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The average cost of therapy in 2022

Therapist writing notes during a session
lorenzoantonucci/Getty Images
Therapist writing notes during a session
lorenzoantonucci/Getty Images
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Therapy is a complex issue within the U.S. Not only is there still a stigmatized view of therapy, but therapy costs are often a barrier to people getting the care they need. Unfortunately, the cost of therapy can vary, depending on where you live, your employer, your income and the type of therapy you receive.

Today, we’ll look at the groups that find themselves needing therapy the most, the true costs of therapy and how to make it more affordable.

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  • 20.3 percent of adults in the U.S received mental health treatment in 2020.[1]
  • 13.6 percent of children in the U.S. received therapy at some point in 2019. [2]
  • About a quarter of adults (26 percent) in the U.S. have experienced some mental illness.[3]
  • An in-therapy session typically costs $100 – $200, on average. [4]
  • Not even half of Americans get the help they need to address their mental health concerns. [5]
  • The U.S. spent $225.1 billion In 2019 on mental health services. [6]
  • Just 59 percent of psychiatrists accept private insurance. [7]
  • Almost 40 percent of adults seeking therapy need financial help to pay. [8]

What is therapy?

If you haven’t been to therapy, you might be imagining a Freudian doctor asking about your childhood problems while you lay on a couch. Therapy is like this for some, but it can take many forms, from art therapy to school counseling to one-on-one behavioral therapy with a psychologist. In general, anyone can benefit from therapy since the goal is to learn how to live a more productive, happy life with the help of a trained medical professional.

Therapy is a growing discipline. The CDC says that just over 20 percent of U.S. adults and 13 percent of U.S. children received therapy in 2020 and 2019, respectively. Using 2020 Census data, that’s an estimated 52 million adults and 3.3 million children who rely on these critical mental health services per year.

Generally, women seek out therapy more often than their male counterparts, with 24.7 percent of women receiving therapy in the past 12 months, compared with 13.4 percent of men, according to the CDC.[1] Additionally, different communities seek therapy at different rates. White adults are most likely to seek out mental health services, with 23 percent doing so. There are various reasons for this, though. With less representation of LGBTQ+, Latinx, Black and Native American communities in the mental health industry, it can be difficult for those within these communities to feel comfortable seeking help.

How much does therapy cost?

How much each therapy appointment will cost you depends on the type of therapy you need, where you live and whether or not your insurance company covers anything. On average, though, therapy costs $60-$120 per session.[4] Patients in cities will often see much higher prices than in rural communities.

Additionally, your cost will vary depending on how your specific therapist bills their patients. Typically, you’ll find a few different methods of payment:

  • By session — Many therapists require you to pay per session. Depending on how often you attend sessions, this could be a more affordable option.
  • A monthly fee — Online therapists tend to go with this model. You’ll pay a monthly fee that comes with a certain amount of sessions, texts or calls with your therapists.
  • Sliding scale payment plan — A sliding scale lets you pay based on your income. Lower incomes pay a lower per-session fee, while those with higher incomes pay more. This allows the therapist to offer sessions to a wider range of people.
  • Accepts insurance — Some insurance will cover portions of your therapy bills. Still, some therapists choose not to accept insurance.

Does insurance cover therapy?

How insurance handles mental health care is complicated. Your coverage options will largely depend on the type of insurance you have. Private insurance plans offered by private employers are not currently required to cover mental health visits.

However, plans you get through the Affordable Care Act on the health insurance marketplace are required to cover at least some of these costs[10], including behavioral health treatment, mental and behavioral health inpatient services and substance abuse treatment. The types of behavioral health services covered will depend on the plan you choose and your state.

Before making an appointment with your therapist, look at the details of your plan. If the explanation is confusing, you can contact your customer service center, which should be listed on the back of your insurance card. You’ll be able to talk with a representative who can explain the details of your plan.

Factors that impact cost

How much you’ll pay for therapy out of pocket will be determined by a variety of factors, some of which you can control, and some of which you can’t. Your cost could go down if you have insurance, or you might have to pay more if you see a specialist.

So, how much is therapy without insurance? Here’s how much certain specialists and types of therapy cost:

Type of specialist Average cost per session without health insurance
Source: Electronic Health Reporter
Psychiatrist $100-$200
Psychologist $70-$150
Counselor $50-$80
Psychotherapist $100-$300
Type of therapy Average cost per session without health insurance
Source: Electronic Health Reporter
Individual therapy $70-$150
Couples therapy $70-$250
Marriage counseling $70-$250
Group therapy $30-$80
Depression therapy $100-$200
Grief counseling $70-$150
Sex therapy $100-$200
Anger management $50-$150
Cognitive behavioral therapy $100-$200
Art therapy Free-$100

How to make therapy more affordable

Work with a therapist that offers a sliding scale

A sliding scale allows patients to pay based on their income rather than just paying a flat rate charged by the therapist. If you have a lower income, that should not prevent you from seeking a therapist, just ask ahead of time if they abide by a sliding scale and what their lower prices are.

