How to Get Therapy for Cheap (Relatively)

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Let me just say I truly wish the government would stop allocating taxes for war and start putting all of that money to good use, for your therapy. Yours, mine, everyone’s! Now that I’ve said what I truly believe I can share more about ways one can get access to therapy when they aren’t independently wealthy.

If you have insurance you can call and explain that you have a medical necessity for therapy services and ask for a list of in-network providers. If they don’t have an in-network provider, but would reimburse you for services with an out-of-network provider you can find out exactly what they would reimburse you. You can ask what percentage they’ll reimburse you if you go out of network and get the instructions for reimbursement sent directly to you or jot them down as you discuss your insurance company’s reimbursement process. Some people also ask about how their health spending account (HSA) can help out with therapy costs. I always encourage people to get this stuff in writing or get specific instructions since things change and because I’ve seen several folks struggle with reimbursement and I have no say in or responsibility around what paperwork is submitted or what someone is reimbursed.

I’d also check with speciality clinics you may be involved in. For example, I’ve worked on rotations or in clinics supporting people with cancer, spinal cord injury, and so on and provided people therapy for short-term services or services that are covered in one way or another through the person’s clinic. If you’re part of a clinic for your overall healthcare please be sure to see if they have a therapist or psychologist who you can be referred to for therapy.

Now if you’re under insured or not insured there are some options too. My favorite option for folks who are not insured is Open Path Collective. Folks can search for a therapist currently accepting clients, register for a one-time fee of $59, and then pay weekly session fees of $30-$60. There are incredible therapists on Open Path Collective and patients can find someone who really wants to contribute to the collective and offer 1 or more sliding scale slots (which means a lower fee for you).

For clients who are BIPOC or part of other marginalized communities I strongly recommend seeking therapy scholarships. There are some therapy scholarships available that can be found at Inclusive Therapists, Black Girls Smile or funds that pay a certain amount per session such as the The Loveland Fund or Mental Health Fund. There are also individual therapists or small group practices (such as this one with slots available at $60/session) or community or training clinics that sometimes offer a therapy scholarship or lower fee options.

Things I Want You To Consider

  1. Most clinicians won’t be able to tell you how many sessions it takes to get to what you’re working toward. However, you can ask how many sessions they can provide you services at the fee they’re offering. Can they offer you eight sessions at this lower rate? Can they offer three months on their sliding scale? Try to get an idea of what capacity they have so you know how much time you have to get to the things you want to get to and so you can plan your next steps.
  2. Consider costs outside of the session to help you decide how much you’ll need to budget. For example, do you need to travel to get to session or better internet access? If so, how much is public transportation for your travels, costs of gas and parking, etc.? What other costs can you account for? What else do you need to budget in to set yourself up for success with starting or reengaging in therapy?

This is a more than frustrating process and I’m really sorry our field has all the praise of being helpful, but none of the support it needs to provide accessible, sustainable and quality mental health care for the masses. I hope the few suggestions above will be somewhat helpful with the understanding that it may take a long time and lots of “no’s” before you find someone who still has an opening or who is a good fit for your needs. If you need someone who is queer or trans affirming, uses your primary language, or fits another need it can be that much smaller of a pool to search from. Please be gentle with yourself as you search and know that there are a few supports while you seek your therapeutic fit including Trans Lifeline or 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You are so worthy of getting the care you need and desire. Wishing you a speedy and good therapeutic fit for your needs!

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