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Financial Planning for Counsellors

The results of the study demonstrate how many of the findings


The results of the study demonstrate how many of the findings in the study echo the findings in the existing literature. The present study has also added on to the existing literature in some respects.

Results suggest that financial planning is important for counsellors with private practice. Similar suggestions are made in literature also, where financial planning has been considered as an important aspect of management of the counsellor’s practice (Baker, et al., 2016). There are several reasons for this importance being given to financial planning; and there are many aspects of financial planning. However, the focus of this research was only on fees management.

Recent literature has suggested that the question of how much money the counsellor charges is one that is seen to be very important and needs a lot of consideration by the counsellor (Clark & Sims, 2014). The results of the present study suggest that the fee set by the counsellors for their services is reflective of their self-worth as counsellors. The participants in the study articulated similar views on why fees and self-worth are inter-related. The responses by the participants suggest that the counsellor sees the amount of the fee or the money charged by him as a representation of his self-worth and value. In this respect the responses of the participants were unanimous, with all five participants drawing a connection between fees and self-worth as counsellors. Self-care for the counsellors was one of the driving factors for setting the amount that would be acceptable to them as fees for the services provided to the client. This indicates that when setting the fees to be charged, the counsellors do take into consideration the value of the service that they are providing and what to them would be a fair estimate of the fees. In this, the counsellors consider their experience in the field, affordability for clients, and the inter-relationship between the fees charged and the therapy outcomes. With respect to the last factor, recent literature also suggests that there is a positive association between fees and therapy outcomes (Clark & Sims, 2014). In other words, fees are not only essential to the self-worth of the counsellor, but also essential to the clients who feel that they have received quality service based on the fees paid by them.

As participants have specifically mentioned ‘self-worth’ in relation to the fees being charged by them, it can be said that charging fees from clients is also an emotive issue for the counsellors. This is also confirmed in another study, which finds that the amount of money that counsellors charge as fees, is an emotive issue for them and one that involves the personal values that the counsellors hold important to themselves (Rosenhammer, 2013).

Results of the study indicate that flexibility in money management is an important aspect for private practitioners. All the participants were unanimous in their response to flexibility suggesting that counsellors are flexible with clients who come from weaker socio-economic sections of the society. This flexibility is seen in both setting of fees as well as in the payment schedules. These findings are also relevant in the context of the macro-economic conditions that are prevailing at this time, with many patients who do need counselling not being able to afford fees for the same. A recent research has also indicated that counsellors with private practice find themselves greatly caught up in the economic realities of the present time (Apostolopoulou, 2013).

The results of this study suggest that counsellors in private practice see the issue of setting fees to be a contractual and boundary issue. Each of the five participants has stressed on the importance of setting the fees and informing the client at the beginning of the counselling. The responses by the participants suggest that the information of the fees at the beginning of the counselling helps them to set the boundary. This indicates that for counsellors in private practice, the setting of fees is an important aspect of contract. This is also reflected in literature where the important contractual arrangements with clients include an advance notification of the amount of fees to be charged, the manner of payment of fees, and the methods for recovery of fee in case of non-payment by the client, etc (Zur & Ofer, 2009). The concept of boundaries and the relevance of fee setting for the establishment of boundaries is also considered in literature, where one study has emphasised that fee is “the basic parameter that defines the therapeutic relationship, differentiating it from social, romantic or other non-professional relationships (with money as) the boundary that defines the business aspect of therapeutic relationships” (Zur & Ofer, 2009, p. 86). The setting up of the boundary in the initial stages of the therapy is essential because it helps to avoid conflict at a later stage. This study suggests that such boundaries are essential for both client and counsellor, a finding that is reflected in literature also as a part of good contracting, which provides the client with all the information needed by him to make an informed decision before the starting of the therapy (Reeves, 2012).

