How to Get Private Pay Therapy Clients in 7 Steps

Getting private pay therapy clients is desirable for many practitioners because it provides them with more flexibility both in terms of accepting out-of-pocket payment as well as in choosing treatment methods. Having clients that are ready to cover the cost of sessions makes therapists independent from insurance company compensation. However, many practitioners are concerned about client acquisition as taking on private pay clients means they won’t be able to get referrals from other specialists. Let’s learn how to get private pay therapy clients — after all, they might be looking for you as well.

What is a private pay option?

Private pay can also be called out-of-pocket payment.

Private pay is when your client pays for your therapy services using their own funds, without compensation from an insurance company.

If you have decided to provide a private pay option, your clients might want to pay you either online or in person, depending on how you provide your services.

clients use online payment platforms

That’s why you should consider implementing multiple payment methods even if you provide your services offline. Generally, there are three ways to accept private payments:

  • Online
  • In-app
  • Cash

If you are considering implementing online or in-app payment options, please note that the solution you choose should comply with HIPAA standards.

Why offer private pay options to therapy clients?

Now that you know how private pay options are different from cases where you are compensated by insurance, let's overview when accepting an out-of-pocket payment is preferable.

Benefits of offering private pay options

There are a lot of advantages, both for you and for your clients, to letting clients pay for your services out of pocket.

First of all, your clients will be more motivated to use your services because they are paying themselves. No one wants to lose money, so there is less of a chance for no-shows or late cancellations.

Another reason private pay options can be more beneficial for you is that you don’t have to make a diagnosis immediately after holding a session with your client because you don’t have to provide that information for a superbill.

The last benefit of offering private pay options to clients is your ability to set your own prices for the services you provide and decide which services you will include in a treatment plan.

At this point, you might wonder why many therapists hesitate to introduce private pay options in their therapy practice if it is advantageous. The answer is simple: it might be more difficult to find clients that are willing to pay out of pocket. However, it is not impossible. Let’s overview steps to take to get private pay therapy clients that are willing to use your services.

7 tips to get private pay therapy clients

The most important aspect of building a thriving practice is to attract and retain clients that are willing to pay for your services and that understand the value you offer to them. While this can be a challenging task for many therapists, there are several proven strategies that can help you build a dedicated client base and ensure your practice thrives.

#1 When growing your brand, emphasize your specialty and niche

If you do not offer the lowest rate in the area, it can be difficult to attract private pay therapy clients if you don’t have a niche. And even if you lower your prices, chances are that your competitors will do the same. It’s also important to be mindful of profitability when considering pricing and to not make the mistake of pricing your services too low.

Positioning yourself as a specialist in a particular area ensures that those seeking your services will be less focused on price and more interested in finding an expert. Below, we list the top three specialties that are currently in high demand as well as the niches they cover. You can choose the one that suits your expertise the most or conduct your own research to find the right niche for you.

1. Organizational psychologist

Organizational psychologists are highly sought after for their ability to address common workplace issues such as lack of productivity and qualified personnel shortages. Furthermore, they are capable of developing market research surveys to assist organizations in designing new products and services.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, overall job demand in this field is predicted to increase by 19% by 2024.

As an independent organizational psychologist, you could consult the following types of organizations:

  • Manufacturers
  • Commercial enterprises
  • Labor unions
  • Healthcare facilities

You can tailor your services to fit their needs and get referred to as a qualified organizational psychologist working on industry-specific issues.

2. Clinical psychologist

Clinical psychologists are highly trained professionals in the diagnosis, assessment, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses. As an independent clinical psychologist, you could work with the following clients:

  • Addiction centers
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Consumer product manufacturers
  • Law firms

Demand for clinical psychologists will rise by 20% by 2024.

3. Counseling psychologist

Counseling psychologists provide psychotherapy and treatment for mental health issues, but they are more focused on improving quality of life other than on diagnosis and treatment.

As an independent counseling psychologist, you can provide counseling for:

  • Communities (neurodiverse people, ethnic minorities, etc.)
  • Couples or families
  • Survivors
  • Individuals going through important life events

The demand for counseling psychologists is expected to rise by 20% by 2024.

demand for counseling psychologists

Generally, the three specialties listed above are growing. As an independent practitioner, you can niche down and position yourself as an expert in a certain area to get clients that match your expertise and experience.

#2 Target your ideal clients

It’s important to define your ideal client profile before coming up with any marketing strategy or offer because without understanding your audience and their needs, you won’t be able to come up with strategies that best fit them. Your purpose here is to find out who is ready to pay for your services out of pocket and what it is they value the most in your services.

To successfully target your ideal clients, ask yourself the following question:

In my niche, what clients have I had the most success with in the past?

