Can I Afford To See A Counselor? How Much Does Therapy Cost?
By Sarah Fader
Updated December 10, 2018
The question of "How much does therapy cost?" can be difficult to answer. It can also be the source of intense worry when you're already dealing with an emotional or mental health crisis. If you don't know the answer to this question, you might give up on seeking the help you need. Well, the good news is that there are answers to this important question.
Different Therapists Charge Different Amounts
There is no specific fee that therapists are required to charge. The cost of therapy can depend on a variety of factors including the type of credentials the therapist has and the cost of running their office. Typically, therapists with the same credentials and type of office space charge similar amounts, however, there are no guarantees. The best way to find out is to simply ask each counselor you're considering for your therapy how much they charge.
Therapy can cost more or less depending on your geographical location. Counselors in the Midwest usually charge less for their services than those on the east or west coast, for example. It can also make a difference whether you live in a rural community or a large city. Counselors in rural areas usually charge less to accommodate patients with lower incomes. Online counselors may have lower costs of doing business, which can impact their fees considerably.
Community Mental Health Clinics and Private Practice
A counselor in a private practice nearly always charges more for therapy than community mental health clinics. Some clinics are only open to people with low incomes, so their fees are lower as well. Find out by contacting the clinic to find out if they do charge less.
Sliding Scale Therapy
Some counselors offer sliding scale fees. The amount you pay is based on your income and number of dependents. Sliding scale therapy isn't for people whose insurance covers at least a part of the cost. Instead, it's for people who don't have insurance or whose insurance doesn't cover the therapy needed.
Inform the counselors you're wondering how often you'll need to come in for a session. If money is a problem for you, flexible scheduling might be the right solution. The therapist may agree to see you once every other week, instead of every week. They might offer half-sessions if they feel touching base for a shorter time can be beneficial to you. Therapists can also offer you a set number of sessions for a set fee and then re-evaluate the number of sessions needed again.
So, How Much Does Therapy Cost, Anyway?
There is no one definitive answer to the cost of therapy question. You'll have to do some research by calling therapists and discussing fees. While this involves some time and effort, it can ensure you get the therapy you need at a price you can afford.
Reasons to Prioritize Therapy
When you need therapy, the cost may not be as important as starting sessions right away. Without the help you need, your mental health can deteriorate rapidly. You feel worse, have more symptoms of your mental disorders, and may even take drastic measures to relieve your suffering. Choosing to talk to a therapist, on the other hand, can help you feel, think, and behave in healthier, more adaptive ways. Putting your therapy as a top priority can help you regain your mental health and avoid problems in the future.
Reasons to Prioritize Therapy
You may choose to put a high priority on therapy. Of course, your basic needs have to come first. However, you may find that you use your time and money to do things that don't provide nearly as much value to you. Aside from the direct benefit of improving your mental health, therapy may offer a variety of benefits that affect your daily life.
Through therapy, you can learn to cope with work issues, communicate more effectively, and improve your self-esteem. When you do this, you may find that you're more successful in your career. If your focus is on creating a happier and more peaceful relationship, your home life may become more enjoyable. Also, if you deal with a mental health issue before it becomes severe, you can avoid the cost of hospitalization and downtime at work.
Budgeting for Therapy
Anyone can choose to improve their mental health through therapy. If you don't qualify for sliding scale therapy or therapy at a community mental health agency, chances are you can squeeze enough money from your budget to take this important step. Sit down and go over your budget for anything you can cut to make room for it. Remember that if you are having a short-term or situational problem, this will be a temporary item in your budget.
When you see a therapist in your local community, you also have to cover the costs of going to therapy. For example, you have to pay for transportation. If your counselor is far from your home, you may also have to eat away from home. You may have to miss work, which typically adds up to at least two hours' pay if you work by the hour. Besides these monetary costs, you may appear to be unreliable on the job.
However, with online therapy, you bypass these costs. You can have therapy wherever you are, as long as you have an Internet connection - even in your own home, thus eliminating the transportation costs. You can schedule therapy sessions at a time that's convenient for you and doesn't cause you to take any time away from work. The amount you pay for the sessions is the cost of getting therapy only if you choose an online platform such as Better Help.
Insurance Deductibles and Copays
Getting therapy through your insurance, in many cases, is less expensive than paying the full cost of counseling with a local therapist. That's what insurance is for, after all. Yet, most insurance companies require you to bear quite a financial burden by paying deductibles and copays. If you are required to pay a deductible before the insurance company begins paying, you could spend thousands of dollars at the local therapist's full rate before the cost goes down.
Copays for insurance are manageable for most people. The good news about online therapy is that you can begin paying about the same amount as a typical copay per visit immediately. With no deductible to pay first, your costs are always low compared to working with your insurance provider.
The Time Factor
We've all heard the adage "Time is a precious commodity." We may not realize just how precious it is until we have to deal with unusual circumstances. Yes, time away from your work can be a financial drain. However, there are many other parts of your life that can be negatively impacted when you use the extra time to do something you could manage to get done more quickly.
Therapy takes a bit of time, but you can reduce the amount of time you spend away from your work, chores, hobbies and of course, your loved ones when you choose to do it online. Online therapy limits the time you spend getting counseling to the actual time for each session.
Getting the Most for Your Money
While the cost of therapy varies, one thing is sure. Spending your time wisely magnifies the benefit you receive for your money. Try the tips below to maximize the value of each session.
- Be Prepared - If you go to a counselor's office, you have little say in how the room is arranged for therapy. However, with online therapy, you can benefit from getting your space ready ahead of time. Before your session, make sure everything is just the way you want it. Choose a room where you can sit alone to talk privately. Prepare the room by setting up a comfortable place to sit. Have something to write on and with and have tissues ready.
- Think Ahead - Whether you're just having your first session or have nearly concluded your time in therapy, it pays to think ahead. You don't have to spend a week ruminating or practicing the exact words you want to say. It can help to think of one or two things you want to talk about during the next session. Write them down and bring them with you to therapy. If you're doing therapy through an online platform, you might have the option of typing this and other notes into a private chat room that only you and your therapist have access to.
- Describe Feelings Accurately - Sometimes, it's difficult to put into words exactly what you're feeling. Your therapist understands this. Your session will be more productive if you consider how you feel rather than what you think you should
- Be Open and Honest - It's sometimes tempting to paint an idealized picture of ourselves to impress whoever is listening to us. At other times, we may talk only about what is dark and dismal to get sympathy. There needs to be a balance in what you express to your therapist. In therapy, the best way to get more for your money is to remember that you are there to improve your mental health. Being honest about your thoughts and feelings is the only way to make progress during the therapeutic process.
- Listen Carefully and Speak Clearly - Therapy is a specialized form of communication. Like any other type of communication, you can waste time if you don't convey and receive the information accurately.
- Do Homework Assignments - Your therapist might assign you homework to do between sessions. Doing the homework gives you a foundation for exploring your motivations, feelings, and behavior during the next session.
Weighing Costs and Benefits
Once you look at the pros and cons of paying for therapy, it's time to evaluate whether it's worth it to you to improve your mental health through counseling. Can you afford therapy? For almost everyone who is dealing with a mental health challenge, the answer is "yes!"