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Charging an Appropriate Fee to Match Your Money Goals with Tiffany McLain

Charging an Appropriate Fee to Match Your Money Goals with Tiffany McLain

“If we’re avoiding our own money work, the ways we’re afraid to talk about money, afraid to think about value, afraid to set our boundaries around cancellation policy… If we’re not addressing those things, they are unconsciously impacting our therapeutic relationship with our clients.”

~Tiffany McLain

Meet Tiffany McLain

Tiffany McLain, LMFT is a clinical fee strategist for therapists in private practice. Her mantra is, “Full fees are the new black.” Via her program, The Lean In. MAKE BANK. Academy, she helps therapists ethically earn 30 to 50% more per month while seeing fewer clients by showing them how to think about and directly address fees in a clinically appropriate manner.

The Lean In. MAKE BANK. Academy is a program that addresses the underlying money mindset stories that keep therapists broke so they can become THAT therapist who charges premium fees, cash pay. With the LIMB 4-step framework to make BANK, regular coaching calls to help you go to the next level, a phenomenal community of funny and intelligent therapists, be ready to get real raw and real rich.

Get Tiffany’s Fun with Fees Calculator: http://www.heytiffany.com/feecalculator

Check out Tiffany’s podcast, The Money Sessions: https://www.heytiffany.com/category/podcast-the-money-sessions/

Follow Tiffany on Instagram @leaninmakebank!

In This Episode…

Does thinking about raising your fees make you sweat? Do you struggle to charge what you actually need to charge to live your life? What stories come up when you think about raising your rates? In this episode, Linzy talks with Tiffany McLain, an expert on fees for therapists, and together, they dig into the background societal conditioning that impacts our attitudes and work as therapists. Linzy and Tiffany explore how those attitudes and stories often hinder us from making effective decisions when it comes to charging fees.

Listen in to hear Linzy and Tiffany share about their personal histories and stories, and they unpack why it’s so important (for us and our clients!) to make the changes needed to charge higher rates. Don’t miss it!

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Episode Transcript

Tiffany [00:00:07] If we’re avoiding our own money work, the ways we’re afraid to talk about money, afraid to think about value, afraid to set our boundaries around cancelation policy – if we’re not addressing those things, they are unconsciously impacting our therapeutic relationship with our clients. 

Linzy [00:00:29] Welcome to the Money Skills For Therapists podcast, where we answer this question – how can therapists and health practitioners go from money, shame and confusion to feeling calm and confident about their finances and get money really working for them and both their private practice and their lives? I’m your host, Linzy Bonham therapist turned money coach and creator of the course Money Skills For Therapists. Welcome to the podcast. Today’s episode is brought to you by the Waitlist for Money Skills For Therapists. The New Year is a great time to start off on the right foot with money to avoid all the pitfalls and confusion of last year and start fresh. The New Year truly is a new financial year. So if you are interested in really getting your money in order getting the support and guidance to do that, sign up for the waitlist for Money Skills For Therapists and you’ll be the first to hear when the doors open next. So today’s episode is with Tiffany McLain. I say that with great affection. Tiffany has become one of my business besties, but was originally one of my business mentors. She is literally the reason that I started this business. I won’t get too deep into this story, but there was a particular conversation that I had my partner where we were like, What are we doing with our life? What are we doing with your business? That reminded me that, I was like, Oh, there’s this woman on the internet, Tiffany McLain. I don’t even know how I found her, but she had this Fun with Fees calculator, that I haven’t ever used, and I used it and it blew my mind. We’ll put a link to it in the show notes, and it started me off on this path to starting Money Skills For Therapists. I sent Tiffany an email that night saying, Basically, take my money. What do you offer? How do I work with you? Take my money. And I ended up doing coaching with her. That was the foundation for Money Nuts & Bolts, this business. So, it has been a wonderful treat in my life that not only was she a mentor who helped me start all of this, but she has also become one of my business besties who I talked to pretty much every single day. We do a lot of Marco Polo videos back and forth. And today we are digging into fees, which is Tiffany’s bread and butter and art form, private practice fees. We dig into why it’s so hard for us as therapists to set the fees that we actually need to charge to be well and live our lives. We dig into some of the stories that therapists tell themselves, including our own stories. We dig into our own money stories that we’ve had coming up. Some of mine recent, some Tiffany’s a little older and we talk about how money actually comes into the clinical relationship, whether we want it to or not, and can impact the work that we’re doing with our clients, both in terms of how they’re experiencing the work, but also how we’re experiencing the work. There’s a lot here, lots to dig into. So enjoy my conversation with Tiffany McLain. 

Linzy [00:03:38] All right, Tiffany, welcome to the podcast. 

Tiffany [00:03:40] Thank you very much. I’m excited to be here. 

Linzy [00:03:43] So, Tiffany, these are your thing. I feel like you are like the person in the therapy space who like lives and breathes fees. Is that a fair thing to say? 

Tiffany [00:03:52] I don’t know that anyone else does it. I don’t think, when I entered the space and was like, What can I add to the conversation? Nobody was only talking about fees alone. And I think that’s still the case. 

