When I first started out as a therapist in 2014, I didn’t know anyone who offered online therapy – except for my own therapist!
When I started offering online sessions in my private practice, I was met with shock and surprise by SO many people. The questions ensued, “How do you do that?” “How does it work?”
Because I had been on the receiving end of online therapy for many years (I had actually never met my longtime therapist in person), I knew firsthand that it was just as effective for me as in-person therapy, and it seemed pretty obvious to me how it all worked.
When I opened the doors to my practice, it made sense to me that I would offer both in-person and online sessions. Eight months later, when I moved two provinces away, I didn’t hesitate to transition all of my in-person clients online to have an entirely online practice. I have now worked exclusively online for four years!
Over the years, I have watched an explosion in online therapy – both the demand for it and the number of therapists offering these services. In the beginning, I noticed a slow trickle for some of my colleagues. I started seeing it advertised more on Psychology Today, and then the regulatory bodies began to come out with guidelines for offering online therapy.
Of course, research has followed suit, and studies indicate that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy. For clients whose presenting issues and situations are appropriate for online therapy (I’ll talk about that in another article!), the outcomes are the same as in-person treatment.
After all this time, it has never occurred to me to charge less for online sessions. But recently, I have seen a few colleagues either state that they charge less, or ask if they should charge less.
As someone who works exclusively online, I am of the opinion that online work should be valued the same as in-person work. There are a number of reasons why I disagree with offering a lower rate for online sessions.
Value of Online Therapy
By offering online work at a reduced rate, you are sending an implicit message to potential clients that online work has less value than face-to-face work.
You are also putting clients who desire face-to-face work in a bind – especially those who are struggling financially. If you offer online sessions at a lower rate, then clients are being incentivized to work online because they get a “discount.” Even if they prefer face-to-face sessions, they might opt out because of this financial incentive.
Your Education and Experience
You bring the same level of expertise and experience to your sessions, regardless of how you are working. Your clients aren’t paying for the format in which they see you, they are paying for your knowledge, experience, and support. Becoming a therapist, maintaining your credentials and education, and managing the overhead of a business is a significant financial investment. You should be compensated accordingly regardless of whether your sessions are online or in-person.
I’ve heard the argument, “I don’t have to pay for office space when I see a client online, I can do it from my home, so I should be charging less.”
Sure, your business expenses may be less when you see a client online, but that doesn’t mean you are obligated to pass those savings onto your clients. And just because you are seeing a client from your home, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to make accommodations for that. You still need a private, quiet space in your home, and chances are that you are giving up a room in your house that could be used for something else. This still qualifies as a business expense, and a portion of your home can be written off in this case.
The rate you set for your clients isn’t based primarily on your overhead for an office rental. It includes all of your expenses in getting trained and operating your business.
If you feel like you are “saving money” by working online, then instead of passing those “savings” along to your clients and incentivizing them for choosing online therapy over face-to-face, or devaluing the perception of online work by offering it at a reduced rate, I recommend that you take those savings and invest it back in your business. Whether it’s marketing, creating a new service or offering, or training and education, invest in your business so you can serve your clients even better.
If you’re ready to start offering online sessions, please check out my 75-minute Master Class in Online Counselling: https://buildyourprivatepractice.podia.com/master-class-in-online-counselling
I would love to hear your thoughts on providing online therapy. And if you’re interested in offering these services as an adjunct to your practice but don’t know where to start, I’d love to help! Please contact me at email@example.com or visit www.buildyourprivatepractice.ca for more information.