a low rate or insurance coverage.
By getting clear about what you have to offer, the kind of clients you want to work with, and what rate feels fair to you, you will start to attract clients who fit that demographic.
When you are excited about your work and feel fairly compensated, you are less likely to experience burnout and more likely to generate positive word-of-mouth referrals. This, in turn, grows your business steadily, with the right clients who are paying you the rate you want to get paid.
Getting stuck in the insurance trap (or what I’ve also referred to as a scarcity mindset) is quite common. My best advice is to avoid it altogether by not compromising yourself when you first start. If you’re already in it, I’d love to help you get out!
You’re welcome to book a free 20-minute Business Mentorship Consult to see how I can support you!