How Much Therapy Costs (And How to Pay for It)
Working with a qualified counselor can help you better manage stress, depression and anxiety, as well as navigate major life events and transitions, cope with eating disorders and improve marriages or other relationships.
However, therapy isn’t always covered by health insurance. And even if your insurance policy does offer mental health coverage, some therapists don’t always accept insurance.
Here’s what you need to know about how much therapy costs and how to pay for it, including discussion on whether a personal loan makes sense for you.
- How much does therapy cost?
- How to pay for therapy
- Cheaper or free options for therapy
- Should you take out a loan for therapy?
- Bottom line
How much does therapy cost?
Therapy isn’t one-size-fits-all, and the cost can range quite a bit based on a few different factors. While you may just want basic talk therapy, there are many different types of therapy, and some counselors have additional training and experience that can impact their rates.
According to SimplePractice, which provides products and services to support health and wellness professionals, here are median therapy session costs across the U.S.
Factors that may affect your costs of therapy include:
- Where you live: In some cities, the median therapy session fee is $100, while in others, it’s as high as $200 without insurance
- How experienced your therapist is
- What types of training and certifications your therapist has completed
- The type of therapy you want to receive, such as traditional talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy
- Whether you do in-person therapy versus online therapy
Don’t be afraid to ask a potential therapist how much they would charge so you know what you’re getting into. You may need to call therapists to get pricing information. Know that it’s common for therapists to offer a short initial consultation for free.
How to pay for therapy
1. If you have health insurance, check your policy and see if there are any mental health benefits. If so, find out how much your copay will be. If your insurance does cover therapy, see if there are any restrictions, such as a specific number of sessions. Call your insurer if you’re having difficulty understanding your coverage.
2. Find local therapists who are in-network with your insurance. Doing so would allow you to provide your insurance at the appointment and only be responsible for a copay. Your insurer should have a feature on their website that allows you to search for in-network mental health providers in your area.
You can also search through listings of practitioners in your area on Psychology Today or NetworkTherapy.com. Both sites have a directory of therapists, many of whom list their rates, education and experience, areas of expertise and which insurance providers they accept, if any. You may need to do some individual research and call or email a therapist to confirm that they accept your insurance.
Some insurers also offer out-of-network benefits for mental health, which means they’ll reimburse you for some of your expenses when you see a provider that isn’t in-network. If that’s the case, you’ll have to pay the provider in full and submit paperwork for reimbursement. Check your insurance policy to find out whether you get out-of-network mental health benefits, and if so, how much you’ll be reimbursed.
3. If you don’t have health insurance, or if your insurance doesn’t offer any mental health coverage, you can absolutely still receive therapy. However, you’ll have to pay the therapist’s full rate out of pocket. Some therapists operate on a sliding scale, offering reduced rates for those with a lower income or without insurance coverage. In the directories mentioned above, some therapists will indicate if they offer a sliding scale.
Cheaper or free options for therapy
Therapy can be expensive even with insurance, but there are a few ways to find more affordable or even free counseling services. Here are some of the options currently out there:
- Online therapy: There are several newer online services that allow you to receive counseling services from afar via chat, phone call or video conference. These services are typically cheaper than in-person therapy without insurance. For example, BetterHelp offers online therapy sessions at $40 to $70 per week. Another service, Talkspace, has plans ranging from $65 to $99 per week.
- In-school services for students: Many colleges offer free counseling sessions on campus for students who need therapy. There might be a limit to how many free sessions you can receive, so make sure to ask your health center how many are included.
- Workplace Employee Assistance plans or programs: Some employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) as a free resource to their workers. These programs can include everything from basic legal assistance to nurse advice lines to local referrals. They also often include a limited number of free and confidential counseling sessions. If you’re not sure, ask your human resources department if this is a benefit available to you.
- Free clinics: Some cities have free clinics for those who have low incomes and can’t afford health care, including mental health services. For example, take a look at The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC) to see if they have a clinic that offers counseling in your area; they currently have 1,400 Free and Charitable Clinics around the country. There may be other local options in your city or county, so make sure to do a little research.
- Group therapy: Rather than seeking out individual therapy, consider doing group therapy, in which one or more counselors leads a group together through a session. Group therapy is less expensive than one-on-one therapy, and it has unique benefits, such as providing social support and helping you understand your own relational patterns. Some groups are for specific conditions or struggles, like eating disorders or addictions, where you’re surrounded by like-minded people you can relate to and heal with.
Should you take out a loan for therapy?
In general, you should avoid taking out a loan for therapy. But if you need therapy urgently and can’t pay for costs out of pocket, you could put your sessions on a credit card or take out a loan to cover them.
Taking out a loan is not a good long-term solution since you will have to repay the amount, plus interest if not paid in full. If you make any late payments or miss payments, it will negatively impact your credit score, which can have consequences for years to come. Getting a personal loan is a major commitment and should only be done as a last resort and if you have no other way to pay for therapy.
If you decide to take out a loan …
If you think it’s your best option to take out a loan and you need care immediately, you can easily compare and apply for a personal loan online, which is more efficient than going in person to a bank or credit union. A personal loan has the benefit of fixed monthly payments, so you know how much you’ll owe each month.
Your interest rate on your personal loan depends on your creditworthiness, so if your credit isn’t in great shape, you may not qualify for a loan or you may find the APR you receive would be unaffordable. You can get an idea of the terms you may qualify for from multiple lenders by filling out prequalification form. Doing so only requires a soft credit check, which won’t affect your score.
By shopping lenders and comparing rates and fees, you can get a better idea of your costs of taking out a loan. This can help you pick the best lender for you and minimize your long-term costs.
Therapy can be a wonderful way to process stress or difficult emotions and experiences, and in some cases, it can be lifesaving. But it can also be costly if you don’t have insurance that covers it. Taking out a loan to pay for therapy should only be a last resort, but fortunately, there are many low-cost and no-cost options available.