Sliding Scale Therapy: What To Know

Updated October 4, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Is Sliding Scale Counseling A Good Option For You? Explore Therapist And Therapy FAQs, Therapist And Sliding Therapy Cost, Therapist And Sliding Therapy Options, And Therapy Outcomes Here

Deciding to see a therapist to address your emotional problems and/or mental health concerns using contemporary therapy may be one of the most important decisions you will make in your lifetime.

Conquer Life's Challenges With Affordable Help

It is a hard enough decision to make for many people without also having to worry about how they are going to pay for it. Yet, professional fees can be a burden if you do not have adequate income to pay them and keep your household running at the same time.

Many people, especially those from low annual income households around the poverty threshold, do not seek treatment because they cannot afford to pay for treatment and this is a big problem in our society. A person’s income shouldn’t prevent them being able to afford therapy and getting essential mental health assistance. Even those with health insurance are having this problem because many do not cover mental health care at all. One solution offered by many counselors is sliding scale fee therapy. Many therapists offer a sliding scale fee structure to assist those with lower incomes, and if you qualify, the scale fee structure can make it possible for you to get the help you need without making you bankrupt.

What Is Sliding Scale Therapy?

A sliding scale is a type of fee structure therapists sometimes use to give people with fewer resources a lower fee. The sliding scale fee structure that many therapists choose to use is also commonly used in many types of industries including legal service or dental care. Affordable sliding-scale therapy is not a "sale" or a "discount" that can change over time. The amount you pay for affordable scale therapy is calculated by your income. The less income you bring in each month, the less you pay for your therapy session fee, and this is usually determined by a sliding scale rate

The therapist sets up one sliding fee scale that is used for all their patients. If you have enough money to pay the full cost of therapy, you will be billed at the therapist's standard fee. But if you're facing financial challenges that hinder your ability to pay, you'll be provided with more affordable therapy options at a reduced rate. For example, in an office where the full price is $175 per hour or per session, if you make less than $70,000 per year, your fees may be $75 per hour, but if you have an annual income of $120,000 per year, you may pay $100 per hour or per session if they offer a sliding scale. Someone who meets the poverty threshold will naturally see even more reduced rates.

These numbers, or the set sliding scale fees, take into account the patient salary as well as the therapist salary. Sliding scales, of course, can vary from each private practice, but in the U.S., they are usually dictated by the Federal Poverty Guidelines and the Bureau of Primary Healthcare, a United States department within the Health Services & Resources Administration (HSRA)

Level Of Care

The sliding scale rates are just a way of determining how you pay for your selected therapy options. In most cases, the therapist's office personnel will apply the scale to your situation and take care of the paperwork to provide affordable counseling services for you and/or your family once you pay the sliding scale fees.

Whether you pay the full cost of your sessions or a reduced fee, the providers at your selected therapy center give you the same standard of high-quality care as clients who pay full price to attend the selected therapy center for counseling services. They make no difference in the way they treat you or the time they spend in sliding fee sessions. Many therapists who offer sliding scale rates do not even know who pays using the sliding fee scales and are looking for affordable therapy services. The sliding scales and billing is done by the accounting personnel of the private practice rather than the mental health professionals themselves.

Do You Qualify For Sliding Scale Therapy?

If you feel you can't pay the full price, you can present your income information and number of dependents to a social worker or other clinical psychology provider who can offer sliding scale rates. It's worth taking advantage of sliding-fee scale therapy to get matched with a wonderful therapist that meets your needs.

Deciding how much you'll pay is a straightforward process for the therapist's office staff. If you meet the sliding fee scale criteria to receive affordable therapy, you'll pay lower fees based on your level of need. Regardless of a person’s income, today's mental health clients can take advantage of the sliding scale to get human services for common mental health challenges like eating disorders, substance abuse, social anxiety, and to participate in family therapy.

Alongside sliding scales, a social worker may also direct you to other options within your chosen counseling center by offering reduced-cost stress management alternatives. A social worker can help you find the best therapist and other mental health resources beyond the sliding scale within your chosen therapy center like support groups. When you participate in support group sessions, you can discuss your challenges and relationship issues with the psychotherapy collective and like-minded clients to find solutions.

The amount you pay on a sliding fee scale is usually adjusted by the United States Federal Poverty Guidelines and the usual and customary fee for mental health in the geographical area where you live.

Sliding scales are designed for people who are paying for the service themselves directly to a private practice, therapy center, social worker, or another mental health professional rather than those who are paying through an insurance company. With those who offer sliding scale fees, you don't typically get a reduced fee for your copays or deductibles; usually it’s just a minimum fee for these. Unfortunately, even though a practice with in-network therapists may accept insurance, many insurance companies do not cover most mental health care anyway or they only cover a small percentage. In many cases, it's cheaper for you to pay out of pocket with a sliding scale fee than using your health insurance.

