Therapy is a proven, effective method of helping out folks in need of counseling and mental health treatment. Unfortunately, the average therapy session cost continues to prove to be one of people’s biggest barriers towards seeking and continuing mental health treatment. From group therapy to private therapy practices, there are wildly varying costs to getting help.
Though regulatory efforts like the Affordable Care Act have helped improve access to mental health care for many, the therapy cost remains high. This is especially true for people in urban areas or highly populated cities, where the cost of living is much higher, necessitating the need for therapy to cost more as well. If your therapy costs are getting higher learn more about Advekit which is an online therapy platform that can match you with the best affordable therapist. Today, we’re going to break down the cost of therapy, how much a therapy session generally costs the patient, how insurance works, and what options are available for low-cost or free therapy.
Whether it’s individual therapy, couples counseling, marriage counseling, or family therapy, working directly with a therapist in a private practice environment is going to range anywhere from $65 per hour to over $250. Overall, you can expect to pay somewhere around $100 to $200 per session in most areas of the country.
Why is there such a discrepancy in price? There are a number of factors for this. How much experience a mental health professional has is usually the biggest one. A therapist who has been practicing for over 25 years will simply be able to charge more because they’re highly trained and incredibly experienced. On the other hand, a therapist who is just starting out, or seeing patients while still under supervision from their advisor as they earn their master’s, is likely going to charge a lower session fee because they don’t have the same level of experience. If you’re looking into therapy with a very well-known or well-regarded therapist, that excellent reputation means they’re in high demand and are likely going to charge a higher therapy cost for their limited time. It is also important to question how much do therapists make. If a therapist is making more money then that may result in them charging higher rates.
Why else would it cost so much? Where you live impacts therapy costs a lot. Therapists in metropolitan areas have to account for more expensive rent for office space, higher costs of living, and so on. If the sessions are longer than the typical hour, a mental health professional is probably going to charge more. And if you’re searching for specialization of some kind – say, you’re looking for a therapist who is an expert in bipolar disorder – you’re seeking out a specialist who treats a challenging mental health condition. This means that expertise is what you’re paying for, compared to another therapist who may specialize in a totally different field.
If you have therapy insurance, a therapy session fee tends to cost less. However, it’s more complicated than that. Insurance coverage for therapists who accept insurance, and who will accept your insurance plan, will sort of operate the same way it might going to a doctor’s. This is going to be more true if you’re seeing a therapist who is also a psychiatrist and prescribing medications.
And while all insurance plans must cover mental health care under the Affordable Care Act, insurance company coverage for therapy isn’t always the best. Choosing a therapist in-network will help cut down costs quite a bit – you may be more likely to pay around $20 to $50 per session, whatever the amount is for your co-pay. Also, make sure your insurance provider covers specific diagnoses. For example, some insurance companies or plans will only cover generalized therapy compared to specialized types of therapy like CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy.
But many therapists aren’t a part of any therapy network. This is because insurance companies make it practically impossible for them to send in the necessary paperwork and eat into therapists' time in such a way that many opt not to deal with insurance at all. The extreme challenges and uphill battles mental health care providers face mean it’s not worth it to deal with insurance companies.
Instead, they’ll send a superbill each month covering the feeds, and patients send that to the insurance company to get some of their therapy costs covered after the deductible is paid out. It does mean you can recoup some of the costs, but will need to pay the full amount per session up front until your insurance can reimburse you. Advekit can be a great resource to get matched with the right therapist and get the lowest rate possible.
So while insurance for therapy is often people’s best option, other options like Medicaid or the insurance marketplace under the ACA may help lower the costs of therapy services. Your workplace may have benefit programs for mental health care. Some workplaces offer employee assistance or will offer to help pay for therapy. Additionally, if there’s a college or university near you, they may offer free or very cheap therapy programs to people. You’ll be working with students pursuing their licensure and master’s degrees, but they are clinically supervised, and if you’re in need but can’t afford other options, it’s a great option provided you have access to it. Many clinics are expanding mental health care services by having free or discounted treatments, so do some research and see if there are any organizations or clinics in your neck of the woods that are.
No matter where you are or who your therapist is, you might be able to lower costs by discussing sliding scale fee therapy. This means that when you interview new therapists, you can ask what their scale is for payments, and see how low they’re willing to charge, even if it’s for a specific amount of time, based on your current income. Therapists don’t always advertise this, but you can ask! Some therapists also let you pay via payment plans, so you can pay for therapy services over time rather than each week in full per session. Finally, telehealth services along with phone or online therapy can often provide an affordable alternative to in-person sessions since therapists and patients are able to communicate and hold a session from anywhere.
Since there is no industry standard, it can feel frustrating or disheartening if the cost of therapy is a barrier for you to getting help. Remember you can always ask therapist questions. You may be unable to work with them due to the cost, but they may be able to refer you to someone else who doesn’t charge as much per session, or knows community mental health agencies that offer reduced fees. The significant benefits of therapy mean that even if you’re not economically profiting from it, you’re improving your life overall.