This content is provided by zynnyme, an affinity partner of AAMFT. This information is not necessarily the view of AAMFT and should not be interpreted as official policy.
Make More and Work Less as a Marriage and Family Therapist
As a marriage and family therapist, you’re too often expected to accept low-paying opportunities with long working hours and few areas to improve your income. In fact, Monster.com posted the top ten worst-paid jobs requiring a master’s degree… and 50% of them were related to our counseling, psychology, and social work!
We know how much you work — especially as trained MFTs ourselves — and you deserve more than having to do free work for nonprofits and agencies while pre-licensed, only to continue getting paid so low as an MFT that you consider doubling your hours or getting a second job.
The bottom line: You DON’T have to listen to what professors, supervisors, and fellow therapists claim you “should” be doing when it comes to working hours and pay. There’s nothing unethical or illegal about being paid a sustainable wage or working sustainable hours!
So, are you suggesting MFTs should start a solo or group practice?
If you’re looking to build a sustainable, fulfilling career where your schedule is flexible and your income allows you to pay off your student loan balances, start saving, and maybe even purchase your own home, then private practice is definitely worth considering!
But we’ve noticed a lot of problematic trends since becoming private practice business coaches back in 2010, and a survey we sent out to private practice therapists in 2023 really emphasized what we found to be true for many of the people coming to us for guidance.
When you consider the average of the 400 responses we received, private practice therapists expect to be working 47 weeks a year while supporting 18 clients every one of those weeks and charging an average of $155 per session. That doesn’t sound so bad to many of you. But, let’s look at the reality of what can often happen when we take what we learned in underpaid and overworked positions.
Therapists are out there with session fees as $50. Some therapists aren’t charging for sessions at all. Some therapists are going over on every session they provide. And many therapists are still drowning in paperwork and struggling to find what works for them. Let’s look at what that all translates to based on the average person who responded to our survey.
Going over clinical sessions, survey respondents were unknowingly working an extra 4.3 clinical weeks per year unpaid by not ending sessions on time or charging for going over in sessions. In other words, you could be losing more than $11,000 per year to client sessions where you’re working overtime and not charging for it.
And, to make things worse, therapists who aren’t immediately completing their documentation (and instead procrastinating — because who really enjoys writing out progress notes?) work an average of nine extra unpaid 32-hour workweeks per year!
Oh, and did we forget to mention the average policy of not charging for no-shows and late cancellations, even though you said you would? Well, that’s another $5,500 per year of income lost.
Here’s what this all means:
All of those small, seemingly insignificant decisions compound over time into something much more impactful than what you might realize. So, if you’re not mindful of all these “minor” things, you’ll be another overworked, underpaid MFT.
And we don’t want that for you.
But we also totally get that not being taught how to run a business or actually look at the numbers and understand them is why so many MFTs (and therapists in general) are struggling financially and with their work-life balance. Then, you end up feeling burnt out, wages for MFTs continue to remain the same (or even decrease!), and more and more therapists quit altogether.
Okay, but isn’t being an MFT about more than my time and money?
Yes, of course it is! And if you’re in a position where you don’t have to depend on the healing work you offer to clients as a means of supporting yourself, then maybe this doesn’t apply to you as much. But, if you take a deeper look, there’s something even MORE concerning going on for MFTs and mental health professionals that goes beyond lost time and money.
Simply put, the more clinicians in our field are overworked and underpaid, the more likely their clinical outcomes are impacted, which means the more clients won’t receive adequate services, leaving them no better (or sometimes even worse off) than before they started therapy.
We need to value the conversations around money, boundaries, and open communication that are common to have with clients in our own lives.
Because MFTs deserve more.
And so does the mental health profession as a whole.
How do I actually start changing things as an MFT?
We’ve been doing this for a while now as the licensed-MFTs-turned-business-coaches behind zynnyme Private Practice Experts, and we’d like to offer you some support for free.
If you’re an MFT with your own solo or group practice — OR you’re interested in starting one and want some guidance to ensure you’re moving in the right direction — we’ve created a customized private practice report to help you figure out where to focus your efforts. We’ll help you easily run your own numbers and find out where your time is being sucked or where your income is draining through your fingers.
All you have to do is fill out a few questions, and then we’ll automatically calculate the numbers so you can see what’s working and what needs some updating in private practice.
Ready to fill out your custom private practice report?
Simply choose the type of MFT practice below to get started:
- I’m running or interested in starting a solo practice.
- I’m running or interested in starting a group practice.
We’ll email you the results of your customized private practice report ASAP! And it will tell you how much time you’re losing. And, you’ll learn how much money your decisions are costing you. It doesn’t mean you have to change ANYTHING. But, it allows you to get conscious and choose your path instead of just doing what you’ve been taught to do.
Your report includes free resources that’ll help you make changes to your MFT private practice in a way that supports your short- and long-term growth and sustainability. Burnout has become way too normalized in this field, and we’re tired of seeing MFTs and other therapists struggling. The work you do matters, and it’s time to take back control over this profession.
P.S. Once you complete your customized private practice report, we’d love to support you further as an MFT. Click here to let us know your stage of business, your goals, and more!