Rules Of Sliding Scale Therapy

Not every sliding fee scale within the psychotherapy collective has the same rules. A sliding scale may require you to verify income with a pay stub. Other sliding scales may take your word for your income and set sliding scale fees based on that. Some require that you notify the office within a certain amount of time if your financial situation changes. The sliding scale rules should be listed on an agreement that you sign with the therapist or their staff. You should always be very careful to read the agreement before signing anything, and if you have any questions about the sliding fee scale, be sure to ask them to clarify. If you don't qualify for the low fees you would prefer to pay, there are other mental health resources, such as community mental health clinics and online therapy.

Online Counseling

While seeing a therapist face-to-face at a private practice may be the more traditional way to have counseling, it is also more expensive. This is because the therapist has to pay for the building they are in, utilities for that building, salaries for employees, business and office supplies, and some even have to pay for health insurance for employees. They also have to spend money on transportation to get back and forth to work. Nowadays, many therapists choose to practice remotely because of the benefits it offers them and their clients.

Online therapy is so much cheaper because the therapist can work from anywhere, so they don't have to pay rent, utilities, and travel expenses. The therapist doesn't have to pay employees in most cases, and there is the added benefit of time saved because you and your therapist can "see" each other whenever you're free. While a lot of online therapy services don’t accept insurance, your insurance company doesn't need to get involved either since it’s so accessible due to the monthly subscription payment plans.

This new flexible form of online counseling breaks the barriers of typical Monday through Friday appointment times and allows for clients and therapists to connect on their own time. Getting started with affordable online therapy is as easy as completing a quick registration process with your email address, providing information, and selecting a therapist that meets your needs. Payment plans are based on a subscription model, allowing more people to afford to pay for essential therapy, rather than on an hourly rate or a per session fee structure.

The individual therapy and counseling services you get online are the same as you would get in a more traditional setting. This type of therapy may be even more effective because it's so convenient. It's all still confidential and the licensed professionals here follow the same ethical guidelines. And those suffering from depression or anxiety disorders may find online therapy even more beneficial because they have a hard time going out in public.

With depression, you may not even feel like getting out of bed, so how are you supposed to get dressed and go to an appointment with a therapist? This is another reason why many people with mental health disorders do not get help. The added stress of looking for a therapist, scheduling an appointment, and making it to that appointment is enough to make many individuals change their minds about going. With online therapy, all you have to do is get on your smartphone or other electronic device and you can get connected to mental health professionals from anywhere.

Counseling Near Me

In addition to your standard individual therapy sessions, there are other options as well. Some of these include group therapy, schools, teaching hospitals, employee programs, and chat rooms.

  • Group therapy: One option is group therapy, which can be found in many areas at local churches or community centers. Most of the time, the sessions are free or very low cost and you would meet with a group of people and a therapist or clergy who mediates the session. The therapist does not usually give you individual care but will help keep the conversation focused.
  • Schools or teaching hospitals: You may also be able to get counseling from a local school or teaching hospital. If you're a student, you should be able to get counseling from your school at no charge. Teaching hospitals and clinics usually offer free or low-cost therapy in a teaching situation where you'd be seeing both the therapist and an intern who is receiving training.
  • Employer assistance programs: Some employers offer employee assistance programs that may have free or low-cost mental health care. This is usually separate from your health insurance and is a resource to help employees deal with life issues like divorce, grief, and other major problems.
  • Online Chat Rooms: There are also online chat rooms where you can talk to others who have similar issues. You'll be able to anonymously chat online with others who want to open up about their experiences and offer help to those that need it. Some people don't like the idea of talking to random strangers about their problems, but others like this better than talking to a therapist. Something is freeing about chatting with people who have no idea who you are and can't see you. You can try 7 cups of tea to connect with caring listeners, free of charge.

Of course, there are downfalls to online chat rooms as well. Without a therapist or other professional to mediate, things can be unorthodox, so you have to be prepared. But all you have to do is click one button to get out of that room. And there are a lot of options. Some chat rooms are specifically for certain subjects like depression or anxiety, while others are more general.

It's important to note that online therapy is intended for non-emergency situations only. Visit your nearest emergency room if your issue is an emergency or you're facing a life-threatening situation. If you're unable to make it to the nearest emergency room, make an emergency call to an agency like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that can provide immediate support options 24-hours a day.

Sliding Scale Therapy Conclusion And Resources

Seeking therapy can help you. Don't let finances get in the way and let sliding scales reduce the burden. Whether you find a therapist who will work with you on a sliding scale, or you choose affordable online therapy at BetterHelp, get the support you need. Take the first step.

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