Why do therapists charge cancellation fees?
Clients often ask their therapists why they have to charge cancellation fees for missed appointments and no shows. Many of them do not understand that a cancellation policy is put in place for many reasons. Most therapists ask for a weekly commitment from clients and this is why they charge a fee.
The catch-22 dilemma
Cancellation policies need to work hand-in-hand with the fact that clients also want flexibility when it comes to appointments, with therapists having to be prepared to be available when needed. But therapy can only work well when the process is disciplined and the client is committed to it, so there is a bit of a catch-22 here. It is essential for therapists to provide a service that is adaptable whilst at the same time, sufficiently structured.
The therapeutic relationship is a big part of the healing process, and like any relationship, requires commitment, balance and respect for each other’s time and space.
Aiding the therapeutic process
Psychotherapists will ask clients to commit to booking a regular weekly slot in order to aid the therapeutic process. They will not book anyone else during this time, hence they are holding the slot exclusively for the client. This provides consistency for the client and alleviates some of the anxiety that may be felt when undergoing therapy. When clients know that they are going to attend therapy sessions regularly, the level of commitment required helps them to push forward, facing their fears and dealing with, rather than avoiding difficult emotions.
Facing our problems can mean that sometimes we would prefer to run away rather than deal with our emotions; some people would want to skip this part and not come for one or two sessions and this can often be detrimental to them as it is disempowering and the problems are buried rather than dealt with. Having some extra motivation to go to therapy even when things get tough helps to build resilience, as with therapist's support, clients learn that they are capable of dealing with those emotions.
Security for the client
Charging a cancellation fee also provides many positives for the client. By knowing that the therapist is holding a space for them, it not only creates a sense of continuity but also security. Many clients can struggle during time away from their therapist, suffering from a sense of uncertainty and self-doubt. Knowing that they have a regular therapy space to look forward to provides them with the time to offload and rebuild confidence. Compare this to booking on an ad-hoc basis, when the therapist might not have availability, and this will create far more stress for the client.
Clients also have costs that clients are not obviously aware of, such as supervision, continuous professional development, insurance and room costs. They get charged monthly, whether they use the room or not, so if a client doesn’t show, at least the cancellation fee helps pay for the room. If the client doesn’t attend, the scenario can be likened to someone going to the office and having no work to do, whilst still having to pay for the office space and facilities.
Having read this article, hopefully, it is easier now for the client to understand why it is necessary for cancellation policies to exist. It provides protection for both parties and a sense of security for the client.
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