Costs of Therapy

Photo Credit: Cotton Bros Studio

Good therapy is expensive. Let’s talk about why.


You search the internet, you narrow your findings to a pool of great-fit-for-me-therapists. You pick a website to explore. You navigate to the “services” button, to get an idea of what you might pay per visit. And, whoa. Depending on what your budget is, and where you are in the United States–or the world–the number on your screen might seem a bit overwhelming. 


Let’s talk about what goes into that number, and what resources for financial assistance are available to you. 


Why is therapy so expensive? Great question. Let’s get into it. This post will detail, and clarify the real reasons behind that possibly daunting invoice. 


You search the internet, you narrow your findings to a pool of great-fit-for-me-therapists. You pick a website to explore. You navigate to the “services” button, to get an idea of what you might pay per visit. And, whoa. Depending on what your budget is, and where you are in the United States–or the world–the number on your screen might seem a bit overwhelming. 




You might think, a number is a number, is a symbol on a screen (and a dent in the bank account, in many cases). But, at least in therapy, there are more factors that go into those surprising screen-numbers than most of us are aware of. 


Let’s dive in for a moment. 


Therapy as a practice, hails from medical practitioners. In the early days of therapy, there were very few actual therapists. Therapy was developed largely by MD’s, and Psychiatrists who saw the overwhelming need for mental/emotional care. Naturally, these medical professionals set up an infrastructure which logistically parallels Medical practice; you find a professional, schedule a visit, go to the office–you get it, the whole deal. The only problem with that set-up? Payment. 


There are two parts to the pervasive payment-problem that stem from one, larger social issue. 


Let’s explore this a bit further. 


Expectation; we all know a visit to the Doctor will set us back a pretty penny, and we expect that cost (even if we don’t love it, we are conditioned to expect it). With mental health, there is a different expectation, and a very prevalent not-quite-willingness to pay for the provided professional care. 


Insurance; most insurances will cover regular medical visits, exams and care. Most insurance plans offer minimal mental health coverage, at best. So, while many people are able to afford their medical co-pays, planning for a potentially full-priced therapy session may very well be out of budget. Behavioral and Mental health visits were found to be 5 times more likely to be out-of-network than primary physician visits.


The overarching and main contributing factor to the continued resistance of full mental-health coverage; Attitude.


On the whole, attitudes are harmfully dismissive when it comes to the importance of high-quality mental health care, expert clinicians, and (what should be) the basic human right to seek help. 


If we’re honest with ourselves, the results of that dismissive attitude are bubbling up in dangerous ways.  According to a study done by the National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 out of every 5 adults in the US struggle with their mental health. That number is staggering. Studies show that people with prolonged battles with mental illness are 40% more likely to suffer from cardiac and metabolic diseases, and the rate of substance abuse also skyrockets with this population.  


Making mental health a priority undoubtedly saves money in the long run–for both insurance companies, and individuals. 


Mental Healthcare Professionals

To see a PhD Therapist, is the equivalent of seeing a Medical Dr. To see a Masters-level therapist, is the equivalent of a Nurse Practitioner or Physician’s Assistant.


Each professional has very dedicated and specialized education, training and experience. You are paying for the time, perspective and expert in-depth knowledge of a highly-trained professional. 


An article in Psychology Today highlights the fact that for most psychotherapy practitioners, even if insurance will offer coverage for therapy, the result is a barely-there paycheck. The article estimated with insurance pay-outs, highly trained and burnt-out professionals would be making barely over 50k a year. Therapists for the most part are members of what is called the gig-economy; meaning they have no work-provided benefits.

The per-hour costs are determined by location and industry norms, clinician degree type, and niche expertise. There is absolutely nothing arbitrary about it.


Mental healthcare was set up to be the sister of physical health care, but is still not equally recognized by insurance companies, governments or individuals. On the whole, the importance of expert mental health professionals is dramatically undervalued. Mental Health Clinicians are experts in their fields, and have dedicated years toward gaining the knowledge and experience which enable them to help you so effectively. 


Helpful Resources

There is a reality however, that no matter how much you may want to fairly compensate your mental health provider, sometimes it’s just not possible. Life can be tricky; the harrowingly difficult financial stress many people are under is overwhelmingly pervasive. 


To ignore the reality of the income/cost disparity and constant financial duress for many Americans would be a great disservice to you, and that is the opposite of our intent. We are here to offer help where you are at–right here, right now. 


Alright, so what if you can’t pay the full-price for a therapy session, but you still need help. What do you do? 


Luckily, there are options. Let’s explore them:


  • Insurance: sometimes mental health coverage isn’t explicitly listed, but can be covered. In 2014, a law passed, requiring most insurance plans to offer some sort of mental health care coverage. Read more about that here
  • Sliding Scale: many clinics and clinicians offer sliding scales of payment based on family size and income. 
  • Scholarships: many private practices offer the ability to apply for a treatment scholarship
  • Intern Clinicians: You will want to keep this as an option. Many people discount the ability of a clinical intern to help them–don’t make that mistake. You can be seen and at either a largely discounted rate, or for free–depending on the institution the intern is working with. 
  • Shifted Sessions: The typical therapy experience is weekly, but if that doesn’t work for you, talk to your provider about cutting down to fewer times per month. 
  • Negotiated Rates: Many clinicians are willing to negotiate rate during times of acute financial crisis. If you are willing to communicate what you need and why, most therapists will try to be flexible. Industry standard is to sign a contract with the agreed-upon negotiated rate, stating how many sessions will be provided at the reduced rate, before returning to the full per-hour fee. 

In the end, if it’s important to you, and you are willing to put in a bit of leg-work, i.e. research, applications and or asking, you will likely find that you can get the help you need, even when times are tight. 


Next Steps

Want to explore your options for therapy? The highly-qualified team at Aspen Grove Family Therapy is made up of Marriage and Family Therapists, Counselors and Social Workers. We are here to help. If you’d like to connect or have questions, reach out. We would love to hear from you. 


(208) 258-7681

 Contact Form

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *