How to Negotiate Your Therapy Rate

person on the couch talking to their therapist

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There may come a time when you need to negotiate your therapy rate. Perhaps you’re seeking out care with a therapist and would love to work with them but can’t afford their full rate. Maybe you’ve been laid off and can no longer afford how much you’ve been paying your therapist. You could be losing your health insurance and need to reevaluate your out-of-pocket expenses.

If you find yourself in this situation, there is no shame in negotiating your therapy rate because doing so may be essential for receiving the mental health support you need.

Read on to learn how to negotiate how much you pay for therapy.

Therapy Is Often Expensive

Our society currently lives with an unfortunate reality ... it is very expensive to maintain our mental health.

According to Verywell Mind's 2022 Cost of Therapy Survey, the median cost of a therapy session is $178.

Amongst those surveyed, 37% had to quit therapy due to financial burdens. For those who haven’t had to quit their treatment due to finances, 49% of those surveyed admitted they were concerned about affording their therapy sessions moving forward.

While psychotherapy is a financial burden, it has also been proven to save costs in the long term. Seeking mental health care can prevent a mental health condition from accelerating, thus decreasing the overall amount of money spent on healthcare across one’s lifespan.

How to Negotiate Your Therapy Rate

Many therapists offer a sliding scale rate for a limited number of individuals. A sliding scale is a discounted fee that therapists offer to make mental health care more accessible.

It is a common practice in the mental health field, so let this ease any uncertainty you may have about asking for a reduced rate. There is an art to negotiating your rate, though.

Before reaching out to a therapist and broaching the conversation, there are a few steps to handle on your end, like setting a budget and understanding the limits of sliding scale offerings. 

Set Your Budget

It is safe to assume the majority of people would like to save money where they can, especially when it comes to healthcare. However, money is part of the therapeutic experience, and even paying a few dollars can represent the power of investing in your well-being.

Your Therapist Will Let You Know If They Can Make Accomodations

It is the ethical responsibility of a therapist to agree to a fee that works for their practice, is within the client’s stated budget, and maintains an awareness of how money can become a tool in the therapeutic experience. If a therapist is unable to do any of the above things, it is their duty to let the client know they are unable to accommodate the requested rate. 

Holding the value of paying for therapy in mind, it is important to begin by setting your budget. Take a look at your monthly finances and realistically assess how much you can afford to allocate to therapy on a monthly basis.

So, if you can afford $120, that is OK. That means you have a weekly therapy budget of $30. If you can afford $700, that means you have a weekly therapy budget of $175.

Pay Attention to When You Receive Paychecks

Be mindful of your pay dates, as well. You don’t want to have to cancel a session because you’re waiting on your paycheck. Once you’ve set your budget, you’re ready to start reaching out to therapists.

Understanding Sliding Scale

Many therapists will list their rates on their therapy directory profile, along with their sliding scale range. This can make the process of finding a therapist much easier.

Look at the Therapist's Standard Rate

In the event they have only listed their standard rate, take a look at how it sizes up to your weekly budget. If the therapist’s session fee is $150 and you have a weekly budget of $45, that is a large discrepancy and the provider may not be able to meet your budget. However, if the therapist’s fee is $100 and you have a weekly budget of $75, you may have better luck.

Always Ask

There is no harm in asking, though. If you find someone who you think would be a perfect match for you and they are quite a bit out of your price range, it is still worth reaching out to them. Even if they are unable to work with you, you can ask them for referrals to providers with a lower fee who may have a similar therapeutic approach.

Open Path Collective is a great resource for seeking out diverse sliding-scale providers. All sessions range between $30 to $60 and the directory features therapists who are committed to providing affordable care to those who need it the most.

How to Expand Your Options

While money is part of the therapeutic process, many of us may experience seasons where we simply don’t have any expendable cash. There is no shame in this, and you still deserve care.

Consider reaching out to your insurance company and ask them if they have any providers that are covered by your plan. Do a google search for any local mental health non-profits as many hire therapists-in-training and offer free services.

A Word From Verywell

Therapy is expensive, but that shouldn’t hold you back from seeking care. It can feel daunting to assess how you can afford therapy when in the midst of emotional hardship, so don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Even emailing therapists in your area for referrals can be a start.

3 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. Verywell Mind. Cost of Therapy Survey.

  2. Lazar SG. The cost-effectiveness of psychotherapy for the major psychiatric diagnoses. Psychodyn. Psychiatry. 2014;42(3):423-457. doi: 10.1521/pdps.2014.42.3.423

  3. Apostolopoulou A. The impact of the economic crisis on the private practice of counselling and psychotherapy: How much are clients and therapists ‘worth’? Eur J Psychother Couns. 2013;15(4):311-329. doi: 1080/13642537.2013.849274

By Julia Childs Heyl, MSW
Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy.