What strategies can you use when offering a sliding scale to clients? How can you work with a local church to help clients pay for their counseling? What can you do to handle clients who have out-of-network benefits?
In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens does a live consulting call with Mayra Richards about how to offer a sliding scale in her practice.
Meet Mayra Richards
She loves doing Christian Counseling and her focus is mainly on individuals who want to grow deeper in their faith as well as anxiety, depression, trauma, and life transitions. She is married to Gavin Richards and they have an 11-month-old baby girl.
In This Podcast
- Handling your sliding scale
Handling your sliding scale
You want to think about what income amount you want to make, so you’re honestly kind of working backwards: by working backwards you are going to figure out what you can and can’t do. (Whitney Owens)
- Create a policy that helps you feel better about the decision you are making: if someone phones and the rate is too much, you can:
- First try to problem solve how they could pay for it: out of network benefits,
I usually don’t offer a sliding scale to people that have out-of-network benefits, and who could submit superbills but just don’t want to … because that’s not really fair to me to have to lower my rates because they don’t want to take the work through to try to get the reimbursement. (Whitney Owens)
- Help customers problem-solve their payment: see if there is anyone else who can support them such as a spouse or family member.
- Some churches can also offer a payment fund or offer payment schemes for clients.
- Offer scholarships (but keep it limited)
- Live Consulting with Alyssa Johnson: Should I Grow a Group Practice? | FP 84
- Jennifer Glasscock on Creating a Church Assistance Program | FP 77
- Next Level Practice
- Join the Faith in Practice Mastermind
- Practice of the Practice Podcast Network
- Group Practice Launch
- Group Practice Boss
- Email Whitney at firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.
Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.
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Hey guys. I hope everybody’s doing well. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to this podcast. It means the world to me. You have so many options for podcasts to listen to, and yet you choose every week to hang out with me on the Faith in Practice podcast. So thank you for that. We know that owning a private practice is tons of work. Not only are we dealing with the clinical side of our work, but the business side, and so on this podcast, I help you in managing that side of your practice. But even beyond that, we also have to deal with the challenge of the faith that we bring to the table. And so how do we make our faith, a part of our clinical work, a part of running our business in an ethical way that is comfortable for us? So I’m going to be doing some live consulting here in the month of June to help other faith-based practice owners start and grow their businesses.
I absolutely love doing consulting. You’ve probably figured that out by now and so by listening to the show, you’re going to hear people giving questions and getting advice immediately here on the show. None of these people came to me in advance and gave me their questions. It all happened live in the event. So in the whole month of June, I’m doing some bonus episodes just to get you more information out there and you can see what it’s like to do some consulting and hopefully see the value in doing consulting. I think it’s something that we hear a lot. It’s kind of scary to think about putting time and money into consulting and honestly, some people would even tell me, is it really even going to be worth it? I felt the same way years ago before I hired my own consultant.
So I want you to see that through these consulting episodes, it actually can help you and I want to help you make more money. In a podcast episode I did with Juliette, she’s an accountant, she said she helps private practice owners in accounting. She said that at the end of the year, she found that those that did consulting made about 30% more in their practice. Phenomenal. So honestly the consulting, yes, it’s nice that I can make some money doing consulting because I get to do something I love and get paid for it, but to tell you the truth, it’s not about that. It’s about helping other faith-based practice owners make more money and enjoy their lifestyle. So I’m excited about the consulting sessions that we’re going to be doing in the month of June on the podcast.
I also want to let you know that I am launching a mastermind group. I launch these once or twice a year with faith-based practice owners. So a mastermind group is about eight to 10 practice who are all doing a faith-based perspective and the way they integrate into their business. So within the mastermind, yes, we’re going to talk about faith, but you know what, we’re also going to talk about business. I’m going to give you advice, tips and help you move forward. So that’s going to start on July 7th. We’re going to be running that group for six months, we’re going to meet every other Wednesday at 12:30 Eastern for one hour. And during that time, we’re going to discuss the winds in our practice. We’re going to have hot seats where you bring something to the table, just like I do on these consulting sessions and then at the end we do a Q&A in the group and then I provide other resources. You also have access to our membership communities within Practice of the Practice with over hundreds of courses that you can take.
So I hope that, if you’re thinking, yes, I want to start a practice or I’ve got my practice and I just really need it to grow, or I need to get more clients, or maybe you have a group practice and you’re figuring out how to create better systems, or maybe you want to create a side hustle, all those would be reasons to join a mastermind group. If you have a specific goal that you really want to accomplish over a few months, then now’s the time to join. So if you’re thinking about that, I want you to go on over to practiceofthepractice.com\faithinpracticemastermind and you can learn more about joining that group. Hit that link. I will only be taking eight to 10. So once the spots are full they’re full.
The cost of joining that group for the month of June is $397 a month for six months. You also, in addition to the group, you also have a Facebook group that you’re a part of, a closed group, where I am very active in helping you with your practice. You have one-on-one consulting call with me at the beginning of the group and you also have an accountability partner. You all, it’s a fun time. And I’ve seen so many people find success in being a part of this group and I just want to share some testimonies with y’all. One is from John Airs. He was in my group a couple of years ago, and he said, “When I started the process towards building a group practice, I was lost in my next steps. What I got from Whitney, wasn’t just industrial knowledge, but true coaching on taking action, guidance, that mixed truth with grace.” Thanks, John, for that review there, and you were a pleasure to have in the group.
So I want you guys, if you’re interested, please head over to that link or shoot me an email, email@example.com. Would love to jump on a call and make sure it’s a good fit for you because I don’t want people joining a group that is not really going to be helpful. I want it to help you in your business.
Now let’s jump into the consulting today. We are going to talk about, on the episode today, how to offer a sliding scale. And this is just one of an example of many things that we do in the mastermind group. That’s totally a question that we discuss on a pretty regular basis with our finances. So I’m looking forward to sharing with you some tips, advice on how to get a sliding scale going in your practice that is ethical and meets the needs for you and for the community. So without further ado, here it goes, episode number 85.
[WHITNEY] Today on the faith and practice podcast, I’m interviewing Mayra Richards. She’s alive professional counselor here in the state of Georgia. She went to Richmont Graduate University and then she started Remain Connected, LLC. in 2019. She loves doing Christian counseling and her focus is mainly on individuals who want to grow deeper in their faith, as well as anxiety, depression, trauma, and life transition. She’s married and has an 11 month old baby girl. Welcome to the show.
[MAYRA RICHARDS] Thank you. Thanks for having me.
[WHITNEY] So why don’t you talk a little bit about your practice right now, as far as your location, what is your schedule like, how many clients do you work with?
[MAYRA] Yes, I would love to. So I started Remain Connected in 2019 and I grew it slowly because I found out I was pregnant the month after I started.
[MAYRA] So, yes, like signed a lease to start it and then I found out in September that I was pregnant. So I see about 20 clients a week, usually Monday through Friday with Tuesdays, having Tuesdays off for right now, just to have like a day and most of Mondays, my admin day. So I see some clients, but I try to spread them out throughout the week so they won’t feel so much. And I see clients with anxiety, depression, trauma, I do EMDR and I really love my journey. I think it took me probably a few months to gain my rhythm and the way to add more clients and finding out as you know like all the things that have to do with marketing and private practice and incorporating your faith into it. But I decided to do Christian counseling mostly, like mainly. If I didn’t add just personally, that’s just where I feel like I thrive the best and my clients see more benefits because of that.
[WHITNEY] That’s great. And where is your practice located since you still live in Atlanta?
[MAYRA] So right now I’m in Smyrna. I’m seeing clients face to face in Smyrna and then the rest is online, hopefully trying to find another office closer in like Atlanta area, but just looking around right now.
[WHITNEY] Yes, that’s great. I always said if I moved back to Atlanta, I’d want to live in the Smyrna Vinings area.
[WHITNEY] Yes, really. I really liked that area. All right. So what is your question for me today?
[MAYRA] So I wanted to know how do you maintain balance, I think, specifically balance with having a sliding fee clients and for running a private practice also that it’s for profit?
