We receive many questions asking if promotional rates and discounts are allowed to encourage access to therapy, especially during the pandemic.
RPs are expected to be transparent and reasonable in their billing practices and avoid conflicts of interest. This includes ensuring that clients understand what is included in the fees they are paying, documenting any discussions about fees, and indicating the reasons why a fee may have been reduced or waived. (See Standard 6.1 Fees and Standard 5.5 Record-keeping – Financial Records.)
RPs are permitted to offer a promotional rate to clients; however, it is important to avoid potential risks. These risks may include an offer that promotes unnecessary treatment, unduly influences a client’s decision to receive treatment, or acts as a barrier once the promotional rate ends. It is not permitted to offer a discount for prompt payment, e.g., an ‘early bird’ rate. Offering gifts (other than of nominal value) or partnered promotions to begin therapy could create the perception of a conflict of interest, and should be avoided.
While different from promotional rates, it is worth noting that registrants may accept payment on a sliding scale, i.e., a variable fee depending on ability to pay. Such an arrangement must be considered on a case-by-case basis and documented in the record.
Block fees and package deals
Offering a set number of sessions for an agreed upon fee is a block fee arrangement. Standard 6.1 allows block fees for psychotherapy services as long as the following aspects of the agreement are established in writing beforehand:
• services covered by the fee;
• amount of the fee;
• arrangements for paying the fee; and
• the rights and obligations of the registrant and the client if the relationship between them is terminated before all the services are provided.
The last point is a safeguard that protects clients from attending unnecessary treatment because they have already paid or paying for services when they are no longer attending treatment. To accomplish this, the agreement may hold that a portion of the block fee is refunded to the client if the relationship ends before all the services are provided. Clear policies on these matters will help avoid complaints.
Resources for more information: