There’s no denying therapy is a huge financial burden: Affordability was the number one reason people avoid mental health services according to a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Depending on where you live and what kind of insurance you have, the price can be upwards of $80 to $200 for one 45- to 60-minute session.
But here’s the truth: Therapy doesn’t have to be expensive in order to work. There are multiple options to get the help and treatment you deserve — and getting that help is crucial.
“Mental illnesses do not just ‘go away’ on their own, and they usually do not get better over time without treatment,” Leslie Swanson, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, told The Huffington Post. “One of the major benefits of therapy is that you will learn skills that you can use to manage your mental health and well-being throughout your life.”
Below are just a few ways Swanson says you can fit therapy into your budget.
1. Try sliding scale therapy.
One of the most common ways to slash costs is to see a therapist who will do what’s called sliding scale therapy, in which the price per session is essentially negotiable based on your current income.
Swanson advises asking a therapist if they have low-cost services during your initial session or when you call to set up an appointment. You can also do some research to find an organization, such as a psychotherapy training program, that offers sliding scale payment options forthright.
2. Look into university counseling centers.
Some colleges offer mental health clinics that serve the community, Swanson said. These programs are usually staffed by graduate students who are in psychotherapy training and supervised by licensed mental health professionals.
“One advantage of these clinics is that because they are training clinics, they are likely to offer evidence-based psychotherapy, with some clinics utilizing more cutting-edge therapies than what is available in the community,” Swanson said.
These centers are sometimes free for current students and may be a low-cost option for those who don’t attend the school.
3. Research free therapy options.
Swanson says a free session is rare, but it does happen. “Some psychotherapists in private practice offer pro bono therapy or sliding scale fees for a proportion of their caseload,” she explained. Like with all treatment options, research is important. It never hurts to ask.
4. Look into participating in research studies.
“Participating in a research study is another way to receive psychotherapy for free, although in some cases the treatment being tested may be new and not yet evidence-based,” Swanson said. This means unproven methods may be used during your session, as opposed to well-known techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy.
To find potential research studies in your area, head to clinicaltrials.gov.
5. Go to a community-based organization.
Mental health is important to the structure of a community, so nonprofits or religious groups may offer affordable sessions for people who are seeking help.
“In some communities, organizations such as Catholic Social Services or Jewish Family Services provide non-faith-based, sliding scale psychotherapy services to the community at large, regardless of religious affiliation,” Swanson explained.
6. Try group therapy.
“Group therapy can sometimes be less expensive than individual therapy, because the cost is spread out amongst the group members,” Swanson said. If you don’t mind talking in a group setting in addition to seeking treatment, group therapy may be the best, affordable option.
7. Look into an online program.
Believe it or not, online mental health programs can have real benefits.
Virtual sessions typically employ cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, which is one of the most effective forms of talk treatment. While online options should not be used as a substitute for in-person treatment, they can complement other therapies, reducing overall cost.
Ultimately, it’s vital to chat with a medical professional about the best course of action for you. What’s important is that you’re taking steps to better your mental health, Swanson said.
“Mental illnesses are the same as physical illnesses. No one chooses to have depression — or anxiety, or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia — just as no one chooses to have cancer,” she explained. “Fortunately, we have very good treatments for mental health conditions that enable individuals with mental illness to receive relief from their symptoms.”