Affordable Therapy Options
I’ve made no secret about how therapy has significantly impacted my life for the better. That being said, I also understand the privilege that has allowed me to make that statement: I’m covered under my husband’s health insurance policy and although my therapist is out of network, I’m able to pay cash for my visits and submit them to my insurance for a lower reimbursal than if she was in network. It’s easy to preach the importance of therapy when you aren’t faced with as many barriers as someone else.
Because I think therapy is so important and I understand how costly it can be if you are uninsured (think roughly $100-$250 per session), I wanted to create a resource of more affordable therapy options. Some I know of because of my own experience, but in order to get a more comprehensive picture, I enlisted the help of Dr. Ashlee Reed, Psy.D. She was able to provide even more options that I hope you will find helpful.
On a personal note, I know that when you are suffering, jumping through more hoops to find therapy you can afford is the last thing you want, or may be able, to do. If you can, do these things before you find yourself in crisis mode because I promise that even when you are feeling fine, there are things you can work on. Don’t wait until the last minute to find help.
Research your insurance
Either call or research your insurance plan online. There will be information about which providers are in network vs. out of network. There can be a lot of information online which may seem overwhelming, so if you’re looking for a more concise answer, calling and talking to a representative about your specific plan may get you more details, sooner.
Academic and hospital counseling centers
If you live near an educational institution that has graduate programs in psychology, look online or call to ask about counseling centers. “They are likely to have masters level clinicians as well as therapists in training who are being supervised by doctoral-level psychologists. Often, you are able to apply for sliding scale, low cost/no cost, or be on a payment plan,” says Reed.
Alternatively, you can also reach out to the behavioral health department of local hospitals to inquire about low/no cost options.
Community mental health centers
In 1963, President Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, which was an act to provide federal funding for community mental health centers and research facilities in the United States. Initially meant to help those people with mental illnesses who were being held in institutions and hospitals return back their communities, the broader implication today is that mental health care is provided to low-income populations who otherwise may not be able to afford it. To find a center near you, search online for “community mental health center” or look at your state government website for the Department of Human Services or Department of Public Health.
Local support groups
In addition to therapy, I credit my initial and continued addiction recovery to local support groups (think Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc.). These are FREE groups and you can likely choose from tons of different topics to meet your needs. These do not have to be 12-step-specific groups and you can find a variety of approaches to help.
For specific mental illness issues, I would highly suggest doing some research on the National Alliance on Mental Illness website. In addition to TONS of information, you can also look up free support groups in your area.
From their website: NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group is a free, peer-led support group for any adult who has experienced symptoms of a mental health condition. You will gain insight from hearing the challenges and successes of others, and the groups are led by trained leaders who’ve been there.
NAMI’s support groups are unique because they follow a structured model to ensure you and others in the group have an opportunity to be heard and to get what you need.
- Free of cost to participants
- Designed for adults (18+) with mental health conditions
- Led by people with mental health conditions
- 90 minutes long and meets weekly, every other week or monthly (varies by location)
- No specific medical therapy or treatment is endorsed
If you know of a particular therapist or practice that you want to work with, reach out and explain your financial situation. Many times clinicians can offer lower self-pay rates if not going through insurance. Some have a certain number of pro bono clients they can see and some can offer payment plans. Although you may think that more expensive is better, Reed advises not to jump into something that’s not financially sustainable. “Do not stretch yourself and start going to a therapist you cannot afford thinking that one or two sessions will be sufficient. Therapy does not work that way and it would be a waste of your time and resources. Find one that you feel you can sustain and continue the work with.”
In my own experience, it became pretty costly for Neil and I both to attend individual therapy as well as couples therapy a few years ago, so we talked to them and were able to pay a discounted rate.
Your mental health is important. Even if you don’t live with a mental illness, things like work stress, relationships, finances, and every day life issues play a part in your overall well-being. See if you can re-prioritize your current situation in order to make room for therapy. If you’re avoiding emotions by frequently spending money at bars or out with friends, take a step back and ask if that money might be better spent learning how to stop avoiding.
A final note from Reed stresses the importance of making your mental health a priority. “It is not always easy and convenient. Can you cut corners in another aspect of your life to be able to make going to see a therapist a possibility? Certainly you should never be deciding between basic necessities (e.g., rent, groceries, etc.) and going to see someone. However, maybe you can make a point to eat out less, get fewer coffees throughout the week, or budget to be able to accommodate an extra expense. Personally, I have never regretted making that investment for myself.”
If you have any other additions to this list, please feel free to drop them in the comments below.