WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT SLIDING SCALE RATES?
As a devoted practitioner of healing and therapeutic modalities for the body and mind, it is hard for me to see people in a place of suffering when I know that relief, release, and answers are sometimes just a session or two away. I have been finding that many would-be clients believe, wrongly, that they cannot afford massage. So this year, I decided to apply a Sliding Scale rate philosophy in my practice, with the intention of proving that great, therapeutic bodywork is in fact affordable. I have been having some interesting responses.
WHY A SLIDING SCALE?
First of all, I have had enough of unreasonably high-cost massage therapy. Very often this high rate is paying a middleman (often taking 50-60% !) and it definitely drives away many people in need. That being said, I also must also point out that I am lucky enough to own a private practice, and I make the rules.
Second, spas have created a divergence between what bodywork could be and what high-rate spas want us to think it is. A consumerist, capitalist concept that glorifies "luxury" and "pampering" over equal rights to wellness does not have a place in our authentic quest for greater, tangible health and wellbeing. More often than not, I have found bodywork to fall short of its fuller potential due to everyone-- client and practitioner-- going along with status-quo standards (Stay tuned for more thoughts on this soon!).
My Sliding Scale concept is tied in to my deeply rooted philosophy that therapeutic bodywork needs to be accessible to those in need. I believe bodywork is essential to overall health and wellness. It is not a luxury, but it is not something that bargain-hunters should be taking advantage of either. Bodywork is very hard work, but touch and physical healing are essential to our health and wellbeing. I personally want those who need pain relief (basically everyone!) to be able to afford it. I set out to help and heal everyone, not just the wealthy.
HOW DOES A SLIDING SCALE WORK?
In our capitalistic and consumer-based society, the sliding scale concept is foreign, because it is a socialist concept. Capitalism promotes the concept of "tipping", which implies that the consumer has extra money to throw around in the first place, and it also implies that the consumer has higher status than the worker, and that the provider deserves more or less income based on subjective judgement of the consumer. The way we are taught about money is the opposite of what it should be…
For example, what if someone asked you to put your own value on bodywork services, based on two things:
1. Is it a good quality, positive investment in your health and wellbeing, and
2. What can you actually afford to invest if you believe that it really makes an actual, tangible difference in your health and wellbeing?
In my practice, I make sure all my clients know that I work with a wide range of budgets-- from low income to high-income clients. Therefore, it is in the interest of those who can pay more that they do so, in order for me to maintain my practice philosophy and keep my doors open-- to everyone.
I ask clients to consider their monthly budget and what they are spending their "superfluous" money on. Basically, if you are spending $10, 5 days a week, at the coffee shop, that’s $200 a month! That is the same as about 3 hours of massage per month in my practice! Yet, I often find myself in conversations with people who believe that they cannot afford regular bodywork.
We have to look at how our own choices affect our lives, and we have to challenge the illusions that our choices create (Interesting life philosophy, huh?). These things really do need to come into question, and therefore, the thoughtful client is the one who makes the Sliding Scale work. And the best part is, the thoughtful client suddenly realizes that s/he has the power to choose, right at their fingertips, and is being honored as an individual, not a number.
Bodywork is a very important investment for overall health, not a luxury for the wealthy, as high-end and high-rate spas might like us to believe. It is also very hard work, so in my practice, the Sliding Scale is intended for those who genuinely need it, and who want to invest in periodic bodywork for their long term benefit.
HOW DOES THE SLIDING SCALE AFFECT THE PRACTITIONER?
Again, bodywork is very hard work. It is less of a job and more of a lifestyle. It has demanding physical, emotional, and spiritual components. We as bodyworkers are actually caretakers, susceptible to physical injuries, emotional and spiritual challenges, and burnout.
As the practitioner, it is imperative for us to hold our skill set to a high standard and to assert the value of our services. (Stay tuned for more thoughts on this soon!) Keeping loyal clients who value our work is dependent on skill and reliability, but also on passion and integrity. We must find the value in our own work before we can expect others to also find it.
The clients who find the value in good quality work will realize that we deserve to be paid reasonably well for the hard work we put in all day, every day, to serve and improve the lives of others, and they will find a way to pay what they can honestly afford, based on our long term care plans. These clients might not be able to pay any more than my minimum rate, but these are the clients I want to work for.
I have a strong client following who come to me specifically for the specialized work I do, and I believe that my clients are investing in my practice with me, by paying what they can when they can. Some cannot pay more than the minimum, and others gladly pay an additional 20-30%. That feels better to me, personally, than asking everyone to pay the same rate without taking their financial strains into consideration.
I put faith in my clients to also move from their own integrity and do what’s right. Most often, when we are put into a situation to choose to do the right or the wrong thing, we will choose to do the right thing. And so, my Sliding Scale is my way of putting my faith in the people who surround me and help me make my practice for both myself and them. In return, they know I have their best interest in mind.
So in essence, the Sliding Scale is more of a paradigm shift than an entirely different approach-- it takes the pressure of "tipping" off of those on a tight budget and gives everyone the opportunity to consider more meaningfully how they are spending.
I am finding that through the implementation of a Sliding Scale, my work becomes not just my work, but an interactive component of many lives. The concept seems to be having the effect I intended. So far, I'm happy with the way the results feel, and for now, I plan to keep the Sliding Scale approach. And, who knows? Maybe introducing this way of thinking to my clients will enable them to come up with other thoughtful ways to apply this concept to other aspects of their lives! I know I have become more thoughtful in my own life.