What do you do when you think, "I don’t have money for therapy?" The cost of therapy is a big hurdle for a lot of seekers. After all, who can afford $400+ per month? Most of us can’t even afford a random popped tire.
In this blog, we’ll show you some practical (and a few creative) ways you can afford therapy. And we’ll do you even one better: We’ll show you have to afford 6 months of therapy.
Now, you might wonder, why 6 months? Well, six months is a sweet spot. It gives you enough time to build trust with a therapist, see some real changes in your life, and set a clear, achievable goal. Plus, after half a year, you can look back, see how far you've come, and decide on your next steps.
Whether it's through special programs, smart savings, or even some unique ideas, there are ways to plan for this. So, buckle up and let's explore how you can gift yourself half a year of healing (without stressing over the price tag).
The Reddit Comment That Inspired This Post:
“I cannot figure out how anyone can afford therapy. No matter what options I look at (or at least the ones I have seen), I cannot find anything even remotely affordable. 150$+ a session? Multiple sessions a month? How can I possibly afford anything like that? That is basically car, phone, and internet combined. My health insurance is a 20% coinsurance payment, which means I need to reach my deductible... which is 1500$. Clearly I am never going to afford that, I'd never eat. Is there ANY advice out there for finding therapy that doesn't require me to take out a loan?”
Sound like you? Read on.
First off, let’s clear the air. Is therapy worth it? Like actually worth it?
We’re happy to tell you that therapy is indeed worth it, but only if:
What can you hope to achieve? Therapy helps with a ton of challenges like grief, loss, anger, shame, guilt, childhood trauma, boundaries, addiction, ADHD, motivation, and more. Therapy can help you reclaim your life!
For now, you’ll have to trust us and stay motivated. Ok, now let’s talk about hard costs.
One of the first things that might pop into your head is, "I think I need therapy but I can’t afford it" Before diving into how to afford it, let's first understand the costs involved.
Average Therapy Costs: Depending on where you live and who you see, a single therapy session can cost anywhere from $60 to $200 or even more. The average cost of therapy in San Francisco is a whopping $190-360, for example.
Let's say (for the sake of this guide) that an average session costs about $100. Multiply that by four sessions in a month, and you're looking at $400 monthly. Over 6 months? That's $2,400. Seems like a lot, right? Don't worry; there are many ways to make this number more manageable. See more below.
Hidden Fees and Costs: Sometimes, there might be additional costs like initial assessments, materials, or even travel to and from the therapist's office. It's good to know these upfront so you're not caught off guard.
Frequency: Weekly therapy is our goal here so that’s what we’ll focus on. Just know that your therapist might recommend sessions twice a week initially, especially if you're dealing with more intense issues. It's something to consider when budgeting. Of course, you’ll have to decide how to proceed once you talk to your therapist.
Commitment Discounts: Some therapists offer a reduced rate if you commit to a certain number of sessions upfront. It’s worth asking if this option is available! If you’re nervous about asking, do it over email.
So, with the ballpark figure of $2,400 for 24 weekly sessions over 6 months (plus a bit extra for those unexpected costs), we have a target. Now, let’s dive into all the ways you can gather funds, save, and make this investment in yourself. And don’t worry if this already seems undoable. We get into ways to save starting now 👇
Insurance can sometimes feel like a maze. But with a bit of patience and understanding, it can be a powerful tool to help cover therapy costs. Here's how you can navigate it:
Parents’, Student, or Work Benefits: Under 26?
If you’re younger than 26, you might still be eligible to use your parents' health insurance, thanks to certain provisions. It could cover a portion or even the entirety of your therapy sessions.
Many colleges and universities offer health services, including therapy, as part of student health benefits. I actually got 3 months of free group therapy in college and it was a great introduction to therapy. Make sure to check out what your school offers.
Beyond EAPs, your regular work insurance might cover mental health support. Review your plan or have a chat with HR to see how much coverage you have.
Out-of-Network Benefits & Seeking Reimbursement:
Some therapists might not be part of your insurance network, but that doesn't mean you're out of luck. Many insurance plans offer out-of-network benefits. You pay upfront, but the insurance reimburses you a part of that amount later. It’s like getting cash back on a credit card purchase but for therapy!
