Have you ever heard a colleague, supervisor or, maybe, even a business coach say “charge what you’re worth?”

If you’re anything like me, this statement brings shivers down your spine.

And, what does it even mean? – seriously, I’m asking for a friend.

This statement feels a little judgemental, it’s vague and for most people totally untrue as it assumes that a therapist chose their fee because they don’t know their worth. When in fact, most of the time it has nothing to do with worth.

Honestly, it feels a little like fee-shaming to me.

Since starting my business coaching practice, I’ve met very few therapists who didn’t know their worth, or who set their private practice fee based on such feelings. Actually, much of the time, their decision was based on other reasons.

4 Reasons a Therapist Might Charge Less

(1) Limited resources or knowledge about fee setting

Let’s be honest here, most of us worked in the non-profit or public sector before opening a private practice. So, it’s not uncommon for a private practitioner to start a private practice at lower rate because of familiarity with an hourly rate as an employee. Really, it can feel like anything over $30 per hour is winning!

But of course, without the knowledge and resources to understand the cost of running a private practice, a lower rate can go into the red rather quickly.

In addition, it really does take a huge mindset shift to go from $30 per hour to $150 per hour overnight. It’s not about worth – it’s about resource, knowledge and guidance.

(2) Personal Values

Our values are our guiding principles for what we do in our lives and how we show up in the world. And they do play a huge role, in how we conduct ourselves every day, both in our personal or professional lives. Some therapists charge a specific rate in order to be more accessible for clients. It’s not uncommon to hear of therapists who provide a sliding scale or pro bono services in order to minimize gap in services.

That’s why I charge the rates I do in my business coaching practice.

I’ve been told on several occasions that my business coaching rates are on the “affordable” side of business coaching. And that’s intentional, because of my values. When I started out, I didn’t have a lot of extra dollars to put towards things I needed in my practice, even if I knew it could help me and quickly, I realized this is true for many of you as well.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone should lower their rates, or provide a sliding scale or pro bono services in your private practice. Not at all!

But what I’m saying is that many therapists choose their fees and their services based on their values. And I’m a strong believer in building a business where the actions you take feel right for you and align with your personal values and private practice vision. But ensuring there’s strategy behind your decision in order to keep your private practice thriving while not burning yourself out in the process.

Let me give you an example, with what I mean: My business vision is to help therapists design a practice that fits their values so they live the life they want to live without breaking the bank in the process. Because I value resource accessibility, I built my business strategy around the value through my pricing and service delivery models. In my business coaching practice, I intentionally provide tier-based services from digital courses to group coaching to 1-1 coaching in order to grow my business while providing resources that are accessible for different learning styles, needs, and budgets.

(3) Fear

Fear is one of the most common reasons why someone might charge a lesser rate in private practice. Fear often shows up because something’s important to us– because if wasn’t, we wouldn’t care. Fear almost always is directly or indirectly related to our values.


  • If you value financial stability, you might fear actions that are unknown with respects to income or money.
  • If you value belongingness, you might fear being judged by others.
  • If you value family, you might fear decisions that might impact the family dynamic.
  • If you value safety, you might fear unsafe or unknown situations.

Fear often shows up as we try to enforce our values in new and different ways, then the ways we are most familiar. Maybe, you charge a lesser rate because you fear of being judged by other family, friends, or colleagues. Or perhaps, you’re not charging what you want to charge because you fear the cost will deter clients.

All of these are natural fears – and has nothing to do with worth.

(4) Self Doubt

Worth, on the other hand, is much different than any of the other three reasons. Not charging a specific fee because you feel unworthy usually means you do not feel that your skills are deserving of a specific price.

If this is true for you, please know that there’s no judgment here.

However, this is usually rooted more in self-doubt than it is with worth. Actually, one of the most common things that show up for therapists, especially therapists just starting out, is Imposter Syndrome – and it can influence fee-setting.

Fortunately, according to Alun Perry, your doubts actually prove that you are a great therapist! Perry shares that according to the Dunning-Kruger Effect research study, experiencing self-doubt is a confirmation of your skill.[1] Cool hey?

But even if you’re struggling with feelings of unworthiness, I think we can both agree that unsolicited advice from others telling you to “charge what you’re worth” isn’t magically going to make you feel any worthier. In fact, it may actually do the opposite and re-enforce feelings of unworthiness.

Moving forward, let’s focus on the solution: charging a fee that aligns with your values and that feels right for you but also guided by strategy that moves you toward your private practice vision.

Don’t know exactly what your values are?

Take 10 minutes and sit down with a piece of paper. List everything that is important to you in your personal life and your career.

Your list is your guiding beaker for life and practice decisions. When we make business decisions based on the things that are important to us, we feel satisfaction and fulfillment.


[1] Perry, A. (2022). Do you suffer from therapist imposter syndrome. Retrieved from https://freshtherapists.com/do-you-suffer-from-therapist-imposter-syndrome/

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