According to data gathered by Mental Health America (MHA), the prevalence of mental illnesses and suicidal ideation has been steadily increasing in the United States. However, while the need for quality healthcare appears to be rising (especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic), so are costs. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that in 2020, healthcare spending grew 9.7%, a much larger increase than 2019’s 4.3%.
Further, according to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, concern about finances is a massive cause of stress and anxiety for many United States citizens, which breeds a circular problem. People are stressed because they don’t earn enough, and although one solution to chronic stress is seeking therapy, financially concerned people are very unlikely to pay for an expensive therapist. As you can see, this can be a very difficult situation to navigate.
Every scenario is highly subjective to the individual’s experience, but not being able to afford therapy when you require quality healthcare can be a scary reality to face for both the patient and their loved ones.
How telehealth can help make therapy affordable
According to the World Health Organization, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are largely correlated with increased anxiety and other mental health concerns. However, one of the biggest benefits that has arisen is the increase in telehealth. Telehealth is the distribution of healthcare services via remote communication channels, including messaging, phoning, or video conferencing. Whilst it is a form of healthcare that has been around for decades, it has grown exponentially. McKinsey and Company found that telehealth usage increased from 11% in 2019 to 76% post-pandemic.
At the end of the day, healthcare providers also need to earn a living and pay their bills, so finding ways to reduce the cost of therapy without damaging therapists’ income is a difficult challenge to resolve - but telehealth just might be the answer. Delivering therapy remotely removes the need for overhead expenses, and therapists can save significant amounts of both time and money by implementing virtual options. This means that the cost of a therapy appointment can be reduced (even if only marginally), making it both more affordable and more accessible to patients in need.
Why do therapy appointments vary in their cost?
Before we dive into the data, let’s first take a look at the reasons behind why prices vary between different therapists and healthcare businesses. Many different factors go into pricing, but some of the most common include:
The type and length of session
This is an obvious one, but the type and length of therapy sessions that you are attending will largely influence the price. Longer sessions will be more expensive, as will those that require specialized treatments or procedures.
Experience of the therapist
It’s typical of most healthcare providers to increase their prices as they gain more years of experience. This is a trend that carries over to many different professional fields, and it is a valid process - in most cases, the more experience that a provider has, the more qualified, reputable, and reliable they are.
The specific location of the therapist clinic that you are attending will also influence the price. Some cities and states in the US have significantly higher costs of living, which means that overhead expenses (including things like rent) are higher for the therapist. The money that patients pay needs to be able to cover these types of expenses, otherwise, no healthcare business would be able to keep operating. If you live in an area that has a very high cost of living, then telehealth may be the perfect solution for you.
So how much should you be expecting to pay?
If you are reading this, then there is a chance you or a loved one are facing some challenges in your life and are looking for a qualified therapist to reach out to. Whilst there is a wide range of different factors that contribute to how a therapist sets their prices, we’ve done some data-based research and determined approximately how much you can expect to be charged.
According to a range of different US-based studies, an individual in-person therapy session is likely to cost somewhere between $150-$250. Zencare data found that the nationwide average cost of a therapy session is $182, but it is important to remember that these prices vary significantly depending on a range of different factors. On the other hand, a telehealth therapy session will probably sit somewhere between $60-$100.
Zencare gathered data in February 2022 from the private practices registered within their database and had findings pertaining to cost differentiations between states. The results showed that the following five states had the most expensive therapy fees:
- New York
- New Hampshire
Conversely, the following five states have the least expensive therapy costs:
- North Carolina
It is also important to note that therapy is billed by the session and not by the hour, which is why the type of appointment you have will influence the fee. Additionally, it is standard practice for therapists to bill their patients monthly, and many patients will have a weekly session.
Let’s say the cost of an in-person therapy session is $155. If you have one session every week, then the monthly bill for therapy will be $620. We understand that this may put a very noticeable dent in your earnings, which is why it is so difficult for some individuals to access therapy services. Nevertheless, if you approach therapy with an understanding of how much you can expect to pay, then hopefully you can plan ahead and put aside some of your earnings. Another recommended strategy when you are first attending a therapy session is to discuss finances with the therapist. You want to ensure there aren’t any hidden costs and that you are being billed the right amount.
What about insurance?
Insurance plays a very big role in whether or not people can afford therapy. Under the Affordable Health Act, all insurance policies are required to cover mental health services. However, this is not necessarily the case for therapists, who may only accept certain types of insurance. Additionally, healthcare insurance gets a little bit complicated when it comes to networks. Insurance providers usually have a certain number of healthcare businesses that are within their network, and you have to receive treatment from these practices otherwise you won’t be covered. Having an in-depth understanding of exactly what appointments, treatments, procedures, and practices your insurance covers will help to ensure you have all the relevant information and can look after your health without being compromised by unexpected costs.
Insurance and telehealth
In addition to covering therapy services, more insurance providers are beginning to cover telehealth, including Medicare. However, this isn’t the case for every single insurance policy, so you must do your research before committing to telehealth therapy. The healthcare business that you access may also have payment plans available, so if you are struggling financially, it’s a good idea to have a discussion with them and see what options they may have.
Struggling with mental health is a serious experience that can cause harm in your personal and professional life. Luckily, qualified therapists have all of the skills necessary to help guide you through managing these concerns, and it’s just a matter of finding a therapist who is accessible and affordable. However, as costs continue to increase, this process may be more difficult than it sounds. So what are your options? We think that it comes down to two things: research and communication.
Step one is to look into the available therapists near you (or virtually) and determine how much they charge for the type of therapy you are looking for.
Step two is to communicate; talk to your insurance providers and healthcare practice and determine what their coverage is and how they can help you.
Remember that therapists are there to assist you - that’s why they work in the field, and they are an invaluable resource to be used in your mental health journey.