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

One of the most common reasons for people to neglect the services of therapy is the cost. When it comes to something like a broken bone there is no choice but to go to a medical doctor to repair it. 

Even though the bill for a medical procedure will often be exponentially more expensive than a therapy session, most people will justify the expense much easier. Perhaps it’s because they can see and feel the effects of a broken bone more easily or because they do not believe their mental health issues are serious enough for medical help. 

Whatever the reason may be, most people have a hard time spending money on therapy. However, contrary to popular belief therapy is not as expensive as one would think. Especially when considering the amount of training, expertise, and experience that therapists have. 

Therapy Costs by the Numbers

Obviously the cost of any particular therapist will change based on any number of factors (more on that below) but the average price range for a 45 to 60-minute session is $90 or more accurately between $60 and $120. 

Now there are some therapists that charge as much as $250 per hour and some charging as little as $20 but these are more of an outlier than the standard. 

There are some health insurance providers that offer high-quality coverage programs that reduce the costs even further to between $20 and $50 per session. The rise of online therapy has altered some of the numbers but these options generally range from $40 to $70 per week with membership plans and typically offer 24-hour support.

Factors That Will Influence Cost

There are always factors that will influence the price of something. The more capable a product is and the more expensive it is to make, the more the product will cost. A regular landline telephone with a rotary is naturally going to be much less expensive than a modern-day smart cell phone. Therapy is no different and that are many factors that will influence how much you will pay for a session. Some of the most common factors would include:

  • Level of Training: In order to become a therapist a student must complete a bachelor’s degree (roughly four years) and a master’s degree (around two years) with some opting to get a doctorate (four years). The level of education and training will absolutely be one of the primary factors influencing costs. Additionally, their years of service will be a factor as well. A first-year therapist with a master’s degree will almost certainly be much cheaper than a therapist with a doctorate who has been operating for 25 years.
  • Location: This is in direct relation to where the therapist’s office is located. Highly populated metropolitan areas such as New York and Los Angeles will naturally be more expensive as the costs of living are much higher. However, with online therapy becoming more popular, this factor is less of an influence than it has been historically.
  • Reputation: Word of mouth is still one of the most effective marketing strategies. The better a recommendation is given the better of a reputation a therapist will have. As a result of being highly praised, demand will go up, and naturally cost will soon follow.
  • Insurance Coverage: Depending on the details of your insurance plan you may be able to save a significant amount of money for therapy. The 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act required large group health plans that provide mental health benefits to putting that coverage on equal footing with physical illness, therefore, increasing coverage.The Affordable Care Act required small group and individual health plans to cover mental health services comparable to medical services. Although insurance coverage for therapy still needs some work, these congressional acts have gone a long way to helping improve insurance coverage for mental health issues.
  • Session Length: This one is fairly straightforward but the longer a session lasts the more it will cost. A 45-minute session will not be billed the same as a 120-minute one. Online therapy has changed this factor as well with some therapists offering weekly or monthly membership plans and rates.
  • Specialization: Depending on how specific the therapy being sought is can greatly influence the cost. Therapists in rare and highly specialized fields will typically charge more than their more-traditional counterparts. Think of how a medical doctor works. A typical general health doctor visit would cost substantially less than a visit to a neurosurgeon specializing in congenital spine defects and tumors. Therapy operates in a similar fashion with more specialized therapists charging more money. 

Reasons Behind the Cost of Therapy

Unfortunately, therapy sessions can just be too expensive for many Americans. The cost of therapy being around $90 per session without insurance can be really hard to afford when living from paycheck to paycheck. As a result, there are plenty of common backlashes against therapists and they are routinely accused of being greedy. This is an unreasonable accusation as there are plenty of reasons why therapy costs what it does. 

These are a few examples of why the cost of therapy is what it is:

  • Becoming a therapist is expensive: As mentioned before, it will take several years of higher education in order to become a therapist. The costs of completing a doctorate in any field will easily require an investment in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. It can take decades for a therapist to be able to repay the costs of their education. The more training and expertise a therapist has, the more they had to pay in order to get it. This cost naturally will eventually translate to their potential clients.
  • Therapy is not an hourly profession: With most traditional Monday through Friday jobs, the employees will work 40 hours and be paid for every hour they work. This is not the case for a therapist. They only make money for the times that they spend with their clients. This does not cover bookkeeping, marketing, and other aspects of running a business.
    It would be impossible for a therapist to juggle 40 different clients over the course of 40 hours in a week. So instead of working 40 hours and being paid for 40 hours a therapist may work 50 hours in a week and only get paid for 20. Cancellations are also an issue. Scheduling around someone that does not come in will take potential money out of the hands of the therapist.
  • Administrative Fees: A therapist needs an office in order to see their clients. The infamous therapist’s couch had to be paid for by someone alongside the other furniture, utilities, and rent. Those costs are ultimately picked up by the therapist and can be quite expensive. Rent or mortgages for homes can be quite costly, but rent for an office is often several times higher. Although online therapy has gone a long way toward helping reduce the costs as it allows a therapist to work from home. This is one of the reasons online therapy can be a cheaper option.
  • Insurance: In America, you can sue just about anyone for any reason and there have been countless therapists sued for various reasons over the years. Without protection, they can end up losing everything. As a result, therapists will often use liability insurance to help in the event of a lawsuit and to also help maintain their license. Insurance premiums and costs for therapist organizations can range in the hundreds or even thousands a year and is just another cost that the clients will have to help pay.

The Takeaway

There are many upfront factors that can greatly influence the cost of therapy and there are also many reasons behind the scenes as well. If you are considering therapy it’s important to know your budget and find a therapist in your price range

Although therapists often seem like a super-attentive friend that you occasionally meet up with for a long chat, they are licensed medical professionals that you hire in order to help with an issue. 

While the costs of therapy are measurable in dollars and cents, there is no way to measure the results of what therapy can provide. As a result, it’s easy to quickly dismiss therapists as overpriced — maybe even greedy — but this assumption is made without taking into account all the costs that go into running their business. 

Ultimately the cost of therapy will end up being a little bit more than the costs are of becoming a therapist. maintaining an office, secretarial, and bookkeeping services, as well as making a living. But your mental health and peace of mind? That is priceless. 


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author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings

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