Despite the importance set by counsellors for establishing boundaries by setting the fee as a part of the contract with the client, the study indicates that when clients do not pay the fees, counsellors do not resort to legal measures for recovery of their fees. This result was uniform across all participants, suggesting that counsellors do not prefer to take legal action against their clients when they do not pay for counselling. These findings are reflective of the current literature on the subject, which shows that therapists hesitate to take legal action against their clients (Myers, 2008). It is important to note that the counsellors do have legal recourse against clients who owe them fees. This legal recourse is to file a ‘small claims’ suit in the county court in case the fee is less than 5000 pounds, and a fast claims procedure in case the fee is more than 5000 pounds (Mitchels & Bond, 2010, p. 124). However, the responses in the study do not indicate that the counsellors have a desire to pursue any of these two procedures against their clients. In fact, either the participants have demonstrated a lack of knowledge about legal recourses, such as, “I’m not sure what you can do’ and ‘I wouldn’t take that to a solicitor to write a letter.” Two participants have said that they just let the clients get away with not paying. One participant has specifically made a mention of the court process but has shown his disregard for that option saying that “there’s nothing you can do in the sense of taking them to court or bringing charges.

With respect to the underlying relationship between therapy and money, the responses of the participants are reflective of some interesting themes. First, money is seen to be secondary consideration, with the primary consideration being that of giving therapy to the clients. This is interesting because the participants being private practitioners rely primarily on the fees received from the clients as their principal form of income. Despite that, the results demonstrate that counsellors, even those in private practice put therapy first and treat money as a secondary issue. This relates back to some interesting underlying feelings that counsellors may have about money. These feelings about money have also been subject of research and forms a common theme in the literature on this topic. One of the famous statements on this has been made by Freud (1913) that “money matters are treated by civilized people in the same way as sexual matters-with the same inconsistency, prudishness and hypocrisy” (p. 131). As this study has found, money is a controversial topic for the counsellors. The controversial aspects about money stem from attitudes of counsellors towards fee (Herron & Sitkowski, 1986). Some of this attitude is also depicted in the responses of the participants in the study. One participant said “there are people out there who want counselling, who can’t afford it, so for me, it’s not entirely about the money”; while another participant articulated that “the last thing I would want the client to feel is that they are a money machine”. The study also indicates a general feeling or revulsion in counsellors against money matters. Each of the five participants had reported feeling ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘embarrassment’ when having to ask for money or discuss non-payment. These responses are consistent with the literature on this point. Literature indicates that money matters give rise to tensions and conflicts within counsellors that arise from a belief in being a counsellor first and then a business person (Andrews, et al., 2003) and because counsellors may face conflict between ideas of altruism and professionalism (Doherty, 2012). These responses signify the secondary attitudes of the counsellors towards money even when these practitioners are fee taking counsellors.

The responses in the study also signify that counsellors receive messages from clients, with respect to the service provides, in the form of how clients paid fees, or withheld the payment of fee. These messages that are conveyed to the counsellors may include feelings of disappointment with the therapy, or sense of satisfaction with the therapy. The counsellor also uses fees as a way of communicating to the client the value of time and boundaries as articulated as: “what we are teaching them that their time is important”; and “it makes them become more professional within themselves”. An earlier research on the same point has depicted the messages that can be deduced from the behaviour of the client in relation to payment of fees (Tudor, 1998). The earlier study had reported that client’s resentment about the money being charged by the counsellor for his services can be deduced from the client not writing the amount of fee on the cheque (Tudor, 1998).

Another key finding of this study was that counsellors in general trust their clients and this trust is also manifested in the relationship between client and counsellor with respect to fees. The participants have unanimously spoken about trust, using terms like “real unconscious trust” to describe the nature of trust. The responses also indicate that trust is important in the counsellor and client relationship. The research suggests that about money issues is a key element in developing trust as between the counsellor and clients.

Money also becomes a reason for conflict between the client and counsellor and may be a key factor in the loss of trust and respect in the relationship. This was suggested by responses given by participants during this research. It can be said that money issues hinder therapeutic relationship. The tension may be from the client when the client feels that the counsellor is charging unfairly or exorbitantly. The counsellor may also feel irritated with the client when the client fails to pay on time. In both cases, the issue of money can have an adverse impact on the counsellor and client relationship. This is also reflected in the literature, which shows how tensions emanate from both the client and counsellors pertaining to the payment of fees. Literature also suggests that counsellors may develop resentment towards clients who do not pay their fees on time (Baker, et al., 2016, p. 136). On the other hand, counsellors may also become vulnerable to suspicions that they are keeping the client on longer time than necessary in order to make more money (Bond, 2009, p. 139).

One of the areas that the current literature has not addressed in depth is the use of legal recourse against clients who fail to pay fees. This study suggests that counsellors are generally against the idea of legal action against their clients. More research is required to explore the reasons why counsellors are unwilling to protect their interests by taking legal action against their clients.



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