Don’t feel like calling insurance? Allow Thrizer to automatically handle your reimbursement.
Haggling with Insurance:
No, it’s not like bargaining at a flea market. But sometimes, if a specific therapy or therapist is essential for your well-being, insurance might be willing to cover more costs than initially stated. It might require some paperwork and persistence, but advocating for yourself can pay off.
Some plans come with high deductibles. It means you have to spend a certain amount before insurance kicks in. If this is your situation, planning and budgeting become even more critical. Paying out of pocket for therapy is not an easy thing to swing.
When in doubt, pick up the phone. Insurance can be complicated, but customer service is there to help. Whether it’s understanding benefits, finding an in-network therapist, or figuring out reimbursement, asking questions can clear up a lot of confusion. Talking to a real human can be a great starting point for finding affordable therapy near you.
With insurance on your side, that goal of 6 months of therapy becomes more and more achievable. Up next, we'll look at more ways to make therapy fit within your budget.
You may have heard of EAPs, or maybe this is your first time coming across the term. Either way, EAPs can be a game-changer when it comes to affording therapy. Here's the scoop:
What Are EAPs?
Employee Assistance Programs, often just called EAPs, are benefits that some companies provide to their workers. They offer a range of support services, and yes, that includes therapy! The best part? These sessions are usually free for employees.
How Many Sessions Do You Get?
On average, EAPs offer anywhere from 3 to 8 sessions per issue. Let’s be optimistic and say you get 8 sessions. That’s two months of weekly therapy already covered! And on the low end, you get at least 3 sessions. Don’t skip this.
Making the Most of EAP Sessions:
These sessions are a great starting point. They allow you to dip your toes into the world of therapy, find out what works for you, and decide on your next steps. It's like a test drive for your mind.
Transitioning After EAP:
After you’ve used up your EAP sessions, you might wonder, "What next?" Some therapists might offer a discounted rate if you decide to continue with them post-EAP. It never hurts to ask. Also, by this time, you'll have a clearer idea of the kind of support you need, making it easier to seek out affordable options.
While EAPs are great, they might not cover specialized therapies or specific therapists. It's essential to check the details and see what fits best with your needs.
Remember, if you’re working for a company, it's always a good idea to check with the HR department or read through your benefits. You might find you already have access to therapy sessions and didn't even know!
Sometimes, the traditional routes just don’t cut it. When barriers pop up, it's time to get inventive with how we fund our mental health journey. Here's a mix of practical, quirky, and out-of-the-box ways to fund those essential sessions:
Your Old Couch? That sofa you've been lounging on could fetch a decent price on local selling platforms. Plus, think of the symbolic act – letting go of the old to welcome positive change.
Declutter for Dollars: Ever heard of the therapeutic effects of decluttering? Combine it with a yard sale, and you’ve got both a tidier space and some therapy cash.
Part-time Jobs: A few hours a week could accumulate enough for regular sessions. Plus, some roles might even offer therapeutic experiences. Ever tried gardening, dog-walking, or barista gigs? On a related note, Starbucks offers great mental health benefits for even part-time employees. It’s worth a shot (of espresso).
Plasma Donation: It’s not for everyone, but donating plasma can be both altruistic and financially rewarding. A few sessions on a comfy chair, and you're monetarily set for a few therapy sessions.
Financial Aid from Loved Ones: No one likes asking, but sometimes, families can surprise us. If you're comfortable, consider discussing your needs. They might be more willing to help than you think.
Trimming the Excess: We all have some discretionary spending. A few less coffees, dinners out, or online purchases could be the buffer you need for mental health support. If you need help determining which areas to cut, we recommend Ramit Sethi's best-seller I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
Remember, the path to therapy isn't always straightforward. Whether you pick one of these methods or combine several, the goal remains the same – investing in your mental well-being.
There’s only so much you can do for yourself during a mental health crisis. If the light-hearted solutions above ask too much of you, consider the following options. Once you get started, all you have to do is show up.
