Therapy is a complex issue within the US. Not only is there a stigmatized view of therapy, but the costs of therapy are often a barrier to people getting the care they need. Unfortunately, the cost of therapy can vary depending on where you live, your employer, your income, and the type of therapy you receive.
Today, we’ll look at the groups that need therapy the most, the real costs of therapy, and how to make it more affordable.
What is therapy?
If you haven’t been to therapy, you may be imagining a Freudian doctor asking you about your childhood problems while you’re lying on a couch. Therapy is like that for some, but it can take many forms, from art therapy to school counseling to individual behavioral therapy with a psychologist. In general, anyone can benefit from therapy, as the goal is to learn how to live a more productive and happy life with the help of a trained medical professional.
Therapy is a growing discipline. The CDC says that just over 20 percent of American adults and 13 percent of American children received therapy in 2020 and 2019, respectively. Based on 2020 census data, an estimated 52 million adults and 3.3 million children rely on these critical mental health services each year.
Overall, women seek therapy more often than their male counterparts, with 24.7% of women receiving therapy in the past 12 months, compared to 13.4% of men, according to the CDC. Additionally, different communities seek therapy at different rates. White adults are more likely to seek mental health services, with 23 percent doing so. However, there are several reasons for this. With less representation of the LGBTQ+, Latino, Black, and Native American communities in the mental health industry, it can be difficult for those within these communities to feel comfortable seeking help.
How much does therapy cost?
The cost of each therapy appointment depends on the type of therapy you need, where you live, and whether or not your insurance company covers anything. However, on average, therapy costs between $60 and $120 per session. Patients in cities will often see much higher prices than those in rural communities.
Also, your cost will vary depending on how your specific therapist bills their patients. You will usually find a few different payment methods:
- per session — Many therapists require you to pay per session. Depending on how often you attend sessions, this could be a more affordable option.
- a monthly fee — Online therapists tend to follow this model. You will pay a monthly fee that comes with a certain number of sessions, texts, or calls with your therapists.
- sliding scale payment plan — A sliding scale allows you to pay based on your income. Lower incomes pay a lower session fee, while those with higher incomes pay more. This allows the therapist to offer sessions to a wider range of people.
- accept insurance — Some insurance will cover parts of your therapy bills. Still, some therapists choose not to accept insurance.
Does insurance cover therapy?
The way insurance handles mental health care is complicated. Your coverage options will largely depend on the type of insurance you have. Private insurance plans offered by private employers are currently not required to cover mental health visits.
However, the plans you get through the Affordable Care Act in the health insurance marketplace must cover at least some of these costs.including behavioral health treatment, inpatient behavioral and mental health services, and substance abuse treatment. The types of behavioral health services covered will depend on the plan you choose and your state.
Before you make an appointment with your therapist, look at the details of your plan. If the explanation is confusing, you can contact their customer service center, which should be listed on the back of your insurance card. You will be able to speak with a representative who can explain the details of your plan.
Factors Affecting Cost
The amount you will pay out of pocket for therapy will be determined by a variety of factors, some of which you can control and some of which you cannot. Your cost may be lower if you have insurance, or you may have to pay more if you see a specialist.
So how much does therapy cost without insurance? Here’s what certain specialists and types of therapy cost:
|emotional support services||$70-$150|
|Cognitive behavioral therapy||$100-$200|
How to make therapy more affordable
Work with a therapist who offers a sliding scale
A sliding scale allows patients to pay based on their income rather than simply paying a flat fee charged by the therapist. If you have a lower income, that shouldn’t stop you from finding a therapist, just ask ahead of time if they operate on a sliding scale and what their lowest prices are.
Take advantage of HSA or FSA accounts
HSAs and FSAs are tax-free savings accounts for medical expenses, which can include therapy. While HSAs are owned by you and can be transferred from job to job, FSAs are owned by your employer.
Consider online therapy
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, online therapy has grown substantially. Not only has it become a more accessible way to access therapy, it is often more affordable than traditional in-person therapy. For example, the popular online therapy company improvehelp it costs $60-$90 per week. Another well-known company, conversation spaceIt costs $69-$129 per week. If you go to therapy weekly, you could save with online therapy.
Online therapy appears to be a successful business, with 92 percent of respondents in a Verywell survey expressing that they are satisfied with their online experience.
Attend a support group instead
There are support groups based on many needs, including grief, loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and addiction. It is a place for people facing the same problem to talk to each other and find support to share their experiences. These are by no means a one-on-one replacement for therapy, as the group may not be led by a trained therapist, but support groups are often free to anyone who needs them.
Use financial resources
Using a rewards credit card to pay for therapy can help you earn cash back on each session. Of course, it will be a while before you earn enough to pay for a full session, but every dollar counts. Just remember to pay your bill in full each month and avoid going into therapy debt.
If you’re already in debt, consider transferring your credit card balance to a card with a 0 percent APR promotional period. This may give you a limited amount of time to pay off your balance without accruing interest.
use free resources
When you need help, there are free apps available to you, including:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline for those dealing with mental or substance use disorders: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- The Trevor Project LGBTQ+ Suicide Hotline: Call, text or chat here
- Meditation and mindfulness apps like Calm Y Head space
The importance of seeing a therapist
It’s no secret that therapy is expensive. This is why many people avoid facing the fact that they need help. But there is a reason so many people choose to attend therapy sessions on a regular basis.
For starters, one in five adults in the US experiences mental health problems, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Of these people, not even half (46.2 percent) received the treatment they needed in 2020. And only slightly more children (50.6 percent) with mental health problems received treatment.
In general, while many people can benefit from therapy, the following people may especially want to seek help:
- Those who experience symptoms that affect their daily life and their ability to help themselves or their family.
- Those going through major life changes like divorce, job changes, etc.
- Those grieving the loss of a loved one
- Those who work through challenging relationships.
The bottom line
Therapy can be expensive, and urban communities often pay higher prices. About 20 percent of adults have mental health diagnoses. Still, many communities, such as LGBTQ+ and minority communities, do not seek the care they need due to stigmas and lack of representation within the therapist profession.
As the mental health industry advances, more affordable options are emerging. One example is online therapy, which provides increased access to a much-needed service, and often at a fraction of the cost.