The Fee Payment As an Aspect of Group Communication

Patricia Kyle Dennis

THEORETICAL RA TIONALE

Money is a topic that is easily avoided by both patients and therapists. Often, the therapist will collect checks at the end of a group session, or outside of the session. Thoughts, feelings, questions, and other comments about the fee payment may never be verbalized in the group. When they are, the therapist may fail to encourage further discussion of fee-related material by the group, as if this topic is too personal and not really the group's business.

However, prompt and full payment of the fee directly affects the health of the group (Rutan & Stone, 2001). Group members will naturally have feelings about inaccurate, late, or missing payments and about the impact of these behaviors on the therapist and the group. To leave out discussion of these matters, as if they are individual or private concerns, is to beg the question, "Are there other reasons the group therapist may not want the fee payment to be discussed by the group?"

The fee payment is an essential aspect of the group's "frame" or structure, which enables the group to achieve its therapeutic potential (Langs, 1992). A healthy frame is set by the therapist who must be attentive to proper billing and collection procedures. At the same time, the therapist is alert to the meaning of group members' behaviors related to payment of the fee. These behaviors may be seen as a source of communication, both conscious and unconscious, about problematic aspects of the group experience. They may be rich with transfer-

ential meaning. When the therapist promotes open collection and discussion of the fee payment, much may be learned.

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