How to Get Private Pay Therapy Clients

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With the rise of insurance coverage for mental health services, more clients are looking for counselors who accept insurance. This change can make it more difficult to attract private pay clients. These changes likely leave you asking, how can you get more self-pay therapy clients? Here are some strategies you can use to attract and retain private pay clients.

Insurance vs. Private Pay

Many therapists accept insurance and private pay therapy clients. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks. Whether you choose to accept both will depend on a range of factors, including your financial goals, business model, and the demographics of your potential clients.

If you want to encourage more self-pay clients, you’ll want to consider the following information to fully understand the implications this may have on your practice. 

Comparison Chart of Insurance vs. Private Pay Billing

InsurancePrivate Pay
AffordabilityMore affordableLess affordable
AccessibilityAccessible to more peopleFlexibility of desired clients
QualityMore structuredMore bespoke
IncomeLower income potentialHigher income potential

The table above provides an overview of the pros and cons of each type of client. Read on for a deeper dive into how each impacts the affordability, accessibility, and quality of care.


Accepting insurance makes mental health care more affordable and possible for many clients. Here are some of the impacts of accepting insurance:

  • Affordability – While accepting insurance does make you a more affordable option for clients, it also means that the rates you’re charging may be lower, with estimates placing insurance reimbursement rates at around half to two-thirds of what you would usually charge.
  • Accessibility – By accepting patients who use insurance, you’re opening up an entirely new pool of potential clients. Having said that, some insurance companies may not cover mental health services completely, so it may not expand your client base as much as you’d like.
  • Quality – Most insurance companies restrict the number of sessions a person can have before no longer covering them. They may also place restrictions on the type of therapy covered. These restrictions mean that, even if a client would benefit from additional sessions or a different type of therapy, they may be unable to have them under their plan. But, those sessions are more likely to be structured in such a way that patients receive the best benefit in the time permitted.

Private Pay

Private pay clients mean you don’t have to hassle with insurance filing. Here are some of the impacts of accepting private pay clients:

  • Affordability – With private pay clients, you can set your own rate. While this may increase your income, a high price may dissuade people from employing your services if they have to pay out of pocket.
  • Accessibility – For the clients themselves, only accepting private pay means that therapy becomes less accessible to those who can’t afford the full rate, limiting yourself to those who can pay out of pocket. But it also means that your client base will be higher-paying clients, meaning you’ll make more money by seeing fewer people.
  • Quality – Offering private pay services can allow you to tailor your treatment approach to each client’s needs, resulting in a higher quality of care. But, without insurance restrictions, it may also require you to take on more responsibility in setting goals and expectations. People may want to move through care more rapidly when they’re paying for it without insurance benefits.

The choice between accepting insurance or only offering the option to self-pay will depend on your personal preferences and the goals of your practice.

Establish the Right Rates

If you decide to go the private pay route, you’ll find that you’re not limited to what the insurance companies will pay, allowing you to set your own rates. To do this, you’ll need to balance your practice’s needs with those of your clients.

If you charge too much, you’ll price your potential clientele out of your services. But, charging too little means you may undervalue your services, expertise, and abilities. Some people may even see low rates as a sign of inexperience and choose to go with someone else instead.

To set your rates fairly, consider:

  • Your Costs – The first thing you must consider is your overheads. Make sure you’ll make enough money to cover any rent, utilities, or other costs you must pay. By factoring these costs into your calculations, you can decide the minimum you need to charge to break even.
  • Set Income Goals – Next, decide how much you would ideally like to earn per year. Divide that by the number of clients you’ll see per year. That will give you the ideal rate that would allow you to meet your income goal.
  • Evaluate your Experience and Tenure – Another thing to consider when setting your rates is your experience. Newer therapists often charge less than those with more experience. If you have specialized training, you may be able to charge higher rates than someone without it, as people will be limited in who is available for their specific needs.
  • Research Competitor Rates – Carrying out some market research can also help you set your rates fairly. By finding out what other therapists in the area are charging for similar services, you can ensure your rates are competitive. Competitive rates make it more likely that potential clients will see you as a viable option for therapy.
  • Consider Payment Options – Many therapists offer a sliding scale depending on different factors. For example, you may allow clients on a fixed income to pay less than others. Flex-pay lets clients pay from a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) using tax-free dollars, making paying for therapy more accessible.
  • Establish Policies for Unique Circumstances – Finally, unexpected circumstances can occur. Now is the time to think about what you want to do in the event of cancellations, missed sessions, or late payments. By establishing policies and making them clear to your clients, you can avoid misunderstandings and manage your practice more effectively.

Don’t forget that once you set your rates, nothing prevents you from reviewing them now and then to ensure they align with your goals and your clients’ needs.

Make It Easy for Clients to Pay

A surefire way to put off potential clients is to complicate paying for therapy. Clients are likely to become frustrated if it’s a time-consuming process. This frustration can lead to late payments and cause you and your client’s stress. By removing any potential barriers to payment, you can help ensure a smooth and stress-free experience for everyone involved.

Tips for making payments easy and convenient for your clients:

  • Use an Online Payment Portal – Set up an online payment portal that allows clients to pay for their sessions electronically. It can be a secure payment gateway on your website or a service such as PayPal or Stripe.
  • Diversify Payment Options – Offer multiple payment options, such as credit cards, debit cards, and electronic funds transfers. This variety can make it easier for clients to pay using their preferred method.
  • Send Payment Reminders – Friendly reminders to clients a few days before their session can remind them of their upcoming appointment and prompt them to pay any outstanding balances.
  • Make It Clear and Simple – Ensure your payment policies are easily understood and communicated to clients. This clarity can include providing information on your website, client intake forms, and session reminders. Include payment details and any late payment fees.

