How much is a mental health therapist
How much does therapy cost?
Depending on where you live and the level of care you’re seeking, the cost of seeing a psychologist can vary. For most parts of the U.S., one session may cost about $100 to $200. If you live in a big metro area, expect to pay more, says Gray Otis, a licensed clinical mental health counselor in Utah. “If you’re in New York City, it can be anywhere from $150 to $250 or more.”
The cost will also depend on the type of practitioner you’re seeing. While a psychologist can help you work through various mental health concerns, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can diagnose and treat mental disorders and prescribe medication, so they will typically charge more. An initial visit with a psychiatrist can set you back about $300 to $500, with additional sessions around $100 to $200.
Why does therapy cost so much?
The cost of mental health therapy goes beyond treatment of patients. While the profession requires at least a master’s degree, many therapists go on to earn doctorates, medical degrees and other specialty certifications. “There are so many expenses associated with maintaining a license, including requirements for continuing education,” Otis says.
“Of course, if you’re in practice by yourself or with others, you have business costs,” he adds, which can include things like renting an office, paying for insurance and compensating employees.
How to pay for therapy
Talk to your insurance company
Most health insurance plans are required to cover mental health services, but it can be challenging to find in-network care. If going to an out-of-network provider is your only option, find out how much your insurance company will cover, as well as any copays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs so you know exactly how much you’ll have to pay.
Ask about a sliding scale
According to Otis, some therapists choose not to accept insurance to avoid the hassle of filing claims. “If an average counselor is charging $110 an hour, they’d be lucky to get $70 from seeing the same client but as an insurance reimbursement,” he says.
If you’re planning to pay for your sessions on your own, see if your therapist works on a sliding scale. If they do, they might reduce your fee based on your income and expenses. Another option is to propose a per-session fee to try and find an arrangement that works for both you and your therapist.
Look to your employer
If you have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), consider a health savings account (HSA) to help cover the cost of therapy. This type of account allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars that can be used to cover qualified medical expenses, which may include mental health services. Another option is an employer-sponsored flexible spending account (FSA), which can also reduce your out-of-pocket costs for therapy and lower your taxable income. Just remember that the funds in an FSA typically must be spent each year, whereas HSA money can stay in the account to grow over time (although you must have an HDHP to continue contributing to it).
You may also want to contact your HR department to see if your company offers an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), which provides confidential mental health counseling for employees.
Consider online options
Online therapy has grown in popularity, and some therapists offer a discount for virtual sessions. If not, a teletherapy platform can also be a more cost-effective solution. Some services offer monthly subscriptions that may be less than the cost of an in-office visit.
Illustration by Brittany England
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How we chose
To narrow down our list of the best affordable therapy options, we took a few factors into account:
- Accessibility: Some affordable therapy platforms are available online, allowing users to talk to their counselor from the comfort of their home. However, this isn’t the most accessible option for everyone, so we made sure to include an array of directories, apps, support groups, and more.
- Mental health expertise: Each platform, site, and app on our list is guided by folks who are well-versed and trained to offer mental health assistance.
- Medical review: Our team of medical experts carefully vetted each option in our roundup, and a mental health professional from Healthline’s Medical Network reviewed this article to provide insights, offer advice, and verify that all information is correct.
Comparison chart of the best affordable therapy
CostHighlightsWho it’s best forFindTreatment.govfreegreat for finding addiction treatmentpeople who are in active recoveryOpen Path Psychotherapy Collective$30–$80 per sessiona good choice for finding sliding scale therapistspeople who want to speak with an affordable therapist in person or onlineTalkspace$69–$129 per weekcan help you find a therapist to meet with from homepeople who want to develop a long-term relationship with a teletherapistBetterHelp$60–$90 per weekoffers financial aidpeople who are interested in affordable teletherapyMental Health Americafreehelps people find support groupspeople looking for a support group to attend in person or virtuallyOnline-Therapy.com$39.95–$79.95 per weekprovides resources outside of therapy appointmentspeople interested in using or learning about CBTAmwell$99–$129 per sessionyou can meet with a therapist and a psychiatrist via the platformpeople who want an all-in-one platform for teletherapy and medication management
Other affordable mental health care and therapy options
You can find free or low cost therapy in a number of different places. The following list includes resources for one-on-one appointments, group therapy, online offerings, and more.
