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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.
Therapy cost key statistics
- 21.6 percent of adults in the U.S. received mental health treatment in 2021. (CDC)
- In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, 13.6 percent of U.S. children ages five to 17 received mental health treatment. (CDC)
- About a quarter of adults (26 percent) in the U.S. suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. (John Hopkins Medicine)
- A therapy session in the U.S. typically costs between $100 to $200, on average. (Psychology Today)
- Not even half of Americans get the help they need to address their mental health concerns. (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
- The U.S. spent $280 billion on mental health services in 2020. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
- Just 59 percent of psychiatrists accept private insurance. (Kaiser Family Foundation)
- Almost 40 percent of adults seeking therapy need financial help to pay. (Verywell Mind)
What is therapy?
If you haven’t been to therapy, you might be imagining a Freudian doctor asking you about your childhood problems while you lay on a couch. Therapy is like this for some, but it can take many forms, including art therapy, school counseling, group therapy and one-on-one sessions with a counselor or psychologist, among many other types. 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 21.6 percent of U.S. adults received mental health treatment in 2021, up from 19.2 percent in 2019. And in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, 13.6 percent of U.S. children ages five to 17 received mental health treatment. Using 2020 Census data, that’s more than 50 million adults and 3 million children who have relied on these critical mental health services.
Generally, women seek out therapy more often than their male counterparts, with 28.6 percent of women receiving mental health treatment in 2021, compared with 17.8 percent of men, according to the CDC.
Additionally, different communities seek therapy at different rates. Non-Hispanic white adults are most likely to seek out mental health services, with 30.4 percent doing so in 2021. There are various reasons for this, though. With less representation of LGBTQ+, Hispanic, 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, the therapist you choose, where you live and whether or not your insurance company covers anything. On average, though, therapy costs $100 to $200 per session. 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. Most therapists require you to pay per session. Depending on how often you attend sessions, this could be a more affordable option.
- A weekly or monthly fee. Online therapists tend to go with this model. You’ll pay a weekly or 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 health insurance providers 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, 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 a 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 therapy 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|
|Type of therapy||Average cost per session without health insurance|
|Source: Electronic Health Reporter|
|Online therapy||$40-$70 per week|
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
Health saving accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (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 receive therapy, but it’s often more affordable than traditional in-person therapy. For example, the popular online therapy service BetterHelp costs $60 to $90 per week. Another well-known online therapy service, Talkspace, states that those with eligible insurance pay an average copay of $30. If you’re going to therapy weekly, you could stand to save with online therapy.
Find a support group to attend
There are support groups based on many needs, including grief, loss, PTSD, depression and addiction. It’s a place for people 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 who needs them.
Use financial resources
Using a top 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.
Use free resources
When you need help, there are free resources available to you, including:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline for those facing mental and/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 five adults in the U.S. experience mental health issues, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). And only 47.2 percent of U.S. adults received the mental health treatment they needed in 2021.
In general, while many people can benefit from therapy, the following people may especially want to seek help:
- Those experiencing symptoms that affect their daily life and their ability to help themselves or their 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
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Ideally, you’ll have a close relationship with your therapist, so you’ll want to work with someone who you truly feel comfortable with. Be sure your therapist has a license to practice in your state, and that they can offer what you’re looking for in a therapist. Within your first few meetings, you should be able to get a pretty good feel for how your relationship will go. Ask yourself: Do you feel comfortable being honest with your therapist? Do you feel like they’re listening to you? Do they give you positive feedback that helps you make positive changes?
A therapist is there to help you communicate, deal with difficult situations in your life, build positive relationships and deal with serious mental health conditions. Thus, pretty much anyone can benefit from therapy. Anyone experiencing certain feelings could especially benefit from seeing a therapist. These include feeling overwhelmed, low moods, hyper moods, avoidant behavior, changes in sleeping or eating habits or uncertainty in oneself.
This is a decision that you and your therapist will make together. How often you go depends on your specific mental health needs, the matters you’re there to address and the cost concerns you may have.
Therapists are there to help you, and anything you say is completely confidential. There’s an exception to that rule, though. If your therapist has reasonable cause to believe that you or someone else is in danger, they can involve law enforcement. Laws about this exception vary from state to state.