cancellation policy

Do You Feel Good About Your Cancellation Policy?

How’s your cancellation policy working for you? If you have any negative feelings when you read that question, keep reading.

I want you to feel so good about your policy that you feel warm and connected to yourself and to your clients when you talk about it.

Your cancellation policy is a clinical issue. The way you feel and talk about your policy will affect your relationships with your clients.

Setting a cancellation policy you believe in is a huge part of the way you take care of yourself, avoid resentment, and ensure that you don’t lose hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. Most of what you do in the room is in service to your clients. Your cancellation policy is one way you also take care of you. Taking care of you helps you serve your clients better. Here are some questions to help you get clear on where you are now with your cancellation policy:

  • Do you feel comfortable enforcing your policy?
  • Do you go over the policy carefully with each client in session and make sure they understand and agree?
  • Do you ever feel apologetic about your cancellation policy?
  • Do you feel clear about when, if ever, you make an exception to the policy?
  • How do you feel when you charge for a missed session?

I don’t advocate one particular policy for every therapist. Your practice is unique, and how you set that policy is an individual decision. The key is that your policy is aligned with your values so that you can enforce them consistently and without giving a mixed message.

Here are a couple of examples, one where a policy works, and one where it doesn’t. I worked with a therapist whose policy was that her clients could miss four sessions per year and after those four missed sessions, they had to pay for any additional missed sessions. The amount of notice did not matter. This policy worked for her because she believed it had value for her clients. She believed they got more out of therapy by making such a big commitment. She welcomed conversation about this policy and was comfortable processing her clients’ feelings about it. My second example is a therapist with a therapist who had a 24-hour cancellation policy. She rarely enforced it. She felt guilty about charging for sessions when her clients cancelled at the last minute or didn’t show up. She worried that they would be upset with her. In our work together, she decided to give each client ONE freebie, a chance to cancel with less than 24 hours notice without getting charged. She went over her cancelation policies more clearly and got more comfortable with those conversations.

As we’re getting close to the beginning of a new year, examine your policies and how well you’re communicating about them. If you only make that one change at the beginning of the year, it might make a big difference in your practice.

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