6 Tips to Help You Pay for Therapy

Rattan chair by a window

So you realize that it’s time for you to start therapy (which is a huge step in itself!). But you realize that you have no idea how you’ll pay for it. Seriously, you don’t even have a good idea of what it’ll cost. 

To help you out, I’m going to break things down in a way that’ll help you figure out how to budget for therapy sessions. Because starting therapy is already intimidating enough, who needs to also stress about the finances!

1. Get to know & understand any internal barriers you have about money.

I would never suggest someone spend outside of their means. So if you genuinely can’t afford therapy, this advice may not completely apply to you.

But for some of us, an unwillingness to pay for something we need can be a sign that we undervalue ourselves. Unwillingness to pay is inherently different than inability to pay. As you get to know your financial barriers, ask yourself about whether undervaluing your needs the primary barrier. If it is, consider a few things:

– What beliefs do I hold about myself that lead me to be unwilling to pay for something I genuinely need?

– How is undervaluing myself creating additional hurt in my life?

– Is undervaluing myself part of a larger problem… perhaps even part of the reason I should seek out therapy in the first place?

– Could showing myself value — through budgeting for my mental health — be the first step in improving my relationship with myself?

2. Figure out what you can realistically afford before picking out your therapist.

When my spouse and I starting looking to buy a home a few years ago, I was  SO ready to find our dream house. And I sure didn’t want to be slowed down by all the *boring* loan approval processes and budgeting sessions. But sure enough, it was vital to know and understand what we could realistically commit to financially. And in hindsight, I’m so glad that I didn’t fall in love with a home that wasn’t in our budget because that would’ve come with so much disappointment.

In the same way, you don’t want to metaphorically fall in love with the idea of working with a specific therapist until you have an idea of what your monthly budget for therapy is. Imagine how awful it would be if you’re on the phone with a therapist who you’ve followed for ages and you’re 100% sold on working with her until she tells you her fee is $225 a session, but you really can only afford around $150 a session! Know your budget before you schedule consult calls.

3. Get familiar with what's standard for therapy.

It’s pretty standard that therapists ask you to start off with weekly sessions. Then, you can gain momentum and progress, which means less frequent sessions would be ideal. The clients I work with typically move down to bi-weekly, then once-a-month before tapering off completely. But… there’s not a good way to tell before you get started when or how long it’ll take until you’d be given that green light to reduce session frequency.

So, it’s fairly safe to assume that you will need to account for weekly sessions as part of your monthly budget for a number of months (Again, not a perfect science, so it’s tough to be more specific than that!).

Here’s where I’d also suggest that ask around & do research to get an idea of what therapy costs in your area. A trend I’ve noticed on this topic is that cities that cost more to live in will typically have higher therapy rates. Kinda makes sense since therapists have to pay for office space, their own cost of living, etc.

4. Always ask therapists about sliding scale and/or reduced rate opportunities if you have a genuine need.

Be upfront in telling any potential therapists what you can realistically afford. Many offer a certain number of income-based or needs-based opportunities. Not all therapists offer this but the worst someone can say is no. Plus, plenty of therapists who don’t offer reduced rate options know of other therapists who may… So seriously, ask.

5. Ask around for interns.

While in grad school, interns are required to see clients for hundreds of hours in order to graduate. They can’t get paid for those hours, so the only costs are overhead costs, which means they are usually reduced.

Some people get hesitant when the word “intern” is used. But, interns are currently in graduate school. That means they’ve been taught the most current methods. And it’s freshest in their minds. Plus, they’re required to have their work overseen by two seasoned therapists: their university’s clinical therapy professor and the therapist at the practice where they’re providing counseling. It’s basically a three-for-one deal. Who doesn’t love that?!

6. Seek out community resources where free or reduced-fee counseling is offered.

There are probably some opportunities for free or reduced-fee counseling in your area. It may take a little research or asking around, but here are some good places to consider: local universities, community mental health centers, non-profits that serve populations you may be a part of (think non-profits that support LGBTQ+ individuals, victims of sexual assault, etc.), or faith-based centers such as churches. Many of these places may have their own local connections to therapists or provide low-cost therapy services to its members and/or surrounding populations.

Black text on a tan background: 6 Tips to Help You Pay for Therapy

Now that you know how to budget for therapy...

Now that you know how to budget for therapy, there’s no excuse to not embark on your healing journey. However, I know that some of you may not have the resources to currently start that journey. So, if that’s you, be sure to check out my resource page where you can find free downloadable worksheets and tools that can support your mental health in the mean time.

Or maybe you’re ready to start working with a therapist. I offer in-person and online sessions for anyone who’s in Tennessee, and I’d love to chat. But if you live out-of-state, I recommend checking out Therapy Den to find a therapist in your area.

The contents of the Allie Shivener Counseling website, such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained on the site (“content”) are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Allie Shivener Counseling website.

A more meaningful life
is closer than you realize
And it’s worth pursuing

© Allie Shivener Counseling LLC 2021 | All rights reserved.