Many counsellors will appreciate that non-payment of fees may have a hidden meaning. For example, the client may be angry with the counsellor and unable to assertively communicate his or her feelings or, perhaps, the client is re-enacting material from early life. The counsellor needs to weight up all the relevant factors before embarking on a course of action. it may be helpful to take such matters to supervision where the full implications of the situation and any subsequent action can be fully explored. some counsellors may decide they do not want to proceed with any attempt to reclaim monies if they believe it is not in the best therapeutic interests of their clients. This can be an example of where the conflict of running a business whilst working as an ethical and professional counsellor may arise.
Some counsellors, however, feel that non-payment of fees is an important boundary issue that needs to be pursued. The counsellors’ therapeutic orientation is likely to play a significant part in influencing how the counsellor interprets and responds to such situations. The phrasing of any letter and, in particular, the first letter sent to the client needs to take into account both the therapeutic as well as the practical position. It is likely at this stage that the therapeutic position will assume greater importance. Each letter may include certain standard elements as well as those specifically tailored for the client concerned. …. many counsellors find it far easier to chase an organisation rather than an individual client for outstanding fees.
The issue of whether pursuing a claim is a break in confidentiality is often one that causes confusion. Providing the counsellor makes a clear statement in his of her Client Information Sheet (or during the contracting process) the client can be deemed fully informed of the terms and conditions under which counselling is offered. A statement such as ‘Fees are subject to annual review and non-payment of fees may result in legal action being taken’, covers this aspect. The counsellor does, however, have a responsibility to consider the boundary between information required to secure a successful claim (eg appointments not paid for) and information of a more personal nature which has no relevance to the claim being made.
This is a useful post and offers some broadly applicable principles. In my experience, witholding payment is very different from negotiating some free or reduced price sessions, for example. I particularly like your reminder to be aware of the intra and inter personal processes which may be going on in the practical issue. Thank you.