Why People Feel Uncomfortable Paying You to Pay Attention
For all the woo-woo, feel-good, new-age stuff surrounding therapy, it’s still a business…and boy, do your clients know it.
They see the $100 bills they’re shelling out for your services. They think it's going into your pocket. They don't take into consideration the rent, insurance, credit card fees, and overhead that every business has.
And one day the thought might occur: "Hmm. My therapist seems to be doing pretty well for herself." As the client pulls out her wallet to make payment for this week's session, she makes a small (not so funny) joke:
"You must be getting rich off my misery!"
It's no laughing matter. And for many therapists, comments like these really sting because the reality is they're hardly making a living at all.
Trust and money are two big reasons some of your clients hesitate. They think, "Why should I pay you to listen to me when I can talk to my friend?" or "My wife gives an awesome back rub. Why should I come here every two weeks? I'll just ask her."
Deep down, your clients know they can’t dump on their friends every week, nor can they expect a full hour of deep tissue massage from their significant other. It’s just not fair, right, feasible or realistic.
But somehow, forking over money to pay someone to listen to them or take care of a non-urgent physical need feels uncomfortable. It's like renting a friend or paying someone to touch them. There’s a high “ick" factor involved with exchanging money for personal attention.
But why is that? What’s going on?
According to Dan Ariely, our discomfort comes from a mixing of social and market norms, as he explains in The Cost of Social Norms. Almost every therapist struggles with this practical aspect of performing therapy for a living. The further away you are from the ‘accepted’ medical establishment, the more social pressure you’ll feel.
I know you're thinking, “But my skills - I have so many qualifications! Jeez, I went to school for this. I'm far more qualified than any friend or family member at solving this problem. After all, I'm a professional.”
It. Doesn't. Matter.
Not to your clients. It just doesn't matter that you're more qualified, because trusted people always win first. Those that communicate clearly and concisely earn trust and gain clients. You have to communicate your level of care clearly and quickly.
Now you'll say, “If I demonstrate my skills then they'll trust me.”
Nope. Not enough. Earning trust starts well before anyone enters your office or rooms. So what should you do?
1. Be trustworthy.
2. SHOW that you're trustworthy. Get a web presence with more than just your name and contact information. Feature a picture of yourself doing interesting things that you'd normally do (hiking, playing guitar – you know, fun stuff. If you can show pictures of you at work in your office). Give people a small peek into your life, your hobbies, and your likes and dislikes so they can establish a sense of connection with you.
3. Rewrite your jargon-laden articles in a conversational style (work with a copywriter if needed) that makes you sound real, human and reachable. Save your uber-professional words and scholarly works for peers and industry journals. Write articles and submit them to trusted, popular websites to get your name out there.
4. Address the issue of money in a therapeutic relationship right from the start. Anticipate and answer the typical money questions before anyone has to ask them. State why you have the policies you do. Be honest and upfront, and explain to clients that you understand their hesitation. You could say something like, "You know, it's hard for some people to trade money for attention. That's natural. Talking about money is awkward for me too... but it's gotta be done."
5. Offer a free 15-minute consultation on the phone or for massage & body workers offer mini-sessions to help establish a real-life, personal connection and build trust in your skills and abilities. In other words, let them ‘try before they buy’ so that they further develop the trust bond and know for themselves that you're ready and willing to help.
6. Provide honest, detailed testimonials or reviews from happy clients. Include them on your website, use them in print brochures (if you have them), or post them in your office where they can be easily read. It's important for people to see that you've served other clients and that these people trust you – that means this new client can too.
Incorporating these tips and just being yourself will go a long way to building trust with potential clients.
How many are you doing right now? Have you ever sensed clients feeling uncomfortable paying you for attention? What did you do about it and how did that work out?