Linzy [00:04:03] Yes, I think that’s true, too. And so you and I, like the work that we do is very complementary, which is something like I’m so grateful for. We have students move back and forth between our courses regularly, like, take mine than yours or yours than mine because I feel like our topics are so – they’re two pieces of a puzzle that goes together, right? Your deep diving on those fees in like a really focused, meaningful, like depth work kind of way. And then I’m teaching people what to actually practically do with money and how to set up their practice, so when the money flows through it, it goes to the right places and actually gives them like satisfaction in life. 

Tiffany [00:04:40] That is true. I love it. When folks raise their fees, we have therapists who raise their fees and then they actually are working less and earning more. They’re like, what do I do now? I’m like, I don’t know. That’s why you need to go take this program over here because you’ll learn what to do now with all this money you’re making. 

Linzy [00:04:53] Yes. And in Money Skills For Therapists, we touch fees like this much. It’s like we have a calculator, which I love the salary play sheet where we have people reverse engineer their practice based on like, OK, what do you want to earn, how much time off do you want to take? You know, what’s your fee? What’s your sliding scale rate? And then from there, it tells you how many hours you need to work and then people know – when they see it, they know in their gut if it’s a good number or not, right? There’s going to be like a number that makes them happy, which like sometimes is twelve or sixteen. And then there’s gonna be a number that makes them like sweat and want to cry, which might be more like twenty five. It’s very personal, right? But people know in their gut when their practice is not set up in a way that’s going to actually serve them. So it’s like, what I find in my courses, we often identify that fee piece and some people are like, OK, I’m going to raise my fee and other people are like, Oh shit. And that’s where you come in. 

Tiffany [00:05:45] Exactly right. That’s the thing is, when we get real about what we need to be doing for our money, like the things you’re helping people with, just like you’re saying, some people are very easily like, Oh, I gotta raise my fee to this or my fee needs to be this, done and done. And then a lot of therapists, just like you’re saying, are absolutely terrified of the changes they have to make in order to have the financial life that they uncover they need with you. And that’s where we step in.

Linzy [00:06:09] So why do you think that’s the case? Why do you think it’s so hard for therapists to charge that appropriate fee that actually fits what they need for their own life? 

Tiffany [00:06:19] I love that you call it an appropriate fee because it’s so true, so many therapists responses is this is astronomical, this is inappropriate, this is unethical. When actually, just like you talked about, it is the appropriate fee they need to be charging as business owners. I think, and this is particular to the community I serve and this is what we have found with these therapists – they typically grew up in working-class households. They may be the first to go to college or be having their own business in their families of origin, often marginalized communities, women, people of color. And so then they come into this space where they are business owners for the first time. But the messages they have received up until this point have been, typically, in their family, they were the caregiver, they were the ones who mediated the problems, went between family members, parents, siblings to make sure everything was OK. So they had their value from the outset was based on, putting their emotions aside, making sure other people’s feelings were taken care of, neglecting their needs in order to make sure other people had their needs fulfilled. So even from the very first family of origin issue, the therapists who typically, people who typically become therapists, were serving that role in their family, so it starts right there. And then we have a societal level again because a lot of people who become therapists are from historically marginalized and who am I talking historically, historically and continue to be marginalized.

Linzy [00:07:43] Thank God, that’s over, right? Not historical. 

Tiffany [00:07:47] Exactly. Ongoing marginalization, oppression, systems of racism, systems of the patriarchy. Our folks continue to get the message that your job is to serve other people, you don’t deserve to have wealth, that’s greedy. Your job is to be a good parent, a good partner, a giving person to all the people around you. Don’t be thinking about yourself. And then all those people go into a profession, which is the social work, psychology – where it’s then reinforced because we’re filled with folks who are caretakers in their family of origin, women and people of color. And then we go into the psychology profession where we’re continually reinforced, you got to serve other people, you’re never going to make money in this field. How dare you even be thinking about money, that’s selfish and greedy? I came here to help people, not make money, so it’s this triple fold reinforcement of this message that your job is to serve. You’re not supposed to have any. You’re supposed to be serving other people. 

Linzy [00:08:39] You’re hitting me in the gut. I’m just like sore under my breath. 

Tiffany [00:08:43] Well, I have a question, how has this, as you’re thinking about it and even you’re going into this field? How have these different, of these three, you know, society, family or profession impacted you? 

