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A Guide To The Perfect Cancellation Policy

It’s important to keep these in mind!

No Secrets!!

If you are new or an established practice a cancellation policy is something that calls for attention. Putting a policy into place can help your practice avoid unnecessary issues like no-shows, client outstanding balances and can even affect client retention. If you have a cancellation policy in place take this opportunity to review your policy and make changes as needed. If you do not have one this is a great place to start drafting your policy.

Let's start off by going over the basics of a cancellation policy. Your cancellation policy should be stated in the intake paperwork, in the welcome email and discussed in the first appointment. This brings attention to the fact that there is a cancellation policy. It also brings transparency to the situation. A cancellation policy is not a secret. It is not an attempt to get money out of clients for not having a session.

It is to protect your practice and your time. It is also a great way for your clients to learn to be responsible for their mental health journey and accountable for their actions. You will find that if you put your policy in place as stated above that your practice will run more smoothly. Your policy should consist of the following:

Appointment Cancellation Notice

Most practices require a certain amount of days' notice in advance to cancel an appointment. This is usually 24-48 hours notice. If the appointment is not canceled within the allowed time there is usually a consequence. This can vary. Some practices charge the amount of the full session if the client does not cancel within 24-48 hours. Some practices charge a flat rate amount for a late cancellation.

This is a decision that you should make based on your practice values and by analyzing your practice financials. If you are a group practice owner please think about what you will pay the therapist that is there for the appointment if the client decides to cancel late.

Credit Card On File

So this may not seem like it falls in the cancellation policy section. However, it does. If you require a client to have a card on file then you will be able to charge that client right away if they have a late cancellation or a no show.

It will also avoid outstanding client balances. As a consultant I help many therapists put this process into place just so that they do not have to spend endless days chasing clients for session fees.


There should be a clear fee associated with a no-show. There should also be consequences. For example if a client does not give notice and just doesn't show up for an appointment then they should be charged the session amount. I have also found it helpful to put a policy in place that helps you avoid clients that are not serious about their therapy.

If they have 3 no shows on the books then they will be terminated or referred out as a client. If this is stated in the intake paperwork then you will need to make sure you stick to it with every client. Especially if you have a wait list this policy will help you navigate who are the best clients for your practice.

Be Clear With How To Cancel An Appointment

These details should be addressed in the welcome email in detail and discussed at the intake session. Be sure you are clear on how a client can communicate with you that they need to cancel an appointment. Give clear directions and multiple options.

Can they text you that they will need to cancel? Email you? Send a message on the portal? Or call the office? The more options the more likely they will be to cancel correctly. However, the more places you will need to look for a cancellation. Make it simple but convenient for the client.

Be Reasonable

Should you be strict on keeping with your cancellation policy? From a business perspective yes! However, You know what each client is going through. You know your clients intentions. You can always have a first time wave of the fee in your back pocket for the clients that you know did not intentionally miss an appointment or if they had a true emergency.

Especially if you know a client is a good fit for you. Be sure to track this information somewhere so that you are not taken advantage of. Take the opportunity to be reasonable and waive the fee when you feel it is necessary.

Now you have all of the tools to set up a badass cancellation policy. If you feel a checklist would help feel free to download the free cancellation policy checklist (be sure to right click and save as to access the checklist).

If you feel you need more guidance about cancellation policies feel free to schedule a free 15 min call with me. You can also refer to the next blog that aligns with the cancellation policy "How To Reduce Client No-Shows' '.

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