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How are cancellation fees neuroaffirming?

A question we reguarly get asked at Very Helpful Chats is, "I don't want to attend my appointment, but I don't want to pay the cancellation fee! It's not fair! How is having to pay a cancellation fee neuroaffirming?!" 

Look - we get it - who actually wants to pay a cancellation fee? No one!  We don't charge cancellation fees because we thought it would be a fun thing to do; we charge cancellation fees because they are important.


Here are our thoughts:

1. Cancellation fees mean we can stay in business. Like all businesses, we have costs to cover that do not disappear because someone has not attended an appointment. As a health practice, our biggest expense is wages - paying our clinical and admin teams for their time and labour (which includes their superannuation, annual leave, sick leave, etc). Our team members enjoy being able to pay their rent, mortgage, bills, groceries, and other life expenses just as much as everyone else  - they still deserve to get paid, even if no one shows up. We haven't yet asked our (majority neurodivergent) clinical team or admin team to take a pay cut if their client/s haven't logged onto an appointment, and we don't think it would be neuroaffirming to ask our team to do so. Although we would love to get paid for sitting around idle (who wouldn't?!), the reality is we don't receive government dollarbucks to do so; the only revenue we have to pay our team for their time and labour is earned via appointment fees - which - by necessity, has to include cancellation fees. We only survive as a neurodivergent small business if we can pay our team's wages and other business expenses. So, while it may seem that voiding one cancellation fee isn't a big deal, if everyone felt entitled to not attend their appointment and not pay a cancellation fee, it would risk our ability to stay in business. We want to stay in business and continue serving the neurodivergent community, so, the reality is that we need to bring in appointment fees (or cancellation fees) to stay in business to continue helping you.

2. Cancellation fees mean more appointments attended. Enforcing our cancellation policy means that clients are more likely to attend their appointments, and appointments are less likely to go to waste. A late cancellation affects three people - your clinician, who has spent time preparing for your session; other clients on the wait list who need an appointment; and you from missing out on the chance to connect with your clinician. Appointments​ cancelled at late notice mean it is harder for our admin team to fill those appointments that our equally deserving clients on the waitlist else could have booked if there had been more notice. 


3. A no-exceptions cancellation fee policy makes it fair for all our clients. By charging cancellation fees for all late-cancelled or no-show appointments, our admin team are not put in an unfair position of having to be the judge of who has a more valid, less valid, or valid enough reason for not attending an appointment. Charging cancellation fees to all clients regardless of the reason means that it is fair for all clients. We think it is fairer for our clients who don't try and argue their way out of paying a cancellation fee because they understand we do not have a Scrooge McDuck vault of gold coins to fall back on (or into). We especially think it is fairer for our clients who have less ability to argue their way out of paying cancellation fees, whether by disability, literacy, education, or anxiety. 
(*Interesting fact - did you know that the clients most likely to get upset about having to pay cancellation fees are other health professionals?)

4. Clients are well-informed and consent to paying a cancellation fee when they use our services. We don't think it would be neuroaffirming to have hidden cancellation fees, which is why our cancellation fees are not a secret, hidden charge - we are very upfront about them. We don't want to have to charge people cancellation fees, and so we give our clients multiple methods to cancel appointments without incurring a cancellation fee. You can cancel via email, SMS, or through the 'cancel appointment' link on the appointment confirmation email (we don't recommend cancelling via phone call, but we will try to accommodate). We remind all our clients of our cancellation policy when we book or change appointments for you and we then send additional reminders via email and SMS before the appointment. If you have already signed our consent form, which is attached to all our intake forms, you have in fact already consented to us charging you a cancellation fee if you cancel with less than 48 hours' notice. Our services are voluntary, and people only attend our appointments if they consent to our business terms and conditions. However, you don't need to consent to our business terms and conditions if you don't wish to do so; you are welcome to choose a business whose terms and conditions align with your values.

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