Linzy [00:08:53] Yeah, I mean, this is something that I was actually just digging into in therapy like probably two or three weeks ago, right now, because it comes up at different levels, right? So like when I was a therapist, I confronted it as I was like having to do fee raises and stuff. But I’m finding even now still, setting the price for my course. You know, like, I’m doing a price increase this year, right? And it’s very well thought out, there’s lots of strategy around it, but I really hit that in myself and what I really identified in therapy, which was interesting and I got therapized effectively. So let me tell you about my therapist doing good shit, is that I really had this message that, what I do is not valuable because I’ve always done it for free, right? And I’ve always felt used, like it, from the very beginning. Like, I remember my “best friend”, going to put that in quotations, my “best friend”, before I knew what a real friend who treats you well is like. I remember her calling me her therapist when I was 12 years old. Right, 12 years old. And already I developed this dynamic with somebody where I was feeling very much, like, used for my skills and I felt that they weren’t being appreciated and it wasn’t, like, reciprocal, I wasn’t getting that support back and it’s interesting how that traces through. But I will say, in my own little, like therapy breakthrough, I had the revelation that actually in my life, those skills that I have, to be like supportive and present and a good listener and help people to clarify their situation, has actually been in very high demand, right? And so what I’ve realized is actually in my life, although I have felt that it’s devalued, I’ve often had people want to be my best friend, really like, rely on me, feel closer to me than I feel to them. And actually, what I realized is like, it’s been extremely high demand in my life to the point that sometimes it’s made things difficult, right? Because people value that so much. But because this is my personal life and not business, it’s like there was no formal boundary to set there. I couldn’t say, you know what, I’m so good at this, but it’s going to be $250 an hour because I have a gift here, right? And so that was a real revelation to me that even though I felt so devalued, it’s actually been pretty in-demand in my world since I was literally a child. 

Tiffany [00:11:01] I’m really glad you’re sharing this. It’s so powerful, this idea of, you gave this away for free. And we could even say, this has been a natural gift for you. A lot of therapists, it is their natural gift. It’s been your natural gift, people have valued you for it. But then, you went to grad school where you actually honed and refined your skills and became a professional. And I think that’s where most therapists get confused, is, they’ve been so good at it. They have had people come to them for it, it’s just a natural skill. But the thing they forget, is that they then went to grad school and undergrad, two to seven years of training, and then post license or training to hone and refine this skill set as a professional. But then they go into their business and keep giving it away for free, as if it’s just something they should be doing. What? I’m really glad you had this break through, for all of us to hear from your therapist. Thank you, therapist. 

Linzy [00:11:50] Yes, because what that means to is, these therapists that then have all this education and usually they have a, I was going to say, fuck ton, it’s my podcast, I could say what I want. They have a ton of debt that goes with it, right? And then we end up in these helping roles where we’re having a hard time asserting that this is worth something because we’re so used to being devalued, as you said, family of origin, but also society every day. Also, like our professional training, also our colleagues, it’s coming from all corners, right? But it’s like, you’re almost barely treading water. And yet, you are trying to feed and give oxygen to all these other people, to switch metaphors midway. It’s like you’re low on oxygen, and yet you’re putting on everybody else’s masks. So, there’s such a disconnect there. 

Tiffany [00:12:31] Yeah, it’s in them, I don’t know. And we can’t use pandemic, endemic, but it really is, it is a pathology within our field as therapists and social workers that nobody is examining. We’re simply retraumatizing all the generations who come after us and not looking at our relationship to money and value as a psychological issue. We look at everything else, paraphilia, sex, trauma, abuse, drugs, and yet nobody’s talking about money in the ways that’s showing up symbolically in our relationships. 

Linzy [00:13:02] Oh my gosh, absolutely. So I’m curious, thinking about the clinical relationship, you know, because we’re thinking about therapists and we’re building this relationship that is very much about healing that other person through the way we’re presenting. How do you think that these things impact our clinical relationship when we’re charging low fees or when we’re avoidant of money or we’re carrying all this baggage around it? 

Tiffany [00:13:22] Oh my gosh. So for those who are not familiar with how I think and work – and for people listening, here’s some disclosure, Linzy and I know each other very well, we talk all the time about this stuff. She is one of my business besties in terms of thinking about these things, all the time. So Linzy knows this about me, for folks who don’t know, I’m really into psychoanalytic thinking, the unconscious process, that’s the orientation I come into this work with. And so when I think about the therapeutic relationship, there are, of course, all kinds of different orientations EMDR, CBT, solutions focused, family therapy, just so many different kinds. And no matter what kind of therapy you do, there is a relationship that’s present. And so, if we’re avoiding our own money work, the ways we’re afraid to talk about money, afraid to think about value, afraid to set our boundaries around cancelation policy. If we’re not addressing those things, they are unconsciously impacting our therapeutic relationship with our clients. Something that came to mind when you asked me this just now, Linzy, was – when I’ve gone to coffee shops, I’m a coffee snob, and I will go to the same coffee shop over and over again once I find one I like. Inevitably, the barista is like, Oh, Tiffany, don’t worry about it, this one’s on me and they’ll give me a free coffee. My experience to that is anxiety. Over the course of time, I think, uh oh, here’s this barista, Paulette, whatever her name is, Paula and now she’s going to give me a free coffee, what do I have to give her in return? And so it’s not like a comfortable thing that I feel great about personally. It becomes a relationship that is now been unfair because I know that that coffee costs four dollars and fifty cents and a tip and I’m not giving them that money. Do I have to pay them extra? Do I now have to give them a five dollar tip every time I go, right? Do I have to ask about her personal life? And I would get sweaty, like, I don’t want to go to that coffee shop any more because now there’s this weird exchange that I don’t know what the value is being exchanged here. It’s funny and awful. This happens every time and so, I think about that. You could laugh, because it’s true. Like, some people would be like, Wow, I’m going to go to Paulette every day because I’m gonna get a coffee. I love it. I don’t have any feelings about that. But a lot of people, unconsciously, something is being exchanged and we’re not talking about what that thing is. So we can take this to the therapeutic relationship. If I’m a client and I know my therapist fee is $200 per session and I am paying them $50 per session and I don’t know why, I don’t know how they’re making that happen, I don’t know how long I’m allowed to be paying $50, when their fee is $200. Whether we’re talking about it or not, this is impacting the clinical work. I, as a client, I get a promotion. Am I allowed to talk about that? Is my therapist then going to say, you have a promotion, now you pay me more? I went on a vacation, am I allowed to go on vacation while I’m paying my therapist much less than their fee? If we’re not talking about these dynamics, they are present, they’re weighing on the unconscious and they’re having an impact on what can be disclosed in the therapeutic relationship. So that’s even just a tiny example of an incredibly deep, important Pandora’s box of clinically relevant details that are being missed when the therapist is not talking about money in the clinical setting or examining their own relationship to money in a clinical setting. 

