Mental health is as important as physical health, and when people reach a dark place in their life, therapy is a solution that is brought up quite often. But when people check the rates of therapy, many of them are in for sticker shock. Why is therapy so expensive?
Therapy is so expensive because therapists need to undergo years of school and training before beginning their careers. Additionally, there are many bills they need to pay to stay on top of their counseling skills, such as books and additional training courses.
In this article, we will be going over the main reasons why therapy and other mental health services are expensive, the price differences between different mental health professionals mean, and what you can do to get the help you need. If you’d like to learn more, we encourage you to read on!
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Why Do Therapists Exist — Are They Helpful?
Many people need to talk to someone about what they are currently going through, and while friends and family can be great, not everyone has the skills to be a helpful outlet. It is a natural response for the average person to dive right into “here’s how to fix this based on my experience” rather than genuinely understanding and seeing things from your perspective.
This is by no means how everyone is, but it is an insight into why so many people rely on therapy for coping. Additionally, friends/family might have adverse reactions to what you tell them or even spill private information to others, which creates an untrustful outlet you can’t entirely rely on for help.
Ultimately, there are 4 phases in talk therapy.
This is where you build a relationship. You might not be entirely comfortable sharing all of your details right away, and your therapist is still learning about you. Both of you meet a new person for the first time and are practically strangers to one another. This is perfectly normal; effective therapy involves multiple visits over a decent length of time.
After learning about your problems, your therapist will start figuring out the best approach to resolve what you are going through. In this stage, you may still feel uncomfortable sharing certain information that could be helpful. This is where the therapist might gently try to lower your barrier.
In this stage, you might be entirely comfortable opening up and talking about your worst problems. This can hurt at first, but it is necessary, and it helps you get a burden off of your shoulders.
Remember, therapy isn’t a race, and you can take the time you need to feel ready to say the worst thoughts. Progressing too fast in therapy can be counterproductive, which is why timing the four stages of therapy properly is crucial.
If you feel your therapy has provided the desired outcome and you are in a better place, you can choose to say goodbye. Many clients and therapists are sad to part ways considering how much has been shared over months or even years, but your therapist will be happy knowing they were able to help. Some people stay in therapy for life, and that’s ok; people of all walks of life choose to get the help they need.
A therapist approaches problems through the side of their client. They are there to dedicate their full attention to you, and their goal is to help, not judge. Furthermore, their schooling and training prepare them for what you might throw at them and are ready to understand how you are feeling and problem-solve to give you the best advice for your current situation.
Here is a video explaining what you can expect during your first appointment:
Therapy can be worth the cost if you find the right therapist. We recommend taking the time to research therapists near you and see who might be a good match for your needs.
We previously mentioned that a therapist’s school and training are why therapy is costly, but there are other factors. Below we will dive deeper into what factors into the pricing of a therapy session.
School and Training
Becoming a therapist is a long journey, and because of that, it pays well. Therapists can make anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 a year (this ties into the price differences between clinics) depending on their specialization, education, and training. Most of us expect to be compensated for pouring a lot of money into school, and it is no different here.
The majority of therapists have a Ph.D., which takes quite a bit of time to acquire. The entire Ph.D. program can take as long as eight years. To achieve a Ph.D., you must:
- Obtain a bachelor’s degree (4 years of college)
- Obtain a master’s degree (2-3 years)
- Obtain a doctoral degree, in this case, a Ph.D. (5-8 years)
This is then followed by training and internship before they can acquire their counseling license. To obtain a license, they undergo 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised counseling to gain experience.
In some cases, a counselor doesn’t need to put in this much time and money. A school counselor and substance abuse counselor can get their license with a master’s degree.
Furthermore, education doesn’t stop once you get your license. To ensure that counselors stay on top of their game, they must enroll in continuing education and specialized training as “check-ups.”
With all of these factors in mind, it becomes clear why a therapy session can fetch a high price tag. However, it doesn’t end there.
Bills and Expenses
Running a clinic involves considerable expenses that are factored into the price of a therapy session. Similarly, any business will also price its services or goods based on its operating expenses. Private practices will have to pay for:
- Building rent
- A website
- Liability insurance
- Utilities for the building
It all adds up, and that isn’t even talking about how running a practice isn’t guaranteed to be a stable income source. There are many successful clinics, but there is no guarantee that clients will keep coming back for sessions, and when/if they do leave, who knows if there are other clients to take their place? Thus, each session has to account for this as well.
Prices differ depending on which therapist you are seeing, and the cost differences can be huge. Many people pay anywhere between $60 – $120 per session, with a national average cost of $90. This is typically for a 50-minute session.
But it doesn’t stop there. Costs can jump as high as $250+ for an experienced and highly skilled therapist. Counselors will charge for what they feel they are worth, and with public reviews, you will be able to see how fair the prices genuinely are.
Each session lasts about 50 minutes. You might be coming back weekly, and for one month’s worth of therapy at $90 a session, you are looking at $360 a month.
Understandably, people are scared away from seeking the help they need. Additionally, many people need therapy due to money problems combined with other things they are going through. But shouldn’t people be able to use the insurance if they are qualified? It isn’t that easy, unfortunately.
Why Is It Difficult to Find a Therapist That Accepts Insurance?
If you have tried to find a therapist that accepts health insurance, you likely have realized just how difficult that can be. So why don’t many therapists accept insurance?
Insurance coverage involves paperwork that a therapist is not paid for, which takes away their sessions’ time. Additionally, they will have to call the insurance company to ensure they have insurance and call again for payment reimbursement. Overall, it just isn’t worth it for most therapists for the time consumption alone.