Take advantage of HSA or FSA accounts

HSAs and FSAs are tax-free savings accounts for medical expenses, which can include therapy. While HSAs are owned by you and can be transferred from job to job, FSAs are owned by your employer.

Consider online therapy

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, online therapy has grown substantially. Not only has it become a more accessible way to access therapy, but it’s often more affordable than traditional in-person therapy. For example, the popular online therapy company BetterHelp costs $60-$90 per week. Another well-known company, Talkspace, costs $69-$129 per week. If you’re going to therapy weekly, you could stand to save with online therapy.

Online therapy appears to be a successful business, with 92 percent of respondents to a Verywell survey[11] expressing that they’re satisfied with their online experience.

Attend a support group instead

There are support groups based on many needs, including grief, loss, PTSD, depression and addiction. It’s a place for folks dealing with the same issue to talk with one another and find support in sharing their experiences. These are by no means a one-to-one replacement for therapy, since the group may not be led by a trained therapist, but support groups are often free to anyone that needs them.

Use financial resources

Using a rewards credit card to pay for therapy can help you earn cash back on every session. Of course, it’ll be a while before you earn enough to pay for an entire session, but every dollar counts. Just remember to pay your bill in full each month and avoid going into debt for therapy.

If you have already gone into debt, consider transferring your credit card balance to a card with a promotional 0 percent APR period. This can give you a limited time to pay off your balance without accruing interest.

Use free resources

When you need help, there are free apps available to you, including:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline for those facing mental or substance use disorders: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • The Trevor Project LGBTQ+ Suicide Hotline: Call, text, or chat here
  • Meditation and mindfulness apps like Calm and Headspace

The importance of visiting a therapist

It’s no secret that therapy is expensive. That’s why many people avoid facing the fact that they need help. But there’s a reason so many people choose to attend therapy sessions regularly.

For starters, one in every five adults in the U.S. experiences mental health issues, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Out of these people, not even half (46.2 percent) received the treatment they needed in 2020. And only slightly more children (50.6 percent) with mental health concerns got treatment.[12]

In general, while many people can benefit from therapy, the following people may especially want to seek help:

  • Those experiencing symptoms that affect your daily life and your ability to help yourself or your family
  • Those going through major life changes like divorce, job changes, etc
  • Those experiencing grief due to the loss of a loved one
  • Those working through challenging relationships

The bottom line

Therapy can be costly, with urban communities often paying higher prices. About 20 percent of adults have mental health diagnoses. Still, many communities, such as LGBTQ+ and minority communities, don’t seek the care they need due to stigmas and a lack of representation within the therapy profession.

As the mental health industry progresses, more affordable options are arising. An example is online therapy, which provides greater access to a much-needed service, and often at a fraction of the cost.

Frequently asked questions


Sources

[1] Mental Health Treatment Among Adults: United States, 2020. CDC.

[2] Mental Health Treatment Among Children aged 5-19, 2019. CDC.

[3] Mental Health Disorder Statistics. Johns Hopkins Medicine.

[4] How much does a psychiatrist cost? Electronic Health Reporter.

[5] Mental Health By the Numbers. National Alliance on Mental Illness.

[6] The U.S. Mental Health Market: $225.1 Billion in Spending in 2019. Open Minds.

[7] Most Office-Based Physicians Accept New Patients, Including Patients With Medicare and Private Insurance. Kaiser Family Foundation.

[8] Cost Remains Significant Barrier to Therapy Access, Verywell Mind Survey Finds. Verywell Mind.

[9] Cost Remains Significant Barrier to Therapy Access, Verywell Mind Survey Finds. Verywell Mind.

[10] Mental health & substance abuse coverage. HealthCare.gov.

[11] A Verywell Report: Americans Find Strength in Online Therapy. Verywell Mind.

[12] Mental Health By the Numbers. National Alliance on Mental Illness.


 

Written by
Christopher Murray
Contributor
Christopher Murray is a personal finance writer for a number of reputable sites including Bankrate. Six years ago, Christopher started as the single staff writer for a budding finance blog, He worked his way all the way up to Senior Editor. Ultimately, the freedom that freelance writing brings was calling and he decided to go back to writing full-time.
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