Financial Myths that Can Hurt Your Practice – Expensive CEUs

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Mark Twain is quoted as having said, “It's not what you don't know that kills you, it's what you know for sure that ain't true.” So, what is it that you know for sure that ain’t true about the business of your practice? That’s what we’ll explore with this series of posts, starting with the CEU. You know, that pesky requirement that catches you unaware at the end of the year because you forgot to plan for it?

In Maryland, therapists have to get 40 CEUs every two years to retain their license, so they keep up to date with therapy best practices. Other states have similar requirements, though details vary. Since getting CEUs means you have to pay for the underlying training, possibly significant travel expenses, and the loss of income since you can’t see clients at the same time, this can get expensive. But how expensive is too expensive?

When Risa told me she hears colleagues saying that $150 per CEU is too expensive, my “myth flag” went up. It reminded me of my mom’s favorite nonsense question, “How many yards of cloth do you need to make a suit for an orphan?” If I’m a tailor, I couldn’t care less if the client is an orphan, but I have to know her size!

The problem isn’t that $150 is or isn’t too expensive for a CEU, but rather with making such a blanket statement in the first place. Would you say that $20,000 is too expensive for a car? I hope not. For a 20-year old junker it is certainly too much, but a brand new Ferrari for $20,000 would be a steal!

Yes, you can get CEUs for a lot less than $150 per unit. A quick Google search brought up where you can pay e.g. $95 for 3 CEUs including the underlying video training – less than $32 per CEU. This means that if all you’re after is checking off the CEU requirement box, there’s no reason to pay $150 per unit.

However, if you include other considerations, you may want to pay more, possibly much more. Say a world-renowned therapist that you revere as a thought leader offered a one-day $1000 master class worth 5 CEUs, with attendance limited to 10 students. Would you dismiss it out of hand because the cost was $200 per CEU? Unless you had no way of paying it, my guess is that you’d be writing that check in a heartbeat.

Say you came across a $2500 seminar giving 10 CEUs that promises to teach you how to ethically and effectively conduct and market tele-therapy in a way that would increase your annual profit by $20,000. You might decide not to do it if you only want to do in-person therapy, but would you dismiss it simply because you think $250 per CEU is too expensive? If you did, you’d be giving up a 700% return on investment in just the first year!

These are just made-up examples of when even much more than $150 per CEU might be a bargain. My point is not to say that $200 or $250 per unit is always a good deal – it most often isn’t. My point is that when facing a choice, you should weigh all the pros and cons, financial and other, before choosing. Blanket statements and other heuristics serve as mental shortcuts, saving time and mental effort, but can lead us to a poor decision. If you want to avoid significant mistakes when running your practice, weigh the specific pros and cons rather than relying on shortcuts.

If you often find yourself scrambling to find the cheapest (and least inspiring) CEUs because your requirement period ends this month and you’re short a dozen units, start planning ahead. Put a reminder on your calendar for the start of the year to research what CEUs are out there. Decide which ones seem the most inspiring and/or the best investment in terms of developing your therapy knowledge and skills. If the cost is on the high side, budget for it so it becomes less of an issue. Although you always want to consider cost, don't make it the be-all and end-all basis for your decisions.

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