Now we turn to alternative and budget-friendly avenues:
Graduate Training Clinics:
Find a new/young therapist or one who is nearly graduated (some associated with universities will charge $20/hr because they need the experience.) If you can find a new clinic or a therapist that just joined a new practice, they will likely give free consultations. You can always go to the consultation and ask them for ways to make it affordable (some might lower the rate, others might alternate phone/in-person and charge less, some might have times/days that are cheaper because it's their slow time).
Sliding Scale Therapists:
Some professionals offer rates based on your income, making therapy more accessible. They adjust their fees, or "slide" them, based on what you can afford. A little research or a simple inquiry can lead you to these empathetic souls.
This isn’t just a cheaper option; it's a chance to share and learn from others going through similar struggles. It offers a sense of community and shared experience.
With technology's rise, online therapy platforms have sprouted up offering counseling at reduced rates. While it’s a different experience from face-to-face sessions, many find it just as beneficial. Check out the resources section below for more.
Community Health Centers:
Often funded by government or local organizations, these centers can provide mental health services at reduced rates or sometimes even free.
While not a substitute for ongoing therapy, helplines can be a vital resource in times of crisis or when you need a listening ear.
Self-Help and Peer Support:
Books, apps, online forums, and support groups can offer valuable insights and coping strategies. While they can't replace professional therapy, they can complement it or serve as interim support. Ask your local bookstore what books they recommend for your particular challenge. Remember that the best books come with exercises that you can follow for growth.
Workshops & Seminars:
Occasionally, organizations run mental well-being workshops. While not personalized, can offer valuable coping techniques and insights. Look for an event near you.
Local Religious or Non-Profit Organizations:
Some churches, synagogues, mosques, and non-profit groups offer counseling services, either free or at a very reduced cost. Even if you're not religious, they might be open to helping.
Navigating the world of therapy can be daunting, especially when funds are tight. But remember: where there’s a will, there’s often a way. And your mental well-being is worth every effort.
Now let’s move on to planning and budgeting.
Sure, money doesn’t grow on trees (if only!), but with a touch of planning and some good budgeting, you can set aside a therapy fund that ensures consistent support. Let’s break it down:
The Importance of a Budget:
If you don't have one yet, it's time to start. Track your income and expenses. This will give you a clear picture of where your money goes and where you can trim the fat. This is arguably the best starting point as it makes other actions more effective. Start here.
Identify non-essential expenses. That daily coffee-to-go or monthly subscription box might be nice, but if you prioritize therapy, some sacrifices may be in order. And that’s okay. Daily coffee and your Netflix subscription will still be there after you get help. As one online commenter put it, “I do less fun things... Like traveling, eating out, buying alcohol, etc.”
Allocating a Therapy Fund:
Once you have a clear budget, determine an amount you can set aside each week or month specifically for therapy. This creates a safety net and ensures you're always prepared for your sessions.
Planning for the Long-Term:
Remember, the goal is 6 months of consistent therapy. By calculating the total cost, you can break it down into smaller, manageable monthly or weekly savings goals.
Part-time & Side Hustles:
If cutting back isn’t enough, consider additional ways to bring in money. It could be babysitting, tutoring, freelance work, or even gig economy jobs.
Some therapists might be willing to discuss rates if they know your financial situation. It never hurts to ask.
Prioritizing Mental Health in Your Budget:
Recognize the value of mental health. Prioritizing therapy means occasionally saying no to other wants. This doesn't mean denying yourself joy, but rather making informed decisions on spending.
Life is unpredictable. An emergency fund can be a buffer. While its primary purpose isn't for therapy, it's reassuring to know that in dire times, you have a fallback.
Review & Adjust Regularly:
Your financial situation may change, as can therapy rates or insurance coverage. Regularly review and adjust your budget to ensure you're always on track.
While these steps require effort and discipline, they represent an investment in yourself. Money management is more than just numbers; it's about making choices that align with your values and well-being.
If you’ve tried all of the above options for affording, there are still a few options you can try. Check out these less-common options for getting the mental health help you need.
Therapy Animals: While getting a therapy dog (or any pet) comes with its own costs, the emotional support and joy they provide can be invaluable. Just be sure you're ready for the commitment!
Volunteering with Animals: If the responsibility of having a pet and working on your mental health is a little much right now, consider volunteering with animals. Thousands of people volunteer every year and find that working with animals is very comforting for their mental health. Look into the Humane Society for more.