[WHITNEY] Okay. So your question is more about how do you balance your finances that you can kind of have the income that you need at the end of the day?
[MAYRA] Yews, and being able also to offer clients, not all of them, obviously, but some of them the availability to offer them a reduced rate, if you don’t even do that at all.
[WHITNEY] Yes. Yes. Well, you can do what works best for you and your practice. That’s the great thing about being a business owner. You get to make those decisions on what works. And so one practice might say, “Yes, we don’t offer any sliding scale,” and another practice might say, “We offer lots of sliding scale.” You know, it’s all about your mission and your vision and kind of what you see fit with your kind of your marketing. So it’s like important at the very beginning that you consider what your mission is and your practice, why you set it up, what you want to offer and kind of answering some of those big questions. But going kind of to the next step here, you want to think about what income amount that you want to make. So you’re honestly kind of working backwards and then by working backwards, you’re going to figure out what you can and can’t do. So do you know if you’re a comfortable talking numbers here today? Do you know how much that you want to make per month?
[MAYRA] I think, yes, I do. I think the minimum that I would want to make per month would be 4,000.
[WHITNEY] Okay. And is that take-home or revenue for the practice?
[WHITNEY] Okay. All right. And then when you consider your expenses, have you ever kind of thought through what your monthly expenses are? Do you know what that is off hand?
[MAYRA] I don’t know it to like the detail of it, but with rent and everything, it would probably be around $800 to a thousand dollars.
[WHITNEY] Okay. Well, let’s do a thousand. Then you’ll also need to think about your taxes, and that’s going to be about 15, we’ll go ahead and put 20% of whatever amount you end up bringing into the business. Is there anything else that you need to put some money aside for that you’re aware of that we didn’t mention?
[MAYRA] I would honestly, one day I would like just own my own place, so I’d want to start saving up for that.
[WHITNEY] Okay. So I’m going to actually pull up my calculator here for just a second and run a number real quick to make sure I know what I’m doing. So if, I’m actually the kind of person who likes to be super conservative when it comes to money. You definitely don’t want to get to the end of the month and not have enough. So let’s say you were to bring in $8,000 a month. So your taxes would be about 1600 and then your take home is the 4,000 and then your monthly expenses is the thousand. So if you do the 8,000 minus the 1600, minus the 4,000 that you want to take home, and then subtract your expenses, you’ve got 1400 still left over.
That’s kind of nice. That’s a nice cushion. You don’t necessarily need that type of a cushion, but it could be nice to have. So I would say your absolute minimum amount to feel comfortable and maybe be able to put a few hundred dollars aside every month would be making 7,000. But if you already know for sure that you want to eventually buy a place, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to put more aside every month. So I think and then I, you’re going to want to make somewhere between $7,000 and $8,000 a month.
[WHITNEY] Off the client load. So let’s just, let’s go with 8,000. Let’s see how this number works out for you and then we can talk about a different amount if we need to. So in your ideal world, your schedule that you’re doing right now, do you just love that schedule or would you like to see less clients or what would be ideal for you?
[MAYRA] I think I want to stay at like around five days a week, five clients a day, so 25 at most.
[WHITNEY] Okay, so seeing 25 clients a week?
[WHITNEY] 25 clients a week, so you’d need to see a hundred clients a month for the number of clients you’re talking about. And then if you need to make $8,000 and you’re seeing a hundred clients, each client needs to pay $80. You see how I did that Math?
[MAYRA] Can you —
[WHITNEY] Did I do it too fast?
[WHITNEY] Okay, if you need to make $8,000 a month and you see a hundred clients a week, because what I want to do is create your ideal lifestyle. I don’t want to look at how much people pay first. Let’s look at how many clients you actually want to see, and then we’ll make sure they pay enough for you to make the amount you need.
[MAYRA] Okay. Got you.
[WHITNEY] So if you want to bring home $8,000 a month and you want to see a hundred clients a month, we’re just going to take 8,000 divided by a hundred.
