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How Much Does Therapy Cost? Why Is It So Expensive?

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One of the most common issues that prevent a person from undergoing therapy is the cost. Despite programs such as the Affordable Care Act that have sought to improve access to mental health services, therapy just remains too expensive for many people.

However, this reasoning could be the result of a failed understanding of what therapy can provide. Therapy is a tool that’s designed to help a person to be mentally and emotionally more healthy and stable which will bring a better understanding of themselves and more happiness in their lives. While therapy can be a little pricey, there are plenty of options available that are cost-efficient but still provide a positive experience for their clients. 

Therapy should be viewed as an investment into potential happiness and fulfillment. When it’s viewed that way, the price is a lot easier to justify.

What Is the Average Cost of Therapy? 

The average cost of therapy is around $60 to $120 per session, with a majority of Americans paying somewhere between $20 and $250 per hour depending on how many sessions have been booked and whether or not they are covered by health insurance. 

Another option is online therapy, which has been growing in popularity, especially in the time following the Covid19 pandemic. These sessions average between $40 and $70 per week with certain membership plans and typically offer 24-hour support. Another available option is to engage in sliding scale therapy. Although not everyone can qualify for this treatment plan, sliding scale pricing is a type of fee structure where people with fewer resources end up responsible for paying a smaller fee.

Does Insurance Cover Therapy? 

The Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act have been monumental in ensuring that health plans and insurers offer mental health and substance use disorder benefits that are comparable to medical care. Some health insurance programs will naturally be better than others, but just about everyone that has some form of insurance coverage will have access to therapy. Some therapists participate in insurance networks, so if an insurance plan has a $50 co-pay to see a medical doctor, the cost to see a therapist would not be higher. Obviously, the details of the price will depend on the specifics of the insurance plan and its deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance but the average cost of a therapy session with insurance is usually around $20 to $50 out of pocket. Without insurance, the rate could be anywhere between $50 to $250 or in some cases, even more than that. 

What Does Therapy Cost So Much? 

There are many different reasons why therapy costs what it does. Although therapy may seem like just a friendly conversation with someone, it’s much more detailed and nuanced than that. A therapist is a licensed medical and mental health professional, and their job is a very difficult one that requires years of education and training. When you consider the following factors, the cost of therapy will make a lot more sense:

  • Qualifications. A therapist that has more schooling, training, and experience will tend to charge more than a therapist that has completed the bare minimum in order to become certified. This education will cost a tremendous amount of money, and therapists will have student loans just like anybody else.

  • Location. Depending on where the office may be located, the price may be a reflection of the cost of living. A therapist on Main Street in a small Kansas town will be nowhere near as expensive as a therapist in New York City or Los Angeles.

  • Reputation. A therapist’s reputation is highly important in the mental health field. If they are known to be very good at what they do, they may charge a little more. Therapy is a service. Just like someone would pay more for a good mechanic, they will pay more for a good therapist.

  • Length and number of sessions. The more therapy sessions someone attends, along with the length of them, will influence prices as well. More time spent with the therapist will, of course, translate to costing more money. Most sessions last around an hour to an hour and a half on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

  • Specialization. There are several different forms of therapy that use highly specific techniques or target specific disorders and issues that will require a lot of education and experience to treat. These specializations are often more expensive than other traditional forms of therapy.

  • Bills. Along with the aforementioned student loans, therapists have to pay many other bills as well. Some of the other costs of being a therapist include:
    • Rent and utilities for the office
    • State licensing fees, each license requires an annual fee to be paid
    • Continuing education courses in order to maintain their licenses
    • Liability insurance
    • Marketing costs
    • Fees to maintain certifications and courses that keep them active
    • Yearly fees and courses to maintain different certification statuses 

Average Costs For Specific Therapy Types 

Therapy prices can change fairly significantly depending on the type of therapy that is being sought. The following list is the average prices for the different types of therapy.

  • Individual Therapy. The cost of private therapy will vary depending on where you live and, in the case of sliding scale therapy, how much you make per year. On average, it will typically be around $150 per hour, as individual therapy is often the most expensive.

  • Couples Therapy. The cost of couples therapy will vary depending on the professional that you are seeing and where they are located. The average rate for counselors that specialize in couples and family therapy usually ranges between $70 and $250 an hour.

  • Marriage Counseling. While individual therapy can be excellent for addressing personal emotional triggers, marriage counseling can be invaluable for learning ways to work through issues and strengthening the bonds of a relationship. These rates are usually between $70 and $250 per hour.

  • Group Therapy. There are some counseling centers and therapists that offer group therapy when they feel that a group’s collective experiences can benefit the individuals and help them to move forward. Group members will encourage each other while they learn better communication skills in regards to their needs and struggles. Group therapy is a good way to reduce the cost of therapy. For instance, instead of paying $200 per session, there are multi-session group therapy rates available which could be as low as $700 for an eight-week course.

  • Depression Therapy. The more that is being learned about depression, the more it’s becoming apparent that a combination of talk therapy and medication is the best treatment. The final cost for depression therapy will depend on the severity of your depression and the needs of your treatment, but it will typically end up between $100 and $200 per hour to see a psychiatrist. The cost of the medication will be separate.

  • Grief Counseling Cost. The rate of grief counseling is typically the same as the rate associated with psychologists, between $70 and $150 an hour. In addition, bereavement does not qualify as a mental health disorder, and so it may not be covered by your insurance plan.

  • Sex Therapy.  Depending on the location of the treatment, sex therapy is usually between $100 and $200 per hour. Rates will vary depending on the therapist, particularly in regards to their specific qualification and experience.

  • Anger Management. Most anger management classes range between $50 and $150 per session. There are other programs available that offer all-day group anger management for as little as $200 a day.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In the event that your insurance plan covers behavioral medicine or psychotherapy, then your premium will cover most, if not all of the therapy costs. In comparison, private practices will usually charge around $200 per session.

  • Art Therapy. When it comes to art therapy, there are various programs that are offered around the country and may cost as much as $250 for a session. In other cases, art therapy programs may be provided for free through local community organizations. For more intensive versions of art therapy, expect to pay at least $100 per hour. 

The Takeaway 

Therapy can be highly expensive depending on specific factors. It can also be fairly cheap as well. There are so many different variables that will influence the cost of therapy that it’s really hard to say exactly how much you will spend. However, when dealing with your mental health, cost should not be a very important influencing factor. After all, how much is the price of happiness?

The price tag is often the first thing that people look at when they are considering buying something and therapy is no different. It may be hard to look past the price, but the potential benefits are worth adjusting the budget for a while. The costs aren’t enough to put anyone deeply in financial ruins from which they may never recover. The long-term benefits of working with a highly qualified mental health professional will far outweigh the short-term difficulties of finding the money.

Sources

  1. 5 Affordable Therapy Options (healthline.com)
  2. Understanding How Sliding Scale Therapy Works | Affordable Therapy NYC (manhattanmentalhealthcounseling.com)
  3. How Much Does Therapy Cost? (goodtherapy.org)

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