Ask Tiffany: How do I deal with professional shade?

Something is in the AIR! I recently heard from not one, but two of you who had similar stories to share.

It went a little something like this: You, the therapist in private practice, get yer hands on my 10 Myths of Therapists Believe Around Setting Their Fees article. It knocks your socks off. You excitedly download the Fun with Fees worksheet and use it to discover what your fee needs to be in order to fund your lifestyle of giving back and making bank.

Then you take the next step – this is the step that always floors me – you actually use this information to raise your fee. (I am thrilled and inspired whenever I hear that subscribers take action on the info I provide. If that’s you, I’m your #1 fan!!)

So, imagine that, you read the article, get all pumped, download the worksheet, make the choice to raise your fees so they are commensurate with your standard of living – and then let your clients know.

You go through this major challenge that took all kinds of courage. You’re on top of the world and you can’t wait to share with your colleagues who will be just as amazed and inspired as you.

Unfortunately for these two HT subscribers, that was not their experience. In fact, they both wrote in to share their stories of surprise and disappointment when they shared their win with colleagues, only to get negative responses in return.

Damn. I’m sorry.

It is soul crushing to take all those steps to do the hard thing, the thing that is right for you and your business and your clients and then to share it with someone who you think is on your side, only to have them come back with a message that is meant – consciously or no – to shut you down.

Messages like:

    • You SURE that’s a good idea?
    • I don’t know. I mean that’s fine for you, but I’m not really comfortable charging that much when I’m just starting out.
    • I kind of think it’s important for people to pay their dues, so. Ya know.

It’s fucked up when you do all that hard work and get raised eyebrows or high-pitched retorts. It can be really, really disappointing.

What should you do?

Well first… shake it off, pal.

Join the club. We are THRILLED to have you. You have entered the next stage of business.

Now it’s go time.

Because here’s the deal, when you level up, push yourself, do the hard thing day in and day out, there are a lot of people who are going to respond with naysaying shit.

Here’s why:

  • Your willingness to take action despite fear shines a mighty spotlight on the corners of their life that they are avoiding.
  • Your win niggles that part of them that desperately wishes they had the courage to do the same thing.
  • Your boldness raises the bar for the profession and they now feel like they are in the position of joining you or falling behind.
  • These beliefs they are not necessarily true, but if someone responds to your success negatively, this is where their mind is going. Envy. Fear. Shame. It’s all there.

Whether they are conscious of it or not, they are threatened by your ability to thoughtfully take action that brings you closer to your goals. And, you know what, it sucks for them. Not in a snarky way. It genuinely sucks to be faced with that kind of growth when you’re stuck in fear.

I know, because I used to be like that and – though I am very conscious of encouraging growth – I still sometimes get flooded with envy or shame or fear when I see someone rocking it. We all do!

Leveling isn’t just about 1) recognizing where you want to be 2) acknowledging your fear 3) and then taking strategic action, followed by smooth sailing forever.

It also involves a new way of engaging with those around you.

If you share your win and experience that hater backlash, here’s what you can do to come out the other side, all pro-like and shit:

1. Feel the sting. Yep, it’s there. Acknowledge it – to yourself. (We’re not trying to turn this into group therapy. Sheesh.)

2. Take an internal step back. Remember their response is about you, not them. While it feels so personal, because you’re still practicing and looking for support, remind yourself that it is personal – but you’re not the person the hate is directed at.

3. Be encouraging… and (strategically) vulnerable. I know. I know. This is the hardest part. Your go-to response is likely protective/defensive. You gotta remember the long game. If you grow, while staying kind and compassionate, in so doing you’re giving everyone around you permission to grow, too. They’re afraid. Remember that. If you can, let them know that it was hard for you at first, too, but you’re really glad you did it. Tell ’em you’re open to talking about what led to that decision if they ever want to talk it out.

Of course, if they’re all defensive, just casually pull a hundo out of your pocket and use it as a tissue to blow your nose, before folding it neatly and tucking it back away.

If you’re still struggling when colleagues respond with, “Oh? That’s cool, but it’s important to me to work with people who really need my help, so,” here are a couple more pointers that can serve as the wind to your sails:

1. Prepare yourself. Remember that a win for you might be stir up their shit – even supervisors, professors or collegial besties. Be prepared for an ambivalent response.

2. Community. Find others who are also pushing themselves to grow. Surround yourself with these peeps who celebrate your wins because they, too, know how hard it is to take it to the next level. You know I’m always going to root you on, so if you’ve raised your fees, shoot me a message, I can’t wait to give you might props.

3. Get Therapized. I’m sure you’re in your own therapy, but if you’re not – come the frack on, my love! Get in there. Talk it through. Mourn. Get schooled about the unconscious dynamics goin on. There may be some splittin’ afoot.

Alright, alright. Two 3-step guidelines are one too many. Without further ado, I’ll add one more ado. Thank you so much to those who recently wrote in and shared your win and your disappointment upon sharing said win. Your stories are super vital in helping the rest of be inspired to up our games along with you.

But… what if I want to give back to the community but my colleaguees throw a shade for sliding my scale?

Now, this question is not as common but as important to tackle! It comes from therapist Rachael who asked:

“How do we balance serving community and meeting social expectations around making beau-coup dollars when we actually are meeting our goals? ​I make enough money for me. I can afford my needs, and fun stuff too. But my scale slides real low, especially in my area. My colleagues give me tons of side eye, and tons of judgments around valuing myself and whatnot. I could be making more money, and I could be working less. I will probably need to start working less pretty soon. But for now, I am good. But all this does leave me fending off a bunch of crap, and worrying that I am still doing it wrong even though I love my practice, and feel stable.​”

Oh man, I was excited to dive into this one because it seems a bit counterintuitive! We are used to hearing about therapists getting shade for being open about having strong financial goals and setting fees accordingly OR for hearing therapists getting criticism for not utilizing a sliding scale!

But we don’t often hear about therapists being critical about offering sliding scale spots!

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • When it makes total sense to offer a sliding scale
  • How to respond compassionately and directly when colleagues give you shit
  • Why there are only 50 shades of grey

NOW, we’d love to hear from you. Do you resonate with this struggle? When so many therapists are struggling with their financial situation, do you resonate with the anxiety that comes from being financially stable?

Share with us in the comment section below.


  1. Stephanie

    I love the term “professional shade.” I’m going to use that!!

    • Virtual Assistant

      HA! Use away, my sweet. 😀


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About the Author

Hey, I’m Tiffany McLain, LMFT, and I teach you how to charge good money for the good work you do.  I’m the founder of Lean In. MAKE BANK. Academy, a group program that empowers therapists and social workers like you to reimagine your relationship with money, offering the tools and community support to not just earn more but to fundamentally change your life and the lives of those you serve.

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