The Cost of Therapy

Your anxiety can spike just by checking your bank account or thinking about an upcoming bill, even if your rent is covered with a little left over. Then the idea of paying for therapy when you’re already worried feels like an extra kick to the gut.

Personally, I’ve been through times when I am pinching pennies to pay bills. But I’ve found that fear of not having enough still dogging me when my expenses are covered. I’ve struggled with malicious negative thought loops that sounds like Mean Girls. They get especially nasty about money.

Living paycheck-to-paycheck is truly difficult. But many of us also have guilt about spending and worry about money, feelings that don’t go away once the bills are covered. Even if the savings account has some padding.

But for me, and many other people I’ve met, this kick-in-the-gut feeling about the cost of therapy is actually two problems.

1. Understanding the cost and working with insurance is difficult and frustrating, especially if you’re already overwhelmed.

2. Thinking about money can instantly fill you with feelings of shame or anxiety.

For me, I have to start by understanding the dollars and insurance stuff, then separate out any anxieties about those costs. But for both, I found it helps to ask for help.

How much does therapy cost?

The truth about the cost of therapy is that it ranges. It depends on several factors. That’s okay. It’s good. It means you have options.

I put a short list at the bottom with more information about these options. If you’re struggling, there is also a link for resources and organizations that offer free or low-cost help.

The best way to find what it will cost for you: start by asking your insurance and several therapists. This takes some time and effort, but phone calls don’t cost you otherwise.

For health insurance, you can have in-network or out-of-network benefits. Sometimes they work out to be pretty close in price, but you have to ask your insurance some questions to discover these options. There’s more about talking with your insurance company, especially about out-of-network benefits, in the links below.

When you talk with therapists, you can ask about in-network, out-of-network, self-pay, and sliding scales. This will help you understand the fees for each therapist and how you can actually afford to work with them.

Being overwhelmed or feeling guilt and anxiety about money can stop you from exploring all of your options. But reaching out to your insurance company and making introductory phone calls to therapists are crucial tools for finding a price you can afford.

Understanding the real cost of therapy

In my own experience, researching online can be an obsessive behavior that makes me more anxious. Too many options, endless information, and contradictory advice can send me deeper into negative thought loops. Making a phone call and having someone help me walk through my questions helps break that cycle.

It also helps break through any shame that I feel about money or needing to pay for therapy.

Understanding what you can afford and working through financial anxieties is easier over the phone. You don’t have to work through that on your own.

I’ve also noticed there’s a paradox. When you are stressed about money, sometimes spending for therapy ultimately eases that stress. Reducing this mental burden can also help you make better financial choices in other areas of your life.

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Therapy as an investment

It is up to you to decide if therapy is necessary or an actual splurge. There’s no magic wand that fixes anxieties instantly or makes financial worries disappear. But if you need therapy, there are resources available, regardless of your budget. There are always options.

You have to ask. Ask your insurance. Ask therapists. Ask yourself how you feel.  

I decided therapy was an investment in my future. It was the best shot I could find at having happier, brighter days ahead. I choose to see the cost as a temporary necessity and address my anxiety, including negative thoughts around money. My anxieties don’t go away, but now I’m better at managing them.

For me, when I was in the deepest anxiety and depression spiral in my life, I couldn’t afford not to go to therapy. It was absolutely worth it.

When you are truly stuck, when you’ve tried and exhausted other options, there are always places you can find help. It takes a little patience (including patience with yourself), perseverance, and asking around. You can find the help you need.

For a more comprehensive guide on how to find a therapist, click here.

More Helpful Resources:

For free or low-cost options, Psych Central has a very helpful list with resources.

Try this calculator to estimate the cost and how to reduce what you pay.

More details on out-of-network benefits.

Our guide for out-of-network benefits and reasons you might look outside your insurance network.