The Logistics of Scheduling Your First Counseling Session: Discussing Fees

Fees are always the trickiest and most uncomfortable part of getting started with counseling. Assuming we are addressing private pay here (versus insurance), we need to be able to talk about money in a way that is comfortable, no-nonsense, and not off-putting. Good therapists value their work and know how hard they work emotionally and physically. Caring therapists also realize that people of all levels of financial resource need therapeutic support… and we value and want to serve all people in need of help.

Most therapists are willing to slide their fee for clients who have financially constraining circumstances. Many clinicians have a certain number of sliding scale slots. A clinician’s work is their livelihood and, so, they must run a good business while helping people work through the difficulties of life and living. I approach this with my clients by telling them what my full fee is. If this fee is out of reach for the client, I assess whether or not I have a sliding scale slot open. Then, if I do have a slot open, I simply tell them that I am very happy to slide, and that I want to make sure that it is an issue of need versus priority or value. I tell them that I do not know their financial situation, but that I trust that they know their situation. It is hard to have a client say they can’t afford your full fee, but then you hear throughout the course of your time together how they choose to spend their money. I have had a number of clients say they need a sliding scale, but then I hear how often they go to nice dinners and go on nice vacations, and I hear how much they spend at the bars… Now, this is not a judgment. I don’t expect clients to forego all of life’s pleasures in order to engage in therapy. I simply want my potential clients to prioritize and value their therapy at least as much as their recreational pleasures. And I say all of this to a potential client, and it is always well received. When I slide for clients, I simply ask that when and if their situation changes, that they will let me know that they can now come closer to my full fee. Several of my clients have done that over the years! That shows value and integrity!

In the end, a solid therapist is interested, first and foremost, in helping people. And, they want to make a living doing it. It is a strange relationship, isn’t it; the counselor-client relationship? We have such an intimate relationship, but there is a monetary transaction; strange, indeed. But the financial piece, believe it or not, is not the primary reason really wonderful therapists do what they do. They truly love it. They care for you deeply and honor you and your process, and genuinely want to help you. And you can often pick up on all of this in your initial consultation. Pay attention to your intuition, here.

Next time, we will tackle insurance and out-of-network service providers; helping you to navigate the ins and outs of the insurance/therapy world!

If you are looking for a great therapist, we have them! And we don’t take that statement lightly. There are so many really great therapists out there. To suggest that we have the corner on the market on good counseling is ridiculous. And we don’t need more obvious ridiculousness in our country right now! But our clinicians are awesome; personable, knowledgeable, and accessible. And they truly love what they do and genuinely care for their clients. Reach out to us by calling 303-393-0085 or email us at We want to support you in getting the best help available!

~ Clinton J. Nunnally, LPC