In my last post, I discussed why uncollected balances from clients can cause practices to fail. In this post, I will discuss tips on keeping client balances current.
Payment for sessions should occur either at the time of the session, or before. Did you know that if you defer a balance, it may never be paid? Although it may be tempting, fight the urge to allow clients to accumulate balances.
Payment policies, including what happens if they miss an appointment or late cancel, should be explained as early as possible. For most practitioners, this would be during the initial phone contact or appointment confirmation email. These policies should also be clearly spelled out in your intake paperwork.
Unless the client is paying for the session when they book it, it is advisable to keep their credit card info on file. It should be explained to the client, both verbally and in writing via a credit card authorization form, that their card will be charged in accordance with your office policies (i.e. if they late cancel, no show, or fail to pay for their session.) You could frame this as a convenience: rather than using valuable session time to write a check or run a card, you will charge it at the end of the day.
If the client is unable to pay for their session, or fails to pay for a missed appointment or late cancel, do not allow them to book another one until they pay what they owe. Explain that according to your office policy, you’d be happy to book another session after their balance has been paid.
On a regular basis, perhaps monthly, check for unpaid balances. Send letters requesting payment to clients. If they do not respond, send a follow-up letters with escalating language no more than 30 days apart. Consider hiring a collections agency.
Lastly, be consistent. Establish detailed criteria for handling unpaid balances, and apply them consistently.
If you still have trouble getting paid, it’s time to look at yourself. What is preventing you from expecting payment for your services? How much do you value your own time and expertise? Are you over-identifying with the client? What do you think about counseling as a profession – shouldn’t we be given the same amount of respect as any other medical professional?
If you’re still struggling, it may be time to consult with a colleague or talk to your supervisor.
Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,
Dr. Barb LoFrisco