Linzy [00:16:32] Because what I’m hearing there is, that’s a circumstance where there’s been a lack of communication and clarity around what the setup is, why we’re doing it, how long we’re doing it, when we’re going to check in again to see if this still makes sense. And so what I’m hearing is, from this particular kind of character perspective of somebody who’s maybe very aware of that there’s an exchange here, that you’re kind of breaching the boundaries of the professional relationship really, right? Like what should be a very clear, and I’m going to use the term safe container, is now like a little smoochy at the side. I’m making box hands – nobody can see this because it’s a podcast, but I’m showing like, it’s kind of like your box is losing integrity. The container is starting to get a little bit threatened, when we start to make these slide for clients and don’t have very clear communication or boundaries around that with them. 

Tiffany [00:17:22] That is right. And I think that 99.9% of the time when therapists set up their fee policies, they’re not actually doing it with a clear understanding of what their needs are financially, what their business policies are, and they’re 99.9% of the time – they don’t even know why they’re making the decisions. You all listening, you don’t know why you’re making them – they’re driven by anxiety, fear, I don’t really want to look at this, I don’t want to be mean, I don’t want to be greedy, OK, let me just charge what my therapist charges minus, you know, fifty dollars, that’s my fee – it’s not thought out. So these unconscious dynamics are absolutely going to be coming into play clinically. You’re not doing your best clinical work when your very foundational policies are coming from a place of anxiety, fear, a binary around making money or helping people.

Linzy [00:18:12] Right. Because the other side that I think about that too is what’s happening in the therapist, when we have, when somebody’s paying $50 and our full fee is $200 and it’s been that way for so long and we don’t want to revisit it because it’s awkward and like, how do we even determine what fee they should be paying? What I see happens so much in therapists and what I 100% experience myself is resentment. Right? Where somebody does tell you about that vacation and there’s a part of you that’s like, huh, you’re paying me a quarter of my fee and you’re going on vacation – like I haven’t been on vacation in a year. Right? Like, you start to see your clients through this tainted lens because now this is impacting you. And yet you’re supposed to be sitting there and you’re totally grounded in partial self, but you’re going to start to have your own feelings about them come up. If there hasn’t been like clarity and if those boundaries are not solid, 

Tiffany [00:18:59] I love it. You brought up the thing that so many therapists are afraid to talk about out loud, but absolutely, they feel this unless they’re so dissociated or compartmentalized that they don’t know about their own internal world. Yeah, if you are, if a therapist is not having their own needs met financially and they are doing work where a client is not paying them what they need because they set it up that way as a therapist, inevitably resentment will come up and fees going to come up. And then because as a field, we do not, there’s a way we look down on those feelings, resentment and envy, then therapists feel ashamed, oh no, I’m feeling this, I can’t talk about it, I’m not supposed to, let me just push it aside. What happens in the therapeutic space often, is that the clients leave because these feelings are welling up and nobody knows why. They might say, Oh, everything’s good, I don’t need to be coming anymore. And the therapist doesn’t know what to do with their feelings, so they say, Yep, I think everything’s good, all right, done, what a great therapy we all had together. Or something ends uncomfortably, or the client just ghosts. And again, all of these things have been brewing under the surface, but there’s been no way for the therapist to – there’s been no safe container for the therapist to acknowledge, talk about, understand these feelings. And so then it unfortunately plays out clinically. 

Linzy [00:20:14] Right? Absolutely. I mean, another thing that occurs to me, as you’re talking about this is the stories that we tell ourselves about our clients that underpin, you know, these. And one that comes to mind for me immediately is the story that our clients like, they don’t have money or like, they need the money for something else, like as though they could not manage their own finances. Like, I’ve definitely seen this, I’ve seen it in myself. I definitely felt it in agency work, like because I started in an agency where services were free, right? Because we were government funded. We weren’t working for free. But the government was paying for services. But you don’t see that stuff, right? I remember this kind of ethos that, like women were victims. Women don’t have money. Women are victims, they can’t pay for therapy. She can’t go to private therapy. Looking back in retrospect, like I had clients who were teachers in Canada. I know it’s not in the U.S., in Canada, that’s a well-paying profession. That’s somebody who’s making literally double the money that I am. If I was making 40 grand, she was probably making 80. And yet I had absorbed this ethos that this woman is a victim because she’s experienced violence and she can’t afford to pay for therapy. Meanwhile, like I’ve experienced violence, I pay for therapy, what the shit. So I’m curious, what are some other stories that you see therapists carrying that keep us from raising our fees or really owning what we need to earn in our practice? 