By making it easy for clients to pay for their therapy services, you can help reduce stress and anxiety around the payment process and create a more positive experience all around.

Focus on a Specific Target Market

If you decide to only accept self-pay clients, you likely already have an ideal client in mind. By focusing your marketing efforts on this ideal client, you can make sure you attract and retain the exact type of client you’re looking for to expand your practice. 

Reach your ideal client by:

  • Identifying Your Niche – To focus on a specific target market, you’ll first want to identify your niche. Do you want to specialize in a particular condition, or do you, for example, want to market yourself as an LGBTQ-friendly practitioner? By deciding how you want to set yourself apart, you can attract clients looking for therapists in your specialty.
  • Creating Client Personas – Work out your ideal client’s age, income, gender, and interests. Doing this will enable you to understand the best way to market to these people.
  • Understanding What Clients Want – Once you have your client persona, the next step is researching their needs and pain points. This knowledge can help you tailor your services and marketing to meet those needs.
  • Networking – Position yourself in places where you can make a name for yourself. By joining professional organizations and attending networking events, you can build your reputation and establish connections with people who may be able to refer clients to you in the future.

Focusing on a specific target market can be a powerful strategy for attracting and retaining private pay clients. Demonstrating your expertise and tailoring your services to meet the needs of your ideal clients can build a strong reputation and establish a loyal client base.

Know Where Your Target Market Spends Time

While fliers and other tangible literature still have a place, many people today carry out research online rather than anywhere else. Digital marketing is one of the best ways (if not the best way) to get new private pay clients.

Understanding your clients’ online behavior allows you to tailor your digital marketing efforts to the specific channels and platforms they use, increasing the likelihood that they will see and engage with your content.

Tips for reaching your target market online:

  • Create an Online Presence – Most people conduct online research, meaning that you’re doing yourself a disservice without an online presence. The quickest way to create an online presence is to launch a website or sign up for a service like All Counseling. By having a place to showcase your services alongside your experience and credentials, you’ll be able to make sure that anyone searching for therapy can find you quickly and easily.
  • Create a Google Business Profile – There is no better way to reach local clients than to create and optimize a Google Business Profile. This is 100% free to use and it helps highlight your business at the local level in Google search and Google maps. Every therapist office should have this profile and it should be updated on a regular basis.
  • Leverage Social Media – Having a website or other online profile is the minimum you need. Social media is where many people spend their time online. It’s essential also to make sure that you create accounts on the platforms your ideal clients use. While having a website is a great way to make sure you show up in Google searches, having a strong social media presence means that you can engage with your desired clients, bringing you to the forefront of their minds when they begin to consider therapy.
  • Utilize Targeted Ads – Advertising on social media to your target demographics means that you can ensure your ideal clients see your ads. This approach can lead to more effective advertising and more clients on your books.
  • Develop Email and SMS Campaigns – As well as ads on websites and social media platforms, you can also build an opt-in email list of current and potential clients. Regular newsletters or promotional emails can help keep you on your recipients’ minds. This awareness could lead to them thinking of you when someone they know is looking for a therapist, referring people to you, or even becoming a client themselves. You can also use SMS campaigns to reach clients in a more personal way.

Establishing a strong online presence can make finding you easier for new private pay clients. You should monitor the results and adjust your marketing strategy to ensure you get the best return on your investment.

Don’t Forget the Importance of Referrals

Referrals can be a great way for therapists to get new clients, particularly in the private pay market. Private pay clients often look for therapists based on the recommendation of someone they trust, such as a friend, family member, or another medical professional. As a result, building a strong referral network can be a valuable way to expand your practice. 

Tips to successfully build a network of potential referral sources:

  • Participate in Professional Organizations – Not only will this mean that you’ll have access to all the resources associated with membership in professional organizations, but you’ll also be able to meet other mental health professionals. This networking can benefit you in many ways, but they may also consider referring clients to you.
  • Connect with Local Health Professionals – Many health professionals make referrals to therapists. By connecting with these people, you’ll ensure you’re in their minds when they next need to refer someone. Consider writing a marketing letter to local physicians, introducing yourself and encouraging them to refer their clients.
  • Cultivate Online Relationships – Telemedicine is becoming more popular, meaning you could end up with clients from all over. By sharing valuable content online, you can engage clients and encourage them to book an appointment with you.
  • Attend Local and Online Events – Make sure you attend any events that the professional organizations you’ve joined host and any others relevant to you. This attendance can expand your professional network and increase your subject knowledge, positioning you as an expert.
  • Connect with Community or Niche Organizations – Join community or niche organizations that align with your target markets, such as parenting groups, LGBTQ+ organizations, or addiction recovery groups. These connections can help you establish yourself as a trusted resource within these communities and generate referrals.

Remember, although you’re trying to build a network of people who will refer clients to you, make sure that’s not your whole focus. Build relationships instead of just promoting your services, and referrals will happen organically.

Let All Counseling Help You Grow Your Practice

With All Counseling, you can create a profile and list your services, allowing people looking for a therapist in your area and with your specialty to find you quickly and easily. It can be especially important if you don’t yet have a website, as having some kind of online presence is critical.

Not only will you benefit from appearing in searches on the directory, but All Counseling also offers many resources to help you expand your client list. Regular blog posts include tips on marketing your services and growing your practice.

Whether you’re a new therapist or want to expand your practice to include more private pay clients, claim your profile on All Counseling today to see how it can help you reach your goals.

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