Why Do Services Charge a Cancellation Fee?

You will find most services, whether they be specialist medical professionals, hairdressers or therapy services, usually charge a cancellation fee. One of the things I was most surprised about when I started working in private practice, was the number of cancellations each week. In general, most therapy services have a 10% to 30% cancellation rate week. Sometimes even higher! Cancellations occur for a variety of reasons – sickness is often the least likely reason.  

When you book an appointment for any of these above services, they specifically reserve that time slot for you and you alone. Each therapist/hairdresser/medical professional has only a certain number of times available each day, per week. To some degree, it is their time that they are selling as a service. So, when 5 or 6-time slots cancel each week, these are spots where they are left with no one to see and support. They are essentially left without work. 

Charging a cancellation fee is probably the least enjoyable part of running our services. However, at times it is necessary to ensure that we can remain open. It also means we do not have to increase fees to those that do attend, to cover loss of costs when clients don’t. 

Most services will try very hard to fill cancellations by creating a wait list for cancellations. These are often clients who cannot get into the service, are on the waitlist and may be able to attend an appointment at short notice. It is often easier to fill these spots in services like hairdressers, where the customer only needs one-off appointment. As a therapy provider, however, it can be more difficult because a new client who is contacted from the waiting list is looking for ongoing therapy, not a one-off appointment. When we can fill a cancelled appointment, we do not charge the cancellation fee – there is no need. 

Do we ever waiver cancellation fees? Of course! We have many clients who rarely cancel and when they do due to genuine illness, we will of course (at our discretion) waiver this fee. We do not want to penalise anyone for being sick. Furthermore, we do not want you to have drag yourself to therapy when you are unwell. 

However, the most important thing to remember around cancellations is that when you frequently cancel a therapy session, you are reducing the likelihood that your therapy will be effective.  In most cases, effective therapeutic intervention requires consistency (at least for some period of time). Like learning a musical instrument, you could not expect to attend 2 lessons, not go back for 4 weeks, have your third lesson and then maybe your next lesson 6 weeks later and still expect to play that instrument as well as someone who had regularly fortnightly lessons. Therapy is no different. When someone has frequent cancellations, our therapists find themselves repeating skills and interventions each session without progressing beyond these. 

At Real Therapy Solutions, we recognise that there are times where you need to cancel appointments for whatever reason, and we politely request that you provide us with 48 hours’ notice at these times. This enables us to attempt to offer the spot to one of the many people on our waitlist. If you are unable to provide 48 hours’ notice, our policy is to charge 90% of the full fee for your service, unless under exceptional circumstances. As we mentioned, if we do manage to fill your cancellation slot, you will not be charged. In addition, if your therapist has other tasks they can do to assist your therapy such as liaising with school teachers/other professionals or creating resources, they are encouraged to use this time to continue to provide your support in a non-face-to-face manner.  

Finally, if you are having difficulty making it to our appointments and there is something that we could do to assist, such as looking for a more convenient time, please do not hesitate to discuss this with your therapist or our receptionist. 

Our biggest priority at Real Therapy Solutions is to provide high quality, consistent therapy that works for the people we support and their familiesWe welcome your feedback and input into this policy and any others.