Tiffany [00:21:33] I think this example is phenomenal, and I’ll give my own version of that. And then I really, for those who don’t know me, I will, I was going to say call our our students out, but I’ll say even more, call them in. Like, I’m very direct, like, this is what you’re doing, this is what you’re saying, this is how this is showing up. We really are direct and honest with our students because we have been there. So for me, my story, I’m black for people who don’t know my father’s black, my mom is white, biracial and I thought, I really want to do this work as a therapist when I open my practice. I’m in the psychoanalytic community, which is a very white space here in San Francisco. San Francisco is a very white city, and I thought, I want to be able to charge premium fees, but I want to work with people of color and I want to work with white folks, too. But I would love to work with people of color and they’re who’s going to, they are the people who are going to want to work with me, but I have premium fees. So unfortunately, I can’t work with the people I want to work with. And then I was like, Wait a minute, what kind of internalized racist idea is that, racist and classist? Black people can’t work with me because my fees are, what, $200 a session? Whoa. So that was a wake up call for me, and I see all the time now with people who are interacting with our company, Lean in. MAKE BANK. They say, I can’t charge premium fees because I want to work with queer folks. I can’t charge premium fees because I want to work with people of color. And I have to say to them, Wow. So your thought is that no queer people, no black people, no Asian folks can pay you premium fees? Let’s examine that projection before we even begin with thinking about what your fees should actually be. 

Linzy [00:23:08] Yeah, absolutely. And those stories are so deeply held, right, that it’s like, often we haven’t even like pulled them out to look at them and be like, Wait a second, is that true? You know, I had a call with one of my students the other week, where we were talking about this kind of thinking, she was on her way, she’d already set her fee, she had looked at numbers and she was very clear of what her if she had to be. But she was just having this like gap, of like, but people, people like queer and non-binary people who have ADD, they don’t have money. And so I was really challenging her because I told her like, Well, first of all, according to my TikTok feed, which Tiffany knows I’m fully addicted to, everybody is non-binary and queer and has ADD, and they’re doing all sorts of shit. They’re making all sorts of money at different things. And so something that we, like I encourage her to think about is just like, who are these people. Like, think about where they are, you know, where they’ve gotten to, like, how faith in them basically, have faith in them and like, what kind of jobs are they doing and what is their life look like? Maybe when they’re 21, they can’t pay you that, but when they’re 35 or 41, like, what are they doing? And having that like, openness and creativity to have, kind of faith in your people, I think is a way to start to counter these like, really simplistic stories that actually don’t make sense at all. Right. But it’s amazing how we kind of swallow them sometimes hook, line and sinker. 

Tiffany [00:24:24] It makes me think, also, of course, speaking of the things we project or the stories we tell ourselves, we’re often wanting to go into the space, for example, of working with queer, non-binary folks with ADHD, because that’s who we, that’s our trajectory. And so we often say no one will pay me my full fee because we, as therapists, have never paid another therapist that amount of money. Yes, on a sliding scale, thank you. Or we are just thinking, Oh, I can’t afford $150 per session because you’re paying your therapist 50 cents per session. So one of the things we actually encourage our students to do in our curriculum, go pay someone the fee that you want to one day be charging and set up a session and see what it’s like to sit with a therapist who’s charging $300 per session. That’s your job. 

Linzy [00:25:09] Yes. Yes. Because it is this little loop. I see this happen with my students as well. Again, our students are the same people, where it’s this self-fulfilling logic. Where you’re like, well, I can’t afford to pay somebody $200 an hour. So therefore, nobody can afford to pay me $200, and it’s  like, Well, no, the reason you can’t afford to pay somebody $200 an hour is because you’re not charging $200 an hour. It’s like, somebody needs to raise the bar at some point and then you have more wealth and stability, and then you can start charging people when they actually need to be paid right? It’s kind of like everybody rises. But yeah, there is this like self-fulfilling prophecy there. Yeah. Are there any other stories that you see come up for people? I mean, I’m sure there’s tons, but I’m curious if there’s any other common ones that you’ve noticed. I’m hearing yours. Other things that you see with your students?