Laughter & Tears at the Movies: Letting emotions flow during a hilarious or heart wrenching film can be cathartic. While not therapy, it's a short respite and a reminder of shared human experiences.
Sweat It Out: Sometimes, a good workout can offer therapeutic relief. No, it’s not a replacement for therapy, but it's a positive supplement and can carry you through a tough time.
Walking Improves Mental Health: You don’t need a well-planned fitness routine to get some therapeutic benefits from exercise. Research shows that walking increases positive mood. Try it for a week to see if you like it.
Gardening: For a “wacky” way to boost your mental health, try gardening. Gardening is cheaper than therapy. But not just that, it’s effective in it’s own right for reducing anxiety and improving mood..
Nature's Beauty: A walk in the park, a hike, or just lounging in your backyard can have therapeutic effects. Nature has a way of grounding us. Get out into nature today and see how you feel. If you’re like others, you’ll feel more hopeful after an hour in the sun (wear sunscreen though!)
DIY Spa Day: Light some candles, play soothing music, and draw a bath. A little pampering goes a long way.
It's essential to remember these are temporary distractions. While they can offer solace, seeking professional help when needed is crucial.
In your journey to access therapy, there will be hurdles. Yet, remember the profound impact that consistent mental health support can have:
Ultimately, accessing therapy requires a blend of determination, resourcefulness, and self-compassion. Remember that you're not alone in this journey, and every step taken is a stride towards a healthier mind and life.
Accessing therapy in the face of financial barriers can feel like an uphill battle. Remember, your journey is unique. Some may find the perfect therapist on a sliding scale immediately, while others might need to get creative, hustle a bit, or rely on alternative sources of emotional support before securing consistent therapy.
While the goal is 6 months of regular sessions, don't get disheartened if it takes time to get there. Every effort you make towards better mental health, whether it's reading a self-help book, attending a workshop, calling a helpline, or even just talking to a trusted friend, is a positive step.
Remember: What you do outside of therapy is just as important as what you do inside therapy. Learn to meditate or do breathwork online. Meet growth-minded friends at meetups that don’t involve alcohol.
Therapy is a tool, one of many, in your mental well-being toolkit. And remember, while the financial cost of therapy can be a hurdle, the investment in your mental health is priceless.
Below you’ll find a list of US-based resources for cheap therapy online and in-person.
Sliding Scale Therapists: Look for therapists who operate on a sliding scale by visiting directories like Open Path Psychotherapy Collective or TherapyDen. You can filter searches based on zip code and financial options.
Community Mental Health Centers: Locate a community mental health center near you through resources like the National Council for Wellbeing’s ‘Find a Provider’ tool on their website.
University Counseling Centers: Contact nearby universities with psychology graduate programs. They often have counseling centers where graduate students provide therapy under professional supervision at a reduced cost. Look for “community clinics” or “training clinics” on university websites. Alternatively, you can Google “university counseling center near me” and look at the results.
Local Support Groups: Find support groups through platforms like Meetup, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), or by checking local community centers and religious organizations.
Free Clinics: Some areas have free clinics that offer mental health services. NeedyMeds has a directory of free, low-cost, and sliding scale clinics which can be searched by state.
Government Assistance Programs: Explore if you qualify for Medicaid which can cover mental health services. Check your eligibility on the Healthcare.gov website.
State and County Health Departments: Contact your local state or county health department to inquire about mental health programs and services they offer on a sliding scale or for free.
Group Therapy: Some group practices offer lower rates with less experienced or trainee therapists.
Each of these resources and steps can help make in-person therapy more affordable. Be sure to do thorough research and contact multiple resources to get a sense of what’s available in your area.
Online Therapy Platforms: 7 Cups provides free emotional support from volunteers, with the option to pay for sessions with licensed therapists.
Low-Cost Online Counseling Services: Services like Open Path Psychotherapy Collective also offer online therapy at a reduced cost.
Free Mental Health Apps: Apps Moodkit and Headspace can provide some level of support, though they aren't a replacement for professional therapy.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) and Crisis Text Line (Text HELLO to 741741): Free, 24/7 crisis support in the US.