Finding affordable therapy is a challenge, perhaps now more than ever, given the high demand for services during and post-pandemic. Don’t give up before you get started, though! There are services, non-profits, and strategies that can be employed to help those whose budget may preclude them from paying the market rate. Sometimes, you just have to know where to look.
There is no universally agreed-upon price for therapy. Practitioners with experience or expertise in a specific condition may charge a different rate from therapists who treat a broad range of conditions, or therapists who are just starting out. Fees for a single session are often between $100 and $200 but can reach $400 or beyond. Location plays a role, too. Therapists in Manhattan, the heart of New York City, likely charge more than therapists in Manhattan, Illinois.
Since the pandemic, many therapists have moved their practices online to varying degrees. While clients may be hopeful that this would lower fees for treatment, costs are generally the same online and in-person.
Chat-based options exist and typically cost less than in-person therapy. Particularly in the last several years, many companies have emerged that offer a platform by which to communicate with a therapist, though often the communication is asynchronous, meaning that communication does not occur in real-time. These virtual therapy plans often cost in the range of $40-$60.
“Text-based therapy could work well for some people,” said Ying Wang, a psychiatrist in private practice in Pennsylvania. “But a big part of therapy is not just what clients say, but how they say it and what their body language is when they’re saying it.”
Bear in mind that, for some schools of treatment, text-based options could work better than others. “Forms of cognitive behavioral therapy that teach emotion regulation could be amenable to a chat-based app, whereas with more insight-oriented treatments, like psychodynamic therapy, it’s useful to be able to see the person and register what they’re communicating non-verbally.”
Affordable Therapy Without Insurance
One avenue clients may want to explore when looking for low-cost therapy, particularly if they don’t have health insurance or their insurance doesn’t cover mental healthcare, are non-profit organizations, which are often subsidized by private or government grants. These organizations often have a mission to provide therapy for specific groups of people or for individuals dealing with particular issues at a low cost or for free.
Karen Saporito, a clinical psychologist in private practice in New Jersey, worked at one such organization early in her career.
“These are often good places to go,” she said. “Ours focused on women and the LGBTQ community and the therapists were often very committed to the mission.”
Many of the therapists she worked with at the organization were part-time and worked in private practice to make the rest of their income, so there was a considerable waitlist for clients to get treatment.
Wang also worked in a non-profit health center earlier in her career, and notes that it was subsidized for an Asian-American population in one urban center, thus offering culturally sensitive treatment to these consumers as well. “The flip-side is that these sessions might be shorter than in private practice and the frequency might not be what one wants.”
Public health centers are another option. Many cities and municipalities offer mental healthcare at a very low cost, typically based on an individual’s income. These community centers often offer not just therapy, but a host of mental and physical health services, as well as resources to help with enrolling in public programs. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration website has a searchable database and map where individuals can find these centers.
Many universities that offer doctoral programs in psychology operate training clinics that provide mental healthcare on a sliding scale based on an individual’s income. Clients will meet with students in the doctoral programs, which are overseen by faculty members from the university. NYU, for instance, runs the Center for Counseling and Community Wellbeing. UCLA has the UCLA Psychology Clinic. According to the Counseling Psychology Training Clinic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the clinic’s training model includes “live supervision and observation of counseling sessions designed to equip clinic trainees with the skills and support necessary to provide ethical and professional psychological services to best meet the needs of each client.”
I Can’t Afford Therapy But I Need Help
Non-therapy options are abundant but often require the consumer to be more self-directed.
A quick search on the app store of any phone or tablet will result in dozens of popular services for everything from guided meditation, AI-powered chatbots, and journaling programs, to personalized coaching. Many of these apps are free, though some offer premium versions, and others have a monthly subscription cost.
“Generally speaking, these tools are great for people who may not be able or ready to seek therapy services,” explained Amber Thornton, a psychologist in private practice in Washington, D.C. “They’re not a replacement for in-person therapy but can help with the day-to-day. Many have good tips and strategies for how to understand your emotions.”
Peer support groups connected to specific issues, like alcohol abuse or grief, are typically free and open to the public. Some of these groups adhere to specific protocols, while others may have been started by someone who struggled with an issue themselves, and different groups can have different cultures.
“A lot of times, what people need is that sense of belonging, a social connection, and validation that what they’re going through is real and it matters,” explained Thornton. “While it’s not therapy, being in these groups can be therapeutic.”
For those in immediate crisis, there are several hotlines that can offer immediate interventions. The Crisis Text Line connects individuals with volunteer crisis counselors. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides free emotional support around the clock for people considering suicide or in emotional crisis.
To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.
If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, seek help immediately. For help 24/7 contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK, or the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.