This is how much therapy really costs, according to experts

From fear to apprehension to eagerness, the thought of attending therapy prompts many different emotional responses. But one response that the thought of therapy shouldn’t incite is unattainability.

Yes, therapy is an added cost to your budget, and yes, it might seem like you could potentially save money if you instead rely on friends, family, and yourself during rough times. But if you had anemia, would you as easily decide not to take iron pills because you could spend that money elsewhere? We doubt it, so why would you decide against spending money to help treat your mind?

Of course, your mental health issues may not be as easy to treat as anemia. For example, the same medication and/or types of therapy don’t work for everybody. The causes of mental health issues can be hard to pin down, so treatment can be frustrating, complicated, confusing. But just because you don’t yet have a concrete name for what’s plaguing your mind, that doesn’t make these problems any less real than broken bones—or any less in need of a professional’s assistance.

The same mindset you have for your physical health should carry through to your mental health—it’s nonnegotiable.

So, you’ve decided to seek help to better yourself—props to you for committing to self-care. Like all forms of health care, access to therapy and mental health treatment shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a right. But health care is not always easily accessible.

So, what is the typical cost of therapy?

The price of therapy varies based on several aspects: The therapist’s category of expertise, their level of training, the length of session, frequency of sessions, and geographical location.

Just like the cost of groceries differs in various cities, therapy does, too. Mental health care professionals from around the country, such as licensed social worker Emmy Crouter in Denver and psychologist Sweta Venkataramanan in New York City, agree that the lowest average price offered for a single session of therapy is typically around $30 on a sliding scale. Many practices offer a sliding scale to meet their patients needs, which is helpful. Practices that don’t offer a sliding scale often charge between $75-$200 per session, according to Clinical Professional Counselor, Lynda Smith.

Next, the type of therapy you’re receiving affects the price greatly. Couples or family therapy sessions are often more expensive than an individual therapy session.

"Family and couples’ sessions are thought to be more fruitful when there is more time available since there are more people in the room. Thus, naturally, it takes longer for the therapist to address each person’s feelings and needs in the context of the greater family system," Crouter said.

The frequency of sessions also bumps the price up, obviously. So how do you know how often you should be seeing a therapist to meet your needs, and how much might that cost?

"Behaviorally-oriented therapists typically see people for a specific problem that ranges from 3-6 months up to a year. When you go for a more dynamic approach—the focus is on overall relationships, your daily life, etc., and that therapy can be more long-term," Venkataramanan said.

Many therapists offer discounts on therapy packages, so if you’re thinking of making therapy a consistent part of your life, it’s less expensive to pay ahead for a certain number of sessions. Clinical Professional Counselor Lynda Smith specializes in women’s mental health services, and offers a package of ten sessions for $1,050.

How do I find an affordable therapist?

If you have health insurance, then looking for covered providers through your plan is the best place to start. Luckily, most health insurance plans include mental health benefits, so the price of visiting a therapist can be cut down significantly.

Headway and Psychology Today are great resources for finding affordable therapists.

Also, if you live near a university, there are often students and interns studying social work or psychology who will offer low price therapy services through the school. If you’re a student yourself, lots of campuses offer free or reduced-price counseling, so utilize this option.

Don’t have health insurance? The Open Path Collective provides options for people seeking mental health treatment who cannot afford market rates of therapy. Signing up for a lifetime membership with The Open Path Collective costs $59, and allows you to schedule appointments with therapists for $30-$60 per session.

If you can’t find an affordable individual therapy option, group therapy is often much less expensive. Also, group therapy might help you feel less isolated during your experience.

"Especially for self paying clients, group therapy is a way to get more out of therapy per penny while also benefitting from the social aspect of treatment," clinical therapist Lisa Choquette said.

There are many options out there for affordable therapy that can meet your needs, and we applaud you for seeking the help and prioritizing your mental health.

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