February 1, 2021

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Caitlin Harper

How To Create A Budget For Therapy

When times are tight, dedicating money to something like therapy can seem like a luxury. But you are your most important resource, and therapy is an investment in yourself. While affordability is often the most frequent reason people give for not seeking mental health treatment, therapy can help you learn skills and coping mechanisms that you can use to nurture your mental health and wellbeing for the rest of your life. So how can we budget for therapy and get the mental health care we need?

When times are tight, dedicating money to something like therapy can seem like a luxury. But you are your most important resource, and therapy is an investment in yourself. While affordability is often the most frequent reason people give for not seeking mental health treatment, therapy can help you learn skills and coping mechanisms that you can use to nurture your mental health and wellbeing for the rest of your life. So how can we budget for therapy and get the mental health care we need?

How much does therapy cost?

Like any investment, therapy calls for a financial and emotional commitment. Practitioners who work with MyWellbeing offer therapy at rates between $80 to $300 per session and the average cost of a therapy session in NYC is $150 to $200 per session.

Many insurance companies don’t often support therapists’ diagnoses or don’t provide adequate mental health coverage under their plans. Therapists also often can’t afford to accept insurance, meaning most of their clients have to pay completely out-of-pocket.

It’s easy to write therapy off as “too expensive,” but when we start to break down the hard costs, we’ll begin to see how we’ll be able to invest in ourselves.

How long will I be in therapy?

At a minimum, we suggest that you plan to be in therapy for 3 to 6 months, or at least 12 sessions, and many people will want to commit 6 months to a year. Some people engage in therapy for many years. Other people go to therapy, leave therapy, and return to therapy at different points all throughout their life. Not only does it take time to get the hang of new things, you will also want to give yourself and your therapist time to create a strong therapeutic bond.

What is your budget?

Do you know how much you spend on utilities per month? Food? Subscriptions? If you don’t know what you already spend versus what you earn, it can be hard to determine how much more you can spend on something like therapy.

Whether you opt for a classic budget, tracking all of your expenses and income, or separate your spending into buckets, taking the time to create a budget can help you reorganize your finances, prioritize spending, and manage debt, thus allowing you to make progress toward your long-term financial goals—like going to therapy.

How much can you spend on therapy?

Once you get a better idea of what you’re spending overall, you’ll be able to figure out how much you’re able to spend on therapy. If you realize you already have enough, that’s great. If there isn’t room in the budget right now, see what else you can do. Is there something you can cut out? Is there an amount you can begin to set aside every week? We know how much therapy costs and you have an idea of the time commitment you’d like to start out with, so see where there is room in the budget for this investment.

Taking care of your mental health is like preventative brain maintenance that can help keep issues from growing into more serious—and expensive—problems down the line. And research shows that alleviating psychological distress through psychological therapy could be at least 32 times more cost effective than financial compensation—that’s right, therapy will make you happier than money will.

We tend to spend money on things we value. If you value therapy and getting mental health treatment, you’ll feel more comfortable spending money on it. If you have enough in your budget to pay the full cost out of pocket, you’re ready to go! If not, there are a few things you can do.

Figure out if your insurance will help cover the cost of therapy

Call your insurance company to learn the specifics of your plan and coverage (this information is free, private, and will not affect your rates). Ask your insurance provider:

  • What is your copay for mental health? This is what you would pay a therapist per session if they accept your insurance plan in-network. Copays hover around $20 per session; some more, some less.
  • What are your out-of-network benefits? Often, insurance plans will reimburse you a percentage of your monthly session fees. Through this method, you may see a therapist who accepts out-of-pocket payment and file with your insurance company to receive a percentage of what you paid back to you monthly.

Insurance is complicated and can be scary to deal with. If you need more of a breakdown, we’ve got you covered.

Ask your therapist if they have a sliding scale fee

During your phone consultation with a potential therapist, ask if they have a sliding scale fee, which means they’re willing to treat patients who couldn’t otherwise afford it for a lower rate. Talking about money or negotiating rates can be intimidating, so try to be upfront with the therapist about what you can afford per weekly session by going back to the budget you made, taking the monthly amount you set aside for therapy, and dividing by four. The therapist will tell you if that fee is too low for them and be able to clarify their range, then you can see if you’re still able to make it work.

Seek out lower-cost alternatives

If therapy still seems out of your budget, there are lower-cost options available. Community mental health clinics typically have lower fees and accept all types of insurance, while training institutes can match you with a mental health intern who can provide therapy at a reduced rate or even free of charge under the supervision of an experienced professional while they work towards their licensure.

You can also try group psychotherapy, a special form of therapy in which a small number of people meet together under the guidance of a professionally trained therapist to help themselves and one another. Typically, group therapy is about half the price of individual therapy and you’ll get to meet and interact with people as the whole group learns to work on shared problems.

However you decide to seek therapy is up to you and depends on many factors, including your budget

By understanding how much therapy costs, where there is room in your budget to pay for it, and how to make a plan to get started, you’ll be on your way to getting the mental health care you deserve.

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About the author

Caitlin is MyWellbeing's Content Lead, a writer, speaker, communication coach, and the founder of Commcoterie, a communication consultancy. She teaches teams how to use professional coaching communication techniques in their everyday conversations, helps leaders engage their teams with effective and inclusive communication, and partners with service providers to activate their programs and offerings with their own clients through inspiring communication strategies. Find out more, including how to work with her, at www.commcoterie.com.

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