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    Why is Therapy So Expensive? [Simple Explanation]

    5 mins

    The average cost of therapy can range from $100 to $200 a session. Several things factor into these higher rates.

    Therapists can be compared to lawyers in terms of the amount of schooling they go through to receive a license. As such, therapists want to be compensated for the amount of training they went through in order to provide therapy services.

    Therapists also have a variety of bills to pay, on top of earning an income:

    • Student debt

    • Rent and utilities

    • Advertising costs

    • Liability insurance

    • State licensure fees

    • Certification fees

    Let’s take a closer look into what influences the pricing of a therapy session.

    School and Training

    Becoming a certified therapist is a lengthy journey, but because of this, it pays well. The salary therapists make depends on their education, training, and specialization.

    Why is therapy so expensive? People expect to be compensated appropriately for investing a lot of money into school, and it’s no different here. Many therapists have a Ph.D., which takes over a decade to acquire.

    The typical education path for therapists is:

    • Receive a bachelor’s degree (4 years of an undergraduate program)

    • Receive a master’s degree (2 to 3 years)

    • Receive a doctoral degree (5 to 8 years)

    After they obtain their Ph.D., they need to complete additional training and an internship in order to obtain a counseling license. This training requires 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised counseling to gain the appropriate experience.

    The education doesn’t stop there. Once therapists obtain a license, they still need to enroll in continued education and specialized training. 

    With all these factors in mind, it becomes understandable why therapy is so expensive.

    Bills and Miscellaneous Expenses

    Like any other business, running a clinic involves sizable costs that are factored into the price of a therapy session.

    Private therapy practices need to pay for:

    • Building rent

    • Website development

    • Accountants

    • Liability insurance

    • Marketing expenses

    • Building utilities

    All of these expenses add up. However, this isn’t even touching on the fact that running a clinic isn’t guaranteed to be a stable source of income. There is no guarantee that clients will come back for repeat sessions or even come in the first place.

    What happens if the practice goes through a period with a low volume of clients? Each therapy session has to account for this situation in its price.

    Therapists Aren’t Paid for Every Hour of Work

    When corporate workers go through a typical 40-hour workweek, their company pays them for every hour of work. On the other hand, therapists can only bill for the time they see their clients.

    Therapists find it nearly impossible to manage 40 clients a week. It would be difficult to organize their client’s information and perform various administrative duties. So think about if your company only paid you for 20 of the 40 hours you worked each week. You would have to increase your hourly pay to break even. 

    Most therapists also face many cancellations. When this happens, it means that all of the time the therapist spent preparing the session and filing paperwork has gone to waste.

    Why Don’t Some Therapists Accept Insurance?

    There are various reasons why it’s difficult to find a therapist who accepts insurance. 

    First of all, insurance coverage involves paperwork that therapists aren’t paid to complete. The time spent filing paperwork takes away from their other sessions’ time. Since most therapists operate independently (not as part of a practice of therapists), they often do not have administrative staff to help with scheduling and paperwork.

    As a result, the therapist will need to call the insurance company to validate the insurance. They’ll need to call again for payment reimbursement. As you can see, it isn’t worth it for most therapists based on time consumption alone.

    Many insurance companies also don’t cover mental health in their policies, so the therapist doesn’t receive adequate payment from the insurance company. For medical needs, they tend to expect a particular timeframe in which you will be cured. They can’t predict when someone will solve their mental health issues and so are hesitant to offer this type of coverage. 

    How to Find Affordable Therapy

    Let’s discuss a few great ways to find affordable therapy sessions.

    Check with Your Insurance Company

    Always check with your insurance provider for local therapists that may accept your insurance. Make sure to confirm with the therapist’s office that they accept your insurance, even if your insurance carrier has them listed as in-network. Sometimes the information is not always up-to-date, so it’s best to verify with the therapist to avoid unexpected costs.

    Depending on the type of insurance plan you have (and if the therapist is in-network), you may only need to provide a copay rather than pay the full price of the session.

    Determine Whether Your Employer Offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

    If your employer offers an EAP, you may qualify for a limited number of free therapy sessions.

    Call Your Local University

    Universities tend to provide low-cost or even free therapy sessions. Although inexperienced, graduate students are working under the supervision of experienced professionals and can provide you with great therapy services.

    Look into Community Resources

    Hospitals, schools, places of worship, and community centers sometimes offer free or low-cost counseling help.

    Ask Therapists About Sliding Scales

    A sliding scale means that the therapist charges based on factors like your income. So be honest with your potential therapist and discuss the rate you can afford. 

    Consider Online and App-Based Therapy Options

    Virtual therapy services are often less expensive than in-person therapy sessions. There are a variety of apps and platforms available that offer virtual therapy sessions and also allow you to chat with therapists. According to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy is nearly as effective as in-office CBT for treating anxiety.

    Some popular virtual therapy apps include Talkspace and Betterhelp, and there are a variety of other platforms available as well. Explore the different options, their pricing, and read reviews from users to see what kind of experience people have had with the apps and therapists.

    Kristina Dinabourgski
    Kristina Dinabourgski
    Has a passion for demystifying benefits 🎉
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