Your answer might be both groups of clients or individuals who have repeatedly paid out of pocket for your services and belong to the same niche.

Getting to know your ideal clients is essential both for forming your offers and understanding what your clients need from you and what they expect to get after your sessions.

Conducting research on what communities your ideal clients are in and what content sources they consume might help you better understand them. Also, pay attention to what type of social media content they interact with to build your content marketing strategy.

In the graphic below, you can learn what types of data you should include in your ideal client profile.

Create an ideal client profile

You should use these observations to build your marketing strategy.

#3 Offer short waiting times

Today’s therapy industry suffers from increased waiting times, leading many people to seek out private practitioners and pay out of pocket for timely appointments.

As a private practitioner, you can ensure that your clients can book a session with you when they need you the most by implementing a booking system with automated scheduling.

ExpertBox offers such a solution that will provide your clients with an opportunity to self-schedule in a few clicks. They can select the service they need, choose a suitable time slot, and get access to a personal profile where they can reschedule, pay for services online, or chat with you. Such a personalized experience can benefit both parties. ExpertBox is also HIPAA-compliant, so you can rest assured your client data will remain secure.

Get 14 days of ExpertBox for free, and try automated scheduling in action!

#4 Create unique services

Clients who are willing to pay out of pocket are often seeking something different than what they might get through their insurance provider. They may be looking for a more personalized approach, a specific service or expertise, or more specialized treatment options that are not covered by insurance.

By offering unique services such as experiential therapies, specialized workshops or classes, or other complementary services, you can meet clients’ needs and offer something clients cannot find elsewhere.

#5 Launch a Google My Business profile

Google My Business shouldn’t be underestimated, as it accumulates reviews in your business category. When someone looks for certain services on the web, chances are you will be recommended if you set your address and define your niche well.

This applies to all therapists that have a physical office where they hold sessions — your practice will be recommended to those who are looking for a therapist in the vicinity.

To launch a Google My Business profile, you need:

  • a physical address where you operate and that you have the right to represent
  • to be authorized to represent your business
  • to have a title or degree (Dr., M.D.) that you can confirm
  • to provide a website link and phone number
  • to set working hours
  • to add a unique description and photos

Google My Business results are often shown in the right column alongside Google search results, so it’s a good idea to set up an account and get a high rating there in case the search page has tough competition.

#6 Hold free events to get more leads

Holding free events and sessions can be an effective way to generate leads and attract private pay clients. These can be online events or offline group sessions that address specific needs of your ideal clients and have the potential to attract them. By building trust, increasing visibility, showcasing your expertise, and creating a positive reputation, you can position yourself as a valuable resource in your community and attract clients who are willing to pay for your services out of pocket.

Additionally, you can use Facebook events to promote your free events and get more participants. Also, launching social media ads will help you advertise your event to the audience that fits your ideal client portrait, as you’ll be able to use custom audience settings or even use a lookalike audience and target a certain geographic location.

#7 Optimize for different search engines

Nowadays, users don’t tend to search for therapy services only on the web. They also use search options within applications and social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram. Make sure to create and optimize your content to perform well both on social media and on the web.

Top marketing channels

Check which platforms your ideal clients use and target them there, creating content that addresses their key interests.

How to accept private payments

Now that we’ve covered how to get private pay therapy clients, let’s see how to bill them.

According to the American Psychological Association, electronically transmitted billing claims are classified as protected health information and thus require compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA rules have a significant impact on the billing process because the payment system employed to securely invoice clients gathers and transmits confidential health data.

The HIPAA Security Rule applies to all kinds of sensitive data, so in order to be HIPAA-compliant, the medical billing company has to ensure they meet the confidentiality, availability, and integrity requirements for protected health information.

Want to learn how to choose HIPAA-compliant billing software to safely use in your practice? Check out this list of HIPAA-compliant payment systems!

Wrapping up

Offering private pay options to clients can strengthen your financial security by diversifying your income streams and giving you control over the pricing and services you provide. Use our recommendations to get private pay therapy clients and generate more revenue from your therapy practice. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to get tips and lifehacks for promoting your therapy practice.

  • To get private pay therapy clients, follow these 7 steps:

    • When growing your brand, emphasize your specialty and niche
    • Target your ideal clients
    • Offer short waiting times
    • Create unique services
    • Launch a Google My Business profile
    • Hold free events to get more leads
    • Optimize for different search engines
  • There are three main benefits to therapy practitioners of implementing private pay options:

    • Clients that use private pay options are usually highly motivated
    • There’s no need to diagnose clients in advance
    • You can set any price you deem reasonable
  • There are three specialities that are currently in high demand:

    • Organizational psychology
    • Clinical psychology
    • Counseling psychology
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