Therapist Sends a Surprise Bill for $1500 — Is This Common Practice?

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Reader’s Question

Someone I know has been going for psychotherapy with a chartered psychologist who is a member of the British Psychological Society. They have had several sessions with this person. An invoice for the therapy services was recently received by a relation of the person going for therapy. That relation had briefly discussed assisting them with payment for the therapy, but they were not expecting to get a bill of over £1000 made out to them and sent by the therapist.

Does a therapist not need to get some kind of approval from whoever is going to pay the bill? Does a therapist not have to ensure that his client is in a position to obligate someone else for payment? Over 15 sessions had taken place prior to anyone getting an invoice. Now, unexpectedly, someone has a bill. Is this ethically correct and a common practice?

Psychologist’s Reply

Most professional credentialing entities (e.g., certification and licensing boards) in most countries have established standards for ensuring full disclosure and consent regarding financial liability for services to be rendered. A professional who violates these standards is at risk for disciplinary action. Although it’s impossible to know all the particulars of the situation you describe, and although you might not be fully informed about information given the therapist by your friend, from the information you provide, a lot about this arrangement seems highly irregular. It would be best to check with the body that credentials the provider and to review their standards of practice with respect to these affairs. Your friend can then gauge whether the provider’s policies, procedures, and behavior were in line with established standards. In addition to guidelines set by the credentialing body, most countries have local and national laws protecting individuals from unexpected and non-freely-contracted financial obligations. You might want to review these as well.

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