Tiffany [00:25:59] Yeah. And I think, you know, when we talked about the ways that we are making judgments about who can afford us based on what we have been able to afford and what we are seeing around us by the people we’re surrounding ourselves with, that really is the foundation for any other story we tell ourselves. So it could be things like, nobody in my area can pay x fee, right? Well, because we’re surrounding ourselves with people who cannot pay x fee and we’re not paying x fee. So that’s one. It’s greedy. Or I’ll even say this one, I have to be accessible. And if I get off insurance panels in the states, I am no longer accessible, as if we as individual therapy practitioners, business owners, as if we have to be accessible to everyone. And I will say, even with that one, it’s very easy to start disbanding these stories with logic. Like if your story is I have to take insurance, so I am accessible to everyone. Guess what? There are a lot of people who don’t have insurance, so the insurance is also not making you accessible. Or you sliding your scale to $50 per session, that’s not making you accessible to a whole bunch of people. So really, when we start digging into these stories, just like you’re talking about Linzy, we actually find out underneath or all kinds of personal traumas, personal stories, unconscious beliefs that we have not yet worked through, that we’re playing out in our businesses and were playing out in our fee structure with our clients. 

Linzy [00:27:24]  Yes, and that community piece is so important, you let me into your community in December. Well, you didn’t let me in. I didn’t ask me anything in your community in December, I should say, which allowed me to poke around. Cause, Tiffany and I are both, you know, course creators, wer’e course creators. What are we? And I know that you have a thriving community, that is one of the things about your course that just really works. And that is something that I witnessed being in there, and I see so much of the value of that because there’s that saying, I’m probably not going to get it right, but it’s, this thinking of like, you’re kind of a combination of the five people you spend the most time with. Right. And what I’ve seen in your community, is it’s just like this whole level up continuum. I’m doing an upward tornado, kind of spiral, of like, just surrounding yourself with people who are going to inspire you and lift you up and then you get lifted up and then you turn around and inspire other people. That community piece is so essential, and I think for so many therapists, it’s such a missing component. They don’t have the experience of being in a course like mine or a course, like yours, where you’re having these honest conversations with other people about money. 

Tiffany [00:28:26] That’s absolutely right. And it comes back to that thing you were saying around the idea of being resentful or envious of our patients or our clients and then feeling like, I’m not allowed to feel that, I shouldn’t be thinking that, I’m going to just put it over here in this box and then our, we keep having clinical ruptures and we don’t know why. One of the things that has been foundational to the program we created from the beginning, we have our framework and our modules, but it’s all within a net of being part of a community, where therapists are going through the struggle themselves. We are honest and direct with each other. We give and we take in direct feedback, critical feedback because we all want each other to grow. So we have to learn, we’re not just a space like these Facebook groups, where you just process, process, process and then you get mad and people respond. Instead, we have a very specific template for how we engage with each other in the community, how we respond to each other in the community because we’re learning to do in the community what we’re going to have to do clinically, which is have honest feedback, conversations and reflections on how we have been colluding to keep ourselves victims, broke, traumatized because we’ve been hurt. And so we have to have a place where we can make space for our hurt, without playing it out in our businesses. 

Linzy [00:29:43] That’s very powerful and also kind of sad to me, to think about, all the private practices throughout time, where hurt has been just getting played out for maybe decades. And then that person like retires, having this very particular experience, of like, how their helping superpowers are used or appreciated or not appreciated. 

Tiffany [00:30:02] You’re being, I’m going to for the people listening, Linzy was actually moved as she was speaking. As you were talking just now, you were a little teary. Can you say something – this is why you’re good at your program, this is why your students have transformation. Can you say something more about why that idea is so moving to you to imagine, these trauma traumatized therapist for years. 

Linzy [00:30:20] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think, obviously I’m connecting with with parts of myself and my own experience, and I just think about, we have such profound gifts as therapists, right? And with this podcast, too, when I’m saying therapists, I’m also talking about people who are really good at manual therapy, like physical therapy, right? And like, who have that intuitive ability to not just be with someone and be present and understand what’s going on, but know the right way to respond at the right cadence, at the right time. You know, like we all know as therapists like, there’s times when you could strike because the iron is hot and there’s times to wait, you know, and strike when the iron’s cold. Like, there’s all of these incredible processes happening inside of us, that most people don’t have. It’s such a profound gift. And I think, I’m struck just by the tragedy, maybe I’m feeling a little melodramatic, but I’m struck by the idea of so many therapists, especially women, people of color, queer folks, who, there’s just this repetition of essentially like, trauma and oppressive systems inside our practice. It’s like we end up building a practice that just reaffirms to us what we’ve been told the whole time, that what we do isn’t that valuable, and we need to put our needs aside and just give and give and give and give. And that ends up being your career. I think that’s really sad. 

