How Much Does Therapy Cost?

Woman talking to her therapist.

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People sometimes rule out therapy as an option because they think it will be unaffordable. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), only around 44.8% of people with mental illnesses receive treatment.

A report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that despite the passage of the mental health and addictions parity law in 2008, many people continue to struggle with barriers to mental health care. Most prominent among these obstacles were coverage denials by insurance providers, difficulty getting psychiatric medications, problems finding in-network providers, and high out-of-pocket costs.

While it can be expensive, the cost of therapy depends on a range of factors. There is no predetermined industry standard, so costs may vary depending on factors such as the type of therapy, the credentials of the therapist, the type of treatment, and geographic location.

Verywell Mind's Cost of Therapy Survey found that about half of Americans in therapy are concerned about their ability to pay for treatment long-term:

  • 48% say they'd have to stop sessions if costs increase
  • 38% needed financial help to pay for therapy
  • About one-third have reduced frequency or canceled therapy to save money

Cost of Therapy

The cost of therapy typically ranges somewhere between $60 and $200 per hour. However, these costs can vary considerably depending on the provider, the location, and whether the therapy is online or in person.

It can be helpful to look at what some online providers and therapists directories have to say about the costs of therapy:

  • The online therapy provider BetterHelp charges between $60 and $90 per week.
  • Psychology Today suggests that the fee for a single session with a therapy provider in the United States is usually between $100 and $200.
  • The therapist directory GoodTherapy suggests that the cost of therapy ranges between $65 per hour and $250 per hour.

You can get a better idea of what therapy might cost by visiting an online therapist directory and looking up professionals in your area. Many list their rates through these directories or on their websites.

While cost is often cited as an obstacle to treatment, research suggests that therapy is both effective and economical. A 2014 study concluded that psychotherapy is a cost-effective intervention for serious psychiatric conditions. Such treatments ultimately lead to savings in both the medical and societal costs caused by mental illness.

Why Therapy Can Be Expensive

Therapy is expensive for a number of reasons:

  • Professionals must spend years on training and experience before they can become licensed to practice.
  • Therapists have bills to pay including utilities and rent.
  • Professionals also have to pay annual fees in order to maintain their state licensure.
  • Other expenses include malpractice insurance, credit card processing fees, business advertising, and office equipment costs.

Does Insurance Cover Therapy?

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans are required to provide coverage for mental health care. The ACA also requires that insurance plans cannot impose different rules on how they fund and treat mental health care.

However, there are also important things to note:

  • Not all therapists accept insurance or they may only accept certain types of insurance.
  • Insurance may also only pay for certain types of treatment and they may only cover a certain number of sessions.
  • Even when insurance does cover mental health care, you will usually be required to pay a copay, which is a portion of the therapist fee out of pocket. These copayments can vary in price often from around $10 per visit to up to $50 or more per visit.

While the ACA helped make mental health care more affordable and accessible, many still struggle to find the care they need at a price they can afford to pay.

"In the current insurance climate in which Mental Health Parity is the law, insurers nonetheless often use their own non-research and non-clinically based medical necessity guidelines to subvert it and limit access to appropriate psychotherapeutic treatments," suggested Susan G. Lazar in a review published in the journal Psychodynamic Psychiatry. 

A 2014 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that therapists were the least likely of all health professionals to accept insurance. While 89% of other medical professionals accept insurance, only around 55% of psychiatrists do. 

Factors That Impact Cost

There are also a number of factors that can influence how much therapy costs. Some of these include:

  • Geographic location: Therapists working in large metropolitan areas such as New York City and Los Angeles generally charge more due to the higher cost of living in those areas.
  • Therapist training: Professionals with a great deal of training and experience typically charge more per hour and per session. For example, a psychiatrist in private practice with many years of experience will charge more than a social worker with a few years of experience.
  • Type of therapy: The type of treatment or the therapist specialization can also affect cost treatments that are highly specialized or challenging may be more costly.

A therapist’s or clinic's reputation can also have an influence on the price of the therapy. If a particular professional is in high demand, they may charge more per hour or per session.

How to Pay for Therapy

If you have health insurance, it is often the best way to pay for therapy treatments. You should begin by checking with your insurance provider to learn more about your coverage.

You should also request a list of in-network providers. Working with professionals who are in your insurance provider’s network will often be more affordable than going to an out-of-network provider.

If you do not have health insurance through your employer or through the exchange marketplace, check to see if you qualify for your state's Medicaid program.

If you do not have insurance and plan to pay for your therapy out-of-pocket, be sure to discuss fees as well as your treatment plan prior to beginning therapy. Your therapist should be able to give you an idea of how much it will cost and how long your treatment may take. If your budget is limited, you might focus on accomplishing a specific goal over a predetermined number of sessions.

Some therapists also offer services on a sliding-scale fee, which can vary based on your income. People with lower incomes may be able to pay a lower fee per session or per hour, which can help make treatment more affordable.

Free or Low-Cost Options

If you cannot afford therapy, there are options and resources available that may help. Some ideas to explore: 

  • Check with area colleges or universities: Many schools have clinics where students who are training to become mental health professionals work in order to obtain the training hours they need to become fully licensed. These clinics may offer free or low-cost treatment options.
  • Contact your area department of public health: Your local health department may be able to refer you to a community treatment provider or to other affordable or free services in your area.
  • Look for a sliding scale provider: Many online directories allow you to search only for providers who offer sliding scale pricing plans. You can also check the Open Path Psychotherapy Collective, which is a network of providers who offer rates between $30 and $80 per session.
  • Consider online options: Online therapy can be a great option for many reasons such as convenience and accessibility, but it can also often be more affordable than traditional in-person therapy. Some online therapy providers offer flat weekly or monthly rates.

While online therapy isn't right for everyone—such as those with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—research suggests that online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy in many cases.

A Word From Verywell

Therapy can range from very affordable to very expensive. While many people do have insurance benefits that can help pay for the cost of therapy, not everyone is covered by insurance and some providers simply don't accept this payment option. 

If you are trying to pay for the costs of therapy, start by checking with your insurance provider, searching online to see how much therapy may cost in your area, and checking out lower-cost options. Therapy is an investment that can help you improve your functioning and well-being. As you weigh the costs, also consider the value and long-term benefits of therapy.

9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Mental Health. Mental illness.

  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness. The doctor is out: continuing disparities in access to mental and physical health care.

  3. BetterHelp. Frequently asked questions.

  4. Psychology Today. Cost and insurance coverage.

  5. GoodTherapy. How much does therapy cost?

  6. Lazar SG. The cost-effectiveness of psychotherapy for the major psychiatric diagnoses. Psychodyn Psychiatry. 2014 Sep;42(3):423-57. doi: 10.1521/pdps.2014.42.3.423

  7. Mental health & substance abuse coverage.

  8. Bishop TF, Press MJ, Keyhani S, Pincus HA. Acceptance of insurance by psychiatrists and the implications for access to mental health careJAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(2):176-181. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.2862

  9. Kumar V, Sattar Y, Bseiso A, Khan S, Rutkofsky IH. The effectiveness of internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy in treatment of psychiatric disorders. Cureus. 2017;9(8):e1626. doi:10.7759/cureus.1626

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."