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Inflation is 19% since 2020. If you're not raising rates, your practice is dying.

Updated: Jan 17

Last week I was editing an upcoming blog about what my wealthy therapists mentor taught me about generational wealth. As I wrote that blog I touched on the topic of inflation. I then decided to run the numbers.


The results were so staggering I immediately sent out an email to my newsletter subscribers. Since then I've gotten a ton of feedback from subscribers.


Below is that email. I've added a few more details and some headlines for clarity.


I hope this serves you as well.


 

Hello friends :) If you want to join me and other readers in exploring the world of counseling sign up for my newsletter.

 

We can't wait any longer. You've got to raise your counseling rates.

I know how this is going to sound, but you have to raise your counseling rates immediately.


Maybe I'm overreacting, but I just had to stop everything I was doing and write this post.


See, I was in the middle of writing this post about what my wealthy therapist mentor taught me about generational wealth, and I came to this section on inflation. I decided to run a few numbers.


The results are insane.


You've got to raise your counseling rates - because inflation.

First, what is inflation? You know how everything is more expensive? That's inflation.


The government is actively devaluing our money every year. They call this devaluing "inflation."[1]


The government targets 2-3% inflation each year. This means they want each dollar to be able to buy 2-3% less stuff each year.


Why do they devalue the money? Because it keeps the economy running. If people need more money, they have to constantly work, which means the economy stays productive.


Yeah, I know. Sounds insane.


It gets worse.


The government is really bad at managing inflation.


For instance, the inflation rate from Jan 2020 to Nov 2023 was actually 19%. That means the stuff you want to buy, on average, is 19% more expensive in November 2023 than in Jan 2020.


100 dollars in 2020 has same buying power as 119.03 in November 2023

If you don't raise your counseling rates here's how much you're missing out on per hour.

Here's what blew me away. According so this simple practice report in 2017 the nationwide average for a 90837 was $120.


To have the same buying power today, you'd have to raise your counseling rates to $150.27.



Of course, different states pay different amounts. Some states pay pretty well. The better-paying states (Alaska, Iowa, Illinois, New Jersey, Arkansas, District of Columbia, and Hawaii) paid $150 an hour in 2017.



If you're in those states, your inflation-adjusted rate ought to be $187.84.


If you're unlucky enough to be in a low-paying state (Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio), the average rate was $90 in 2017. Which means today your rate should be $112.70.



That's what inflation is doing to your rates. I know this is hard to understand. Or at least for me it was difficult to understand. So let's look at it a different way.

If you're not raising your counseling rates, here's how much you actually make per year.

Instead of looking at how much you'd have to raise your rates, let's look at it the opposite. Let's look at how much your money has been devalued.


If you were billing $120 an hour in 2017 and you haven't raised your rates you're basically making $95 an hour now (in 2017 dollars).


If your rate was $150 an hour, you're basically making $118 an hour now.


And if your rate was $90 you're making $71.87 per hour.


Here's everything converted to yearly pay.


2017 Yearly revenue (assuming 20 clients a week at 48 weeks a year and no inflation raise.)

What your revenue should be in 2024 if you'd adjust for inflation.

What your money is actually worth, if you DON'T adjust for inflation.

$120

$115,200

$144,259.2

$91,994.08

$150

$144,000

$180,326.4

$114,992.60

$90

$86,400

$108,192

$68,995.56

Of course, this is assuming you take home everything you bring in. What if you're in a group practice and taking home 60% of what you earn?


2017 Yearly revenue minus 40/60 split.

What your money is actually worth, if you DON'T adjust for inflation.

$120

$69,120

$55,196.45

$150

$86,400

$68,995.56

$90

$51,660

$41,253.60

This is why everything feels crazy right now. Because it actually is. You brought in $115k to your company, but your income feels like $55k.


So what do we do? As therapists, we have two options.


We can either take on more clients to make up the difference, or we can raise our counseling rates.


I don't think seeing more clients is the answer. Some of us are already struggling to get full! So it's not like you can just see more clients! Those clients have to come from somewhere!


Plus, I don't know about you, but for me, there's only so many clients I can see in a day. I used to work at a hospital as a case manager, and I'd pick up PRN shifts all the time. Counseling isn't like that. We're in clients' pain all day. I can't just pick up another shift and be okay. My personal mental health would suffer.


The three ways to raise your counseling rates (and why it's .

So I think we have to raise our counseling rates. Now of course, you can't just raise our insurance clients' rates, but I've heard from several counselors that many insurances will allow you to renegotiate your contract once per year.


That's the first step. Call the insurance companies once per year and try and renegotiate.


Second, many of us have these low-paying EAPs. You know what I mean, some business agrees to pay $30 per session for 3 sessions or something. Rewrite those contracts to match inflation. I can guarantee you these businesses are giving themselves a cost of living raise. They'll understand that you need the same.


That's the second step. Rewrite EAP contracts.


Third you've got to raise your rates on your private paying counseling clients. There's not a way around it.


The solution is simple but not easy. Renegotiate, rewrite, and raise.


Why it matters if you raise your counseling rates.

I know this is easier said than done and many of us don't raise our rates because we care deeply about our clients.


But there's a hard truth I don't think we can get around. To not raise our rates, at least to match inflation, is to literally let our work be devalued over time.


Daily we give our clients the most valuable parts of us, our time and our hearts. It's okay toraise our rates a little.


I'll see you next week with that article about what my mentor taught me.


Jordan (the counselor)


-Fin-

Notes


[1] If you'd like more about inflation check out this 6 minute explanation.


 

If you liked this post, consider reading this next. I think you'll like it ;) It's about the million dollar difference between group and solo practice.

 

Jordan Harris, Ph.D., LMFT-S, LPC-S, received his Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Louisiana Monroe. He is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of Arkansas, USA. In his clinical work, he enjoys working with couples. He also runs a blog on deliberate practice for therapists and counselors at Jordanthecounselor.com.

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