Tiffany [00:31:39] Yeah. There’s something about – I’m so glad you brought this up, when a therapist raises their fee for the first time or it gets off the insurance panels, if that’s the choice they decide to make. The first time they say, Oh, I don’t take insurance to a new person who calls, and that potential client says, Oh darn it, I’m not going to come see you, I really need someone who’s on insurance. For the reasons you’re saying, the first response of so many therapists is, I knew it. ,obody’s going to pay me this, I should never have done it, Who do I think I am? I feel so ashamed. I’m not good enough. And this is where the community is so important. If you don’t have a community, you will make a decision about your fees, but you go out and take that little risk to raise your fees or get off insurance panels, I’m going to say it. And if the first response you get, which it will be the first one to five responses may be, no thanks. If we’re alone, we say, I knew it. I’m going to lower my feedback down, I’m going to stay on insurance panels because I’m not worth it or nobody’s going to pay someone like me that. If you’re surrounded by a community of people who is doing this work and challenging you to step up, they’re going to say, Actually, that’s a story. It’s not true. The work you do is extremely valuable, go try it again, we got your back. Go take that to your therapy because those are really important feelings and they’re valuable or you need to understand them. But in your business, go ahead and stay your $200 fee, one more time, we got you, come talk to us after. Just just like you’re saying, so we’re not letting our traumas dictate our business decisions. And inevitably, on the sixth time you say my fee is $200 dollars, you have someone who says, Great, when can I see you? Your whole life is transformed. 

Linzy [00:33:23] Absolutely. Yeah. And I think that with that too, then you also, I think, start to figure out who those people are like, who are your people, who are the people who love what you do and they’re a connection and a fit. And for them, $200 like, Oh, was it $200 or $225, I can’t remember. Right? Which I remember with my own clients, even my most recent fee increase, before I closed down my practice last summer, I remember having, like this a little bit of anxiety. I was down to like, just my core clients, like people who had pushed through my, I’m not taking clients, to come back, like I knew that they loved the work that I do, and I knew that they had seen other people while I was away on my maternity leave and they had come back to me like, I knew all of that. And even still, you know, it’s incredible the stories that come up. But I had that exact experience where the person was like, Oh, when does the fee go up and what is it again? And what is it now? She didn’t even know what my fee was now. So it’s like, finding those people and what I found in my own practice that kind of like, click, that niche that I so often hit for some reason, was women in science. 

Tiffany [00:34:24] Interesting. I don’t know why.

Linzy [00:34:27] I attracted a lot of like people in research, veterinarians, medical fields, but there was just a perfect click there between, you know what I offered, and they’re people who earn a lot of money, this is no big deal to them and what I did was so valuable, that I probably could’ve raised my fee another $75 and nobody would have blinked. Right? I’m curious for you, what did you find was your niche and was it surprising to you when you did find that, like, group that you really clicked with? 

Tiffany [00:34:53] Interesting question. I, you know, I was, as I had my private practice, I was also doing my money work because I was like, this is something I struggle with, this is something I see other therapies struggle with. So, I’m going to see what it’s like for me to go on this fee raising journey as I’m trying to help other people and teach other people to go on this fee raising journey. So I initially, and I was also thinking, how does this all tie up with marketing? So I initially said, OK, I’m in San Francisco, I want to work with people of color and fortunately or not, here’s a little backup. I have a white friend who I’m very close to, who’s also a therapist, an immigrant, and she said to me, Wow, interesting, Tiffany, I would never go to a black person for therapy, but I would go for business consulting. She certainly has some racist ideas about black folks. And so for me, I was like, I know she’s not the only white person who’s not going to come to a black person for therapy. And oh my gosh, all my network are these psychoanalysts who are white. When I first went into private practice, I had, not one white person came to see me for the majority, even before I started marketing with people of color. White people did not call me to see me for therapy. That changed over time, but I was like, Holy mackerel, of course, in this racist system, white folks are not necessarily going to seek out a black therapist. Interesting. So taking that information, I initially marketed and intentionally marketed to people of color in tech, particularly biracial people. Because it’s interesting to me, I understand what it means to straddle multiple worlds as a person of color, and so I intentionally went for those folks. But just like you’re saying, as my practice grew, who actually ended up coming to me was almost 100% biracial people, almost 100% women. Here’s a little surprise, who had a lot of co-dependence in their family system. So I’m like, Wait a minute, why did this codependent people with mother issues keep coming to me? I don’t know. Oh, surprise. So it actually kind of filtered out to having those kind of people, regardless of their profession, they could afford me. But the primary issues they were coming in for, surprisingly mirrored my own journey and my own issues that I was working through as a human being. 

Linzy [00:36:59] Right? Yeah. And I think about how once you identify that right, like once you realize, Oh, this is who loves me, it’s biracial women who have codependent families, then you can speak exactly to your target audience. And as you say, it’s always a good start to just talk to yourself. Like, let’s be real, just talk to you. But by really owning that, how that also gives you this foundation upon which to say, my fee is $250, because you know that you’re just really fucking good at working with that population. And you know that they could go to a therapist down the street who charges $150 or $125. But they’re going to come back after six months and want to see you because that person doesn’t really get their issues in the way that you get their issues. 

Tiffany [00:37:40] It’s so true, and people even came to me because they saw something, just like you’re saying, they saw something in my marketing or how I spoke that appealed to them, when they may have gone to somebody for 100 bucks a session and they could have done that work and it would have been great. But if you market well, people come to you for you and they’ll be willing to pay whatever your fee is. And if they don’t have that money initially, surprisingly, they start finding ways to make it work. I’m going to cut down over here, I’m going to have more clear conversations with my spouse. I’m going to stop giving money to my family, I’m going to ask for a raise at my job because they want to see you because something about your story inspires them. And so it’s also interesting to see how people, not everyone, but the folks who want to – actually let me speak for my own experience. If I have a money story of scarcity and then I see someone in the world who inspires me, I’m going to find a way to pay that person and I’m going to make some sacrifices because I want a little bit of something that they have and something – a growth opportunity I want, that I believe I can have by virtue of working with them. Right? 