Additionally, many insurance companies don’t have mental health in their coverage because they expect a particular timeframe in which you will be cured. You can anticipate when a broken bone will heal, but you can’t predict when someone will solve their mental health issues.
What Can You Do About It?
If you have concluded that you can’t find affordable therapy in your area, what do you do? Don’t give up hope; there are things you can do to get the help you need. In the meantime, we suggest looking into relaxation and meditation. Practicing Mindfulness is an excellent book/audiobook that will introduce you to the topic.
The internet allows people to connect in an instant, including psychiatrists and clients. There are several online therapy sessions to choose them, and many are much cheaper than in-person therapy.
If you aren’t much of a voice talker, consider unlimited messaging therapy. You pay a flat weekly fee that allows you to message your therapist whenever you’d like. Additionally, you can quickly request a new counselor if things aren’t working out. Depending on the company, you can pay as low as $50 a week.
Two popular therapy services are Talkspace and BetterHelp. Both are effective and affordable, and we recommend considering them if you feel that you will need a lot of talk time.
If you would prefer face-to-face interaction, video chatting is also available online. This is incredibly helpful for people who can’t leave their homes. It’s more expensive than messaging since the therapist has to be present to listen to what you have to say, but it is less costly than going to a clinic in person. This varies widely depending on the company as some charge monthly and some charge per session.
If this still sounds like a pretty penny, you can try 7cups, which is by far more affordable than most options out there. For $150 a month, you can get unlimited therapy messaging with licensed therapies. Additionally, they have a volunteer section at no charge to chat with everyday people who are willing to listen.
This falls in line with online therapy but is different enough to have its section. Reddit is a massive community with forums called subreddits that cover quite literally anything you can think of. There are subreddits for specific hobbies, game franchises, sports, and more. But what you might not have thought of Reddit as is a place for help.
Many people want to help others without expecting money in return. They take time out of their day to talk to others who need to discuss their problems because they are good at heart. Many of these people were in the same dark place as the people they wanted to help; thus, they can genuinely relate to the other person behind the computer.
Subreddits like r/KindVoice allow you to post a thread saying you’d like to talk to someone, and you’ll almost always get a response. It’s very much worth checking out; for many people, just having a person to talk to is enough, and they don’t particularly need professional help. This will save you a lot of money while improving your mental health.
Additionally, you can make real friends on Reddit while a therapist and client relationship is for the time you are seeing them.
Sliding Scale Therapy
If you know that you can’t afford the average standard rate of in-person therapy, don’t lose hope! Sliding scale therapy exists to help lower incomes create a payment structure that works for almost anyone.
This is similar to school lunches, where you pay based on your family’s income. If you make less than $30,000 a year, you will be charged less than making $70,000 a year.
The cost difference can be very significant. You can get surprisingly low rates; some mental health clinics start at just $15 an hour – we recommend looking into clinics with this payment option available.
In this video, Dr. Marie Fang, a psychologist in private practice, describes how she uses a sliding scale with her mental health clients.
How to Recognize a Bad Therapist
Not all therapists are made equal, and it is crucial to find one that can help you effectively. A therapy session is the definition of a safe space, and you should feel like you are welcomed.
We previously talked about looking at the feedback that a specific clinic or therapist has gotten before paying for the service, but if that is not possible or the result is different than expected, here are signs to look for in a therapy session that isn’t going well.
This is a big red flag that you should drop things ASAP. A therapist’s role is not to judge you. That’s one of the reasons why you are paying them in the first place. If you find that they are making snide remarks to you based on what you’ve told them, i.e., your sexuality, then they are not worth your time.
This is another big no-no. Like not being judgmental, a therapist should listen to what you are saying. For example, if they are staring off into space and responding with very short, cliche, and low-effort answers, then it is apparent they are not listening to what you have to say.
This applies more to video chatting, but some therapists do this even in person. It becomes easy to multitask without letting the other person know what you are doing when it comes to video chatting. If you find that they are continually looking back and forth, it is telling that they are doing something else such as browsing social media, making it clear that they aren’t too interested.
Additionally, it would help if you didn’t accept behavior such as eating and checking their phone when in person. The term “professional help” is there for a reason, and you should expect professionalism. The only time eating during a session would be acceptable is if the schedules are packed with no room for a lunch break. In that case, they will usually apologize and explain the situation.
They Forget Who You Are
Therapy is about building a counselor-client relationship over time. If you met a new friend, wouldn’t you feel a little hurt if they said, “who are you again?” when texting them.
Sometimes it will take a therapist to hear your voice or name for them to remember if they have many clients and/or it’s been a long time since your last session, which is understandable. Not remembering you or what you’ve said in a previous section is a red flag and can stem trust issues.
Therapy is for everyone, not just people who have money to pay $90 an hour. There is help for people from all walks of life, both in-person and online. If you need someone to talk to, we hope you can find someone soon – we recommend looking into the solutions listed here; you might be surprised how much help you can get with no or little money.
- Positive Psychology: How to Become a Therapist
- Psychology Today: What Really Happens in a Therapy session
- Talkspace: How Much Does Therapy Cost?
- Psychology Today: Can’t Find a Psychologist Who Accepts Insurance? Here’s Why
- BestLife: 15 Signs You Should Fire your Therapist
- Talkspace: Here’s What Makes a Good Therapist: 17 Signs to Look For
- Talkspace: The 4 Phases You Will Encounter When Making Progress in Therapy
- Talkspace: Home Page
- BetterHelp: Home Page
- 7 Cups: Home Page