Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/30/2021
Your mental health is an essential part of your well-being. Just as your physical health requires checkups and doctor visits, your mental wellbeing requires appropriate care to ensure your emotional, psychological and social welfare are in top shape.
One of the most effective ways to maintain your mental wellbeing is through therapy. Speaking with a trusted professional about mental and emotional challenges is a proven way to manage your health.
However, while effective, therapy isn't always the most accessible option for mental care due to its cost.
We'll be breaking down the cost of therapy, how insurance may cover your therapy charges and the different therapy options you can explore for your mental health and wellness.
A lot of value is placed on the ability to counsel a person through mental health challenges and other difficulties.
Therapists typically charge per hour or on a per-session basis. It isn't uncommon for therapists to charge in the range of $100 per hour.
A number of factors can affect the price of therapy. Some of these factors include:
The therapist's training: There’s a reason therapists are referred to as “professionals.” At minimum, a therapist is required to have a master’s degree in a chosen specialty.
Others, like psychologists, are required to have completed a doctoral degree before practicing. These psychologists also require constant education to maintain their license to practice, all of which come at a considerable cost.
The location of the therapy: Earlier, we mentioned how therapists may charge around $100 per hour. This number may go up or down depending on the location. Hot spots like Los Angeles and New York can have therapists charging within and above the “average” range.
The therapist's specialization: Where a therapist has expert knowledge on a specialized field, or if their skillset is targeted towards more challenging mental health conditions, they may charge a higher fee for their services.
Reputation: Therapists who are well known for their achievements in their respective fields are usually in high demand. This tends to influence the decision and ability to charge higher-than-average fees.
Online therapy: The internet has helped to greatly disrupt the psychotherapy space. Some online therapy options offer cheaper, easier access to therapy, ensuring that this service is available to a wider number of people.
When it comes to the best option to cover your therapy costs, insurance is usually top of the list.
While we'll be covering this method of payment shortly, there are times when insurance is unable to cover your expenses and other options are necessary to foot the bill, or at least cover some of the costs.
These measures include:
Sliding scale therapy pricing is an income-based payment structure for therapy.
With this structure, rather than paying a standard fee to the therapist, your income will be assessed to determine if you can afford to pay the therapist's standard fee.
Where your income is insufficient to cover the full cost of therapy, the therapist can offer his services at a reduced rate.
The less income you bring in each month, the less you'll be required to pay for each therapy session.
The amount you pay does not affect the standard of treatment you'll receive. This is a measure to make mental health services accessible to more people.
Where your income, financial responsibilities or dependents prevent you from being able to bear the full cost of therapy, you can present your proof of income to determine your eligibility for the sliding scale program.
Other documents like W-2 forms, income tax returns, social security notices, etc., may be accepted by some therapists.
Some therapists may decide to provide this service based on household income and family size of the patient. A sliding scale payment structure may be put in place, irrespective of already existing insurance coverage.
A sliding scale payment structure may take off a significant portion of treatment costs.
To promote the wellbeing of workers and to ensure their effective performance, some employers offer Employee Assistance Programs. These programs assist employees in sorting through personal problems that may be affecting their welfare and by extension, performance at work.
These assistance programs may be:
Sponsored by management
Paid on a fixed-fee contract whether or not employees make use of counseling or supervisory training
Paid for only when the employee-assistance service is used
Small businesses pulling together to act as financiers, lowering assistance cost per employee
Member assistance programs where unions secure counseling services for employees and their family members.
Where your health insurance or employee benefits fail to cover your mental healthcare, you may be required to cover the cost of your therapy directly.
This option gives you autonomy over the kind of treatment you'll receive, how long your therapy will last and, very importantly, the therapist you will be working with.
With mental health receiving growing priority, measures are being put in place to promote its accessibility to more people.
One of these is the federal parity law, which requires that the same coverage given to physical health conditions is extended to mental health issues by certain insurance plans.
However, because coverage can be difficult to navigate, there are a few terms to get familiar with to understand the insurance landscape.
In-network providers: These are healthcare providers or facilities that have an agreement with an insurance company to offer some of their services at a rate which the company pays them.
Engaging the service of an in-network provider usually requires an in-network deductible. This is the amount of money you’re required to pay personally before your insurance company can begin to make payments towards your care. Insurers typically make payments after the deductible is met.
Copay: This follows after you engage the services of an in-network provider. You will be required to pitch in for the services you’re going to receive. A copay is usually a flat fee paid every time you go in to see your therapist. The rest of the fees are usually shared between the insurer and the service provider.
Coinsurance: Is usually determined by the agreed percentage to be borne by you and your insurance company once your deductible is met. It is otherwise known as the co-insurance rate.
For example, your co-insurance rate may be set at 20 percent of the costs, while your plan covers 80 percent. The higher your coinsurance rate, the higher your share of costs will be.
Out-of-network provider: These professional services are not typically covered by insurance, which is why they may demand higher prices.
There are some insurance coverages like PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations) which include out-of-network benefits. They pay for the care received from professionals outside of your insurance plan. You, however, pay more of the cost with this coverage.
Individual therapy: This is where you interact directly with your therapist about any emotional, mental, psychological or other issue affecting your welfare.
This type of therapy covers a range of issues and is usually priced around $100 per session, but can vary greatly.
Online therapy options may offer a cheaper alternative. These sessions may come with unlimited speaking and video-calling access with the therapist.
Couples therapy: This is typically a joint session between you, your spouse and a qualified professional.
The sessions are to iron out differences or to work through the kinks in your relationship to ensure its smooth development.
Prices can vary depending on insurance coverage in certain areas, but you can expect to spend anywhere from around $100 to over $200 per session.
Group therapy: This may be applied to individuals with similar issues who may benefit from interacting with shared experiences.
This form of therapy is usually priced lower than others, with multi-session group rates available and may go for well under $100 per session. This form of therapy is also covered by many insurance providers.
Cognitive behavioral therapy: This form of therapy is an intervention to change negative reasoning and behaviors, swapping them out for improved personal development strategies. It is typically covered by insurance, but before then may cost as high as $100 per session.
To promote your emotional and mental well being, therapy is always a welcome intervention.
Payment for therapy may sometimes be made out of pocket. However, certain therapists can offer sliding scale options where the full costs may be too high to be borne by a patient.
Where available, insurance may help to cover the sometimes high costs of treatment. Finding a suitable payment method with your insurer is always advisable.
It's important to take note of certain costs such as copays and coinsurance payments, which you may be required to cover in conjunction with your insurance company.
Once payment is sorted, you can have your pick of different therapeutic approaches to properly handle your needs.