Linzy [00:38:41] Yeah. And something, the practical number side of my brain, too is also reminding me that by having a really effective therapist as well, and maybe now we’re just speaking to therapists here about your own therapy. By having a really effective therapist who really gets what you do, has the right tools for you at the right time – you also end up doing less therapy because there’s less like beating around the bush, right? Like, your sessions are so much more transformational. And it’s true for our clients too, right? Like, they might be able to get a discount rate down the road, but they might be doing therapy for five years to get the movement that they get with you in six months. That’s a huge difference. Right. And so that’s a really, I think, important part to think of. We’re thinking about our fee, is like if you know that you can, you know, I was an EMDR therapist. If you know that you are effective and after 20 sessions with you, somebody’s life will actually be literally transformed, the relationship will be more solid, they won’t be haunted anymore, they’ll be sleeping through the night, they’ll be exercising again. Like, those changes that you can make for them are invaluable. Right? There was so much more than like $250 an hour or whatever fee you set. So really owning that and owning your skills is something I talked to my students about a lot. I’m sure you do too, is really helpful because ultimately you’re helping them and by you being well, you’re going to literally change their world. 

Tiffany [00:39:59] That’s right. There’s something about – I’m so glad, even as you’re talking, I’m imagining the therapists out there who are saying, but I don’t think I’m that good, I don’t believe I can actually do that level of transformational work. And even that is something super powerful. If we’re keeping our fees low because we don’t know if our work is good enough, huh? That’s something really to examine and there’s no cure for that insecurity like charging $200, seeing someone for $200, feeling all the feelings of fear, raising your fee with current clients and saying, Oh wow, when I was keeping my fee low, part of that was me avoiding the things I was afraid of, avoiding my own money stuff. I was not really doing my great clinical work because I was afraid of raising fees. So there’s actually an interesting cycle around when folks raise their fees. They actually start growing into a level of clinical work that that fee requires internally, and they start stepping up and doing a better job. 

Linzy [00:40:58] Yeah, that’s exactly the way I started thinking. Like, you’re making yourself step, by kind of doing the scary thing first and then you have to grow into that role of being a premium therapist. 

Tiffany [00:41:07] 100%. 

Linzy [00:41:08] Yes. OK, I can talk to you for like hours and hours, as you know, because that’s what we actually do. And we will, but not on here. Yeah. So Tiffany, I’m curious, for people who are listening, who maybe they’re like feeling a little like cold, sweaty right now or a little bit like, Well, that’s great for Tiffany and Linzy. But like I – what would be a first step? What would you suggest as a first, even just a little baby step for one of our therapists listening to start to improve their relationship with money? 

Tiffany [00:41:38] I would – this was not even something I had thought about beforehand, but I would say the babiest, most delicious step they could take, would be to go check out our podcast, The Money Sessions, where they will actually hear of therapists just like them, wherever they’re at. Oh, I can’t do it because of X, Y or Z reason. Go look through our titles. Find the therapist who says I can’t do it because I – this therapist raised fees even though she lives in rural West Virginia. If that’s your story. Go listen to that episode right now and start hearing from therapists who are just like you where you are now, who are able to make these changes. 

Linzy [00:42:13] Yes, go find yourself in Tiffany’s episode list. You’re there. 

Tiffany [00:42:17] That’s right. You are there. 

Linzy [00:42:19] Well, thank you so much, Tiffany. If folks want to hear more from you, where is the best social media place for them to follow? 

Tiffany [00:42:25] Go to Instagram, that is where we are at and go to @leaninmakebank on Instagram and you will find endless resources there.

Linzy [00:42:36] OK. Awesome. Thank you so much, Tiffany. 

[00:42:54] I really enjoyed this conversation with Tiffany. I love talking with Tiffany in general and getting to dig into these things in an in-depth way together. It just makes my brain pingy and happy. That relationship between fees and our work and our sense of self-worth and trauma repetition and oppression. There is just – there are endless things to talk about there. If you want more from Tiffany, she mentioned that on Instagram, she has resources and I really suggest her Fun with Fees calculator. It is the thing that got me into her world, got me thinking more expansively about my practice and what was possible, and ultimately inspired me to start Money Skills For Therapists and teaching therapists about money. The link for it is in our show notes and I really suggest that you check it out. If you want more free money content from me, you can follow me on Instagram @moneynutsandbolts. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please jump over to Apple Podcasts, if you’re an Apple user and leave us a review, it is the best way for other therapists who want to hear more about money to find us. I really appreciate you taking the time to give us your feedback. Thank you so much for joining me today. 

Hi, I'm Linzy

Hi, I'm Linzy

I’m a therapist in private practice, and a the creator of Money Skills for Therapists. I help therapists and health practitioners in private practice feel calm and in control of their finances.

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