[WHITNEY] Yes. So then each client would be paying $80. What is your current rate that you’re charging?
[WHITNEY] All right. Right now, what is your policy for sliding scale?
[MAYRA] Honestly, I kind of just, it depends. I don’t really have a strong policy with it. I’m likely to do it with two clients who I’ve been with for some time and if something happens in their life then I’m more willing like to reduce it.
[WHITNEY] So if you’re charging $140 and you’re seeing 25 clients a week, you’re making well more than what you actually need. Is that how you’re seeing it on your end though?
[MAYRA] Yes. Yes.
[WHITNEY] Okay. So if you want to offer a sliding scale, you definitely could do that. And I think if you were to consider how many clients you see at $140, you just need to make sure that you’re always making an average of $80 a client to meet your goals. Does it make sense now?
[WHITNEY] So you’re well past that, I think. I think you probably do you see people for less than $80 when you do a sliding scale?
[MAYRA] No much less. Okay. So you’re probably definitely in a good position. What you’re doing, whatever it is that you’ve kind of got going on right now sounds like it’s going well. Now what I would encourage you to also consider is a couple of things. I would create a policy, at least something that makes you feel better about the decision you’re making. So I can kind of share with you what I used to do when I was a solo practice owner. Someone told me, and it helped.
[WHITNEY] Yes, I would love that.
[MAYRA] The way I would word it to my clients or to people that when they would call, I would say, if I would give them the rate and they would say, “Well, that’s just too much,” first, I would try to problem solve how they could pay for it. So I might say something like, “Well, if you have out of network benefits, more than happy to have you. You can call and check those, or I can check them for you.” Of course, now we’ve seen recently that it’s harder to check benefits than it used to be for people, just the rules are getting tighter around that. So clients usually have to check on their own, but letting them know that if they have had out of network benefits, we can provide superbills and get reimbursement for them.
So that helps. I usually don’t offer a sliding scale to people that have out of network benefits and could submit the super bills and just don’t want to, because that’s not really fair to me to have to lower my rates because they don’t want to take the work to try to get the reimbursement. Because we want clients to have to work hard. We don’t want to just give them things because they’re not going to really learn from it. Like they’re here to do therapy and that’s part of the therapy process, talking about money and working on finances.
Another thing that I also would do is help problem solve with the payment. Like, is there anyone else that could support you in helping pay for services? So if it’s an adult, maybe they have a spouse that can help them pay or if it’s an adolescent, maybe there’s a grandparent that’s available to help. A lot of times churches have a discretionary fund or some kind of member care fund and if you’re a member of that church, they will help pay for services. That’s another option we have at my practice and relationships with local churches, where, and this is something you could consider reaching out to churches for, is the pastor sends the person, we get the release, we talk to the client, like, what is it that you feel like you could afford each week? And they give us an amount. So let’s say the therapist is $140 and the client says I could charge, I can take $50 and pay that every week. So we contact charge and say, “Hey, would you be able to cover the remaining portion, the $90?” And a lot of times they’ll cover that portion for the client for a certain number of sessions or whatever is predetermined.
[WHITNEY] Another thing that I have also done when I was a solo practice owner was offered scholarships. Now the scholarships weren’t legit scholarships in the sense that someone gave me the money to put towards it. It was the idea of, I was kind of up fronting the money for someone to have therapy. And I would explain to people that I only offer so many scholarships at a time. Usually that would be three and so I would have three clients on some kind of sliding scale at that time and then I would never, I wouldn’t offer more.
[MAYRA] Okay. Until somebody came off?
[WHITNEY] Yes. And obviously it’s hard. You get these calls and you care and you feel compassionate and you want to help people. Definitely. But the good news is there are other therapists in your area that also are faith-based and can help. So you shouldn’t feel like you have to bring down your services a lot of times to be able to do that because you could refer to another place or for lower cost services or for them to use their insurance if necessary.
[MAYRA] Okay. I like this question.
[WHITNEY] Yes. So what are you kind of thinking would be best for you or how are you feeling about this?
[MAYRA] Yes, I think because, I like the second part of it, because I mainly see, like, I’ve only thought of churches who are already giving, you know, that I know of that it would supplement like in Atlanta. North Point does a great job with that. I’ve never thought about asking what church they go to and if they’d be willing for me to ask if they could support them.
[WHITNEY] Yes. And you could try other churches to even see if you could create like an EAP with them where, “Hey, if you refer to me,” maybe meet with the pastor, find out what their needs are and things like that, and, “If you refer, then I will give, if your clients pay $80, you pay 20 or 30 or whatever you determine in advance.” And there’s kind of that referral relationship there.
[MAYRA] Is that something you’ve done before?
[WHITNEY] Yes. I have done some of that before and I actually interviewed someone on the podcast that has not gone live yet, but it will before this one does. So I interviewed Jennifer Glasscock and she has, she calls it CAP, it’s like a church assistant program and there’s contracts and everything. And those will all be in the show notes on that episode that you can download and reuse those. So that was really cool. When I was in private practice solo, I ganged up with another guy that shared space with me. So we each had our individual practices and we made arrangements with churches, with contracts and everything where the church would give us a certain amount every month. We had like bronze, silver and a gold levels. So the church would pay, like the bronze level was they would give us $100 a month and we would offer 25% off of any member that they referred to us.
Then for the next level, the silver level, they paid $300 and we offered that lower level, the 25% off anyone they refer plus they could call us anytime and we would give them some help on like determining level of care for some money. And then we offered two courses that were six to eight weeks long during the year. So they would sign this contract for a year. So, like I went to a church and did a cognitive behavior therapy class and talked about some biblical examples and use scripture with like renewing your mind.
Then our highest level was the gold level. It was all that stuff that’s in the silver level, but in addition to that, we offered a retreat where we would go with them and they would pick out the retreat that we would do. And then we would also offer a one day leadership summit for their staff. That was $500 a month and it was really great because if you could, even if you only got two or three churches to buy into this, it covered your expenses. So there’s options and you can be creative or even ask pastors, “Hey, what is it that you need in your church? What mental health services do you need and how can I help meet those in a way that’s financially beneficial for you and for me and for the client?”
[MAYRA] How did you come up with this idea?
[WHITNEY] I don’t know. The guy that I shared space with at the time he had been a pastor and we just were talking through options and we kind of came up with that. And then we presented it to somebody that we felt really comfortable presenting it to and she liked it and then we just kept doing it. I actually don’t do that anymore because it was consuming administratively and when I was a solo practice owner, it was a lot of paperwork and communication to keep up with. So I have not been doing that, but it worked really well when I was a solo owner, needing more clients.
[MAYRA] This is an incredible idea. I was like, “Wow.” I think that’s what I miss about, because of COVID I’m not seeing counselors as much, my friends as much, but I miss that part of bouncing off ideas with each other.
[WHITNEY] Most definitely. And that’s what I love about the Faith in Practice community and the Facebook page. Like you can just post in there anytime and then you’ve got over 400 other faith-based practice owners from all over the nation that can help one another as we kind of sort through these types of questions in our businesses.
[WHITNEY] Well, wonderful. Has this been helpful for you in thinking through how you’re going to move forward with your sliding scale clients?
[MAYRA] Yes, absolutely.
[WHITNEY] Well, great. Great. Yes, it was a really good question. I get that question a lot. So I’m really glad you asked. So do you want to come around and ask you what I ask everyone on this show? What do you believe every Christian counselor needs to know?
[MAYRA] That you’re not doing this alone and that you don’t have to do it alone, find your people, your other counselor friends and build up a community.
[WHITNEY] Yes. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show and I totally agree community is everything. And that’s what I have loved about Practice of the Practice, when I got my own consulting and the Facebook membership communities that I’m a part of. It provides that immediate community sometimes when it’s harder to get together with people. So I appreciate that you said that.
[MAYRA] Of course.
[WHITNEY] Yes. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show today.
[MAYRA] Thank you so much.
[WHITNEY] Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also there, you can learn more about me, options for working together, such as individual and in group consulting, or just shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Would love to hear from you.
This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.