imagesAnyone who works in an industry where you only get paid if your appointments show up, knows the frustrations that come with late cancellations and no-shows. I am a licensed professional counselor working in a community based counseling practice. I typically book six to eight sessions per day. Some days, all of those sessions hold and other times I can get up to five cancellations in a single day.

If the client is a no-show or does not provide sufficient notice, our practice charges a $50 fee, but there is really no legal recourse in collecting that money. Even if the client pays the fee, it still falls short of the amount I could have made if the session held. Some of my clients pay the fee, but their behaviors don’t change. They continue to miss appointments or cancel at the last minute and tell me “Just charge my card for the late fee if you have to.” Other clients disregard the fee and stop coming to counseling. I’ve also had a handful of people ask for a waiver because they had an emergency and forgot to call. But emergencies only constitute a very small portion of my late cancellations and no-shows.

Non-emergency late cancellations and no-shows represent lost revenue to the therapist and the practice. Therapists do not typically get paid unless the therapy session is held and most therapists in community based counseling pay a split or percentage of their earnings to the practice owner for administrative support. But late cancellations and no-shows aren’t just frustrating for the therapist and the practice they are missed opportunities to provide care to other clients who needed and wanted to be seen.

As a professional counselor, I work hard to deliver value to every client in every session. I have to, or I will not remain in business long. I have to be at the top of my game at all times. “Rent” is due every hour and if there is ever a time I do not add value to a client, you can believe they won’t return. So I try to use those days where I only hold two or three sessions as opportunities for professional development. I read a book, listen to a podcast or attend a coaching call with one of my mentors.

But I digress, if you are one of those people who cancel at the last minute or just don’t show to your appointments for whatever reason, please do the courteous thing and make a phone call, send an email or text to cancel within the practice guidelines (which your provider is required to go over with you during the intake). This makes it easier to get folks in who have been on the waiting list or are in an active crisis.

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