Handling Late Cancellation Fees For Therapy Clients

For therapists working in practices with a late cancellation fee, do you make exceptions for clients? How many times, if any, do you allow a cancellation within 24 hours for illness or other urgent reasons? It’s a tough balance between caring for your client and being realistic about your business. Let’s a take a look at a few opinions surrounding this topic.

Why Do Therapists Have Late Cancellation Fees?

Mental health professionals are overwhelmed more than ever. There are many patients to see without enough time to see them all. When a client or patient cancels, ideally a therapist should have enough time to invite someone in need to fill that slot.

Additionally, many mental health professionals are paid per session. If there is a cancellation, they will simply not make money for that time. Cancelling with enough advanced notice provide the therapist with an opportunity to fill that time with either another session as mentioned before or some other way to fill that financial gap.

Lastly, sometimes therapy can be nerve-wracking and patients might find it challenging to show up. By including a late cancellation fee in the structure of the therapist-client agreement, patients are fiscally motivated to attend or at the very least plan ahead.

A late cancellation is often considered within 24 hours of the session. Some clinics require 48 hour notice.

How To Handle Late Cancellations

Here are a few options for handling late cancellations. Choose an option or combine a few of them to form a structure that is best for you and your patients.

  • “No Exceptions” – Simple and straight-forward, the “no exceptions” rule relieves you, the therapist, from the responsibility of gatekeeping. It means you are not under pressure to show grace or play favorites.
  • “Everyone Gets a Freebie” – Let each patient get one free cancellation, no questions asked. After that, charge a nominal fee (usually between $20 – $50, sometimes the full cost of a session) for each late cancellation.
  • “Quick Backup” – Give your patients an optional way out of the cancellation fee by allowing them the opportunity to reschedule right into an available slot, be in in-person or via Telehealth. This allows you to fill an empty slow and save your patient some money.
  • “Make Exceptions” – Unless you have reason to believe your patient is faking illness often, let illness be an “outside factor” and accept it a valid excuse that would relieve them of the cancellation fee. This might be harmful to your bottom-line but it might also foster relationships with clients that lead to referrals that grow your business, as well as fostering a relationship that is better for you client’s mental health.

Don’t be afraid to bring this up before you start seeing someone. Most clients you see will find this structure to be reasonable. Make it clear before you begin a therapeutic journey so that it does not come up as a surprise when the first late cancellation inevitably occurs.

How to Help Prevent Therapy Patients from Cancelling

You can help minimize late cancellations by checking in with your patient within 24 hours of the next session. You can do this by text messaging them or by setting up timed emails. Boomerang for Gmail allows you to set up recurring scheduled emails. You can set up 10 for free and if you go over that amount you can pay for a plan, which starts at $4.98 per month.

Reflective offers an elegant solution for this. Simply assign an “Upcoming Session Note” to your patient and set a notification reminder to the day before you are scheduled to see them. Your patient will receive a mobile notification at the scheduled time and will allow them to confirm that are coming and give them the opportunity to write down what they would like to discuss in session. This gives both therapists and patients the opportunity to start a session grounded.

If you would like to get started using Reflective to help minimize patient cancellations book a free demo today.

What are some of the ways your handle late cancellations in your therapy practice? Let us know.