The demand for mental health services continues to grow, with the American Psychological Association reporting that treatments for anxiety and depression have increased since 2020.
What hasn’t improved so much is accessibility, as costs continue to be a major barrier for many Americans: One study found that 58 percent of respondents worried about affording treatment or medication for their mental health, and 43 percent said they have skipped appointments to save money.
But how much does therapy cost? Here’s what you can expect to pay for therapy, along with some helpful tips for bringing down your out-of-pocket costs.
How much does therapy cost?
Depending on where you live and the level of care you’re seeking, the cost of seeing a psychologist can vary. For most parts of the U.S., one session may cost about $100 to $200. If you live in a big metro area, expect to pay more, says Gray Otis, a licensed clinical mental health counselor in Utah. “If you’re in New York City, it can be anywhere from $150 to $250 or more."
The cost will also depend on the type of practitioner you’re seeing. While a psychologist can help you work through various mental health concerns, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can diagnose and treat mental disorders and prescribe medication, so they will typically charge more. An initial visit with a psychiatrist can set you back about $300 to $500, with additional sessions around $100 to $200.
Why does therapy cost so much?
The cost of mental health therapy goes beyond treatment of patients. While the profession requires at least a master’s degree, many therapists go on to earn doctorates, medical degrees and other specialty certifications. “There are so many expenses associated with maintaining a license, including requirements for continuing education,” Otis says.
“Of course, if you’re in practice by yourself or with others, you have business costs,” he adds, which can include things like renting an office, paying for insurance and compensating employees.
How to pay for therapy
Talk to your insurance company
Most health insurance plans are required to cover mental health services, but it can be challenging to find in-network care. If going to an out-of-network provider is your only option, find out how much your insurance company will cover, as well as any copays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs so you know exactly how much you’ll have to pay.
Ask about a sliding scale
According to Otis, some therapists choose not to accept insurance to avoid the hassle of filing claims. “If an average counselor is charging $110 an hour, they’d be lucky to get $70 from seeing the same client but as an insurance reimbursement,” he says.
If you’re planning to pay for your sessions on your own, see if your therapist works on a sliding scale. If they do, they might reduce your fee based on your income and expenses. Another option is to propose a per-session fee to try and find an arrangement that works for both you and your therapist.
Look to your employer
If you have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), consider a health savings account (HSA) to help cover the cost of therapy. This type of account allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars that can be used to cover qualified medical expenses, which may include mental health services. Another option is an employer-sponsored flexible spending account (FSA), which can also reduce your out-of-pocket costs for therapy and lower your taxable income. Just remember that the funds in an FSA typically must be spent each year, whereas HSA money can stay in the account to grow over time (although you must have an HDHP to continue contributing to it).
You may also want to contact your HR department to see if your company offers an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), which provides confidential mental health counseling for employees.
Consider online options
Online therapy has grown in popularity, and some therapists offer a discount for virtual sessions. If not, a teletherapy platform can also be a more cost-effective solution. Some services, including Rethink My Therapy and BetterHelp, offer monthly subscriptions that may be less than the cost of an in-office visit.