Sliding-scale therapists are psychotherapists, psychologists, and social workers who adjust their hourly fee to make therapy more affordable for the client.
Finding this type of therapist may be a good option if you need to pay out of pocket for counseling or if your insurance provider doesn’t offer referrals to specialists.
All mental health professionals are trained to treat general conditions — like anxiety, depression, and adjustment disorders — but not all specialize in treating other conditions, like postpartum depression, complicated grief, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
People seeking help for these types of conditions may benefit from finding a specialist who will slide their scale.
Free or low-income mental health services
If you don’t have health insurance, and you can’t pay out of pocket for mental health care, low-fee or free community mental health clinics can provide the care you need.
These clinics are staffed by psychotherapists and psychologists but often use student psychologists, student mental health counselors, and student social workers who are supervised by licensed, experienced professionals. Services are often provided at no cost or at a remarkably reduced rate.
At the clinics, mental health professionals offer a variety of services, including individual and family counseling, medication management, and substance use disorder counseling. They’re also trained to treat a wide range of psychological conditions, like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
To find a clinic in your local area, contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine or go to MentalHealth.gov. Your primary care physician can also provide recommendations in your community.
Local colleges and universities
Many colleges and universities with mental health practitioner programs may have clinicians-in-training that offer reduced rates. These clinics are usually open to the public, and they offer sliding scales fees that can be as low as $1.
These graduate students are working under the supervision of experienced professionals, so there’s nothing to be wary of. Plus, because they have a limited caseload, they’re likely to spend more time thinking about how to help you.
Some colleges may even have licensed professionals with a master’s or doctoral degree who offer free, time-limited, short-term counseling.
Find an in-network professional
If you have health insurance, call your insurance provider to find out whether they cover mental health services. If they do, ask for the contact information of local service providers who accept your insurance plan.
Many online therapy services take insurance, but it’s important to double-check and ask if everything is covered or if there are copay and deductible amounts.
If you need support for a specific condition, ask for professionals who treat that condition. Your insurance plan may allow you to work with a mental health expert who’s out of network, but at a higher cost.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
Your employer may offer therapy services for free through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This voluntary program is set up by workplaces to provide a number of confidential services, like assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and even follow-up help, for free or a reduced cost.
These services are intended to help with any issue that affects your mental or emotional health and, therefore, your work performance. This may include things like:
- alcohol or substance use
- psychological disorders, like anxiety and depression
- other family issues
Services may be internal (offered onsite at your company) or external (referrals to help in the local community). To find out what services are available where you work, contact your human resources department.
Free therapy may also be available in your local community. Finding it may take a little digging. Places like community centers, hospitals, and schools may run free programs, like support groups. Local places of worship — churches, synagogues, temples, etc. — are resources where you might find these types of programs as well.
Contact these organizations directly for more information or look for flyers or online advertisements. You may even hear of these programs by word of mouth or through a healthcare professional.
Publicly funded state-run services may be another option for free or low cost therapy. If you qualify, you will have access to certain professionals that participate in your state’s program. Contact your state’s department of mental health for more information.
Crisis and suicide prevention hotlines
Mental health emergencies — like suicidal thoughts, sexual assault, and domestic violence — require immediate care and attention.
If these crises arise, hotlines can be called at any hour of the day. These hotlines are staffed by trained volunteers and professionals who provide emotional support and can connect you with assistance.
If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
- Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- Stay with the person until help arrives.
- Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
- Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Other mental health resources
We’re here to help. Explore our evidence-driven reviews of top providers, products, and more to support your physical and emotional well-being.
How do I know if my insurance covers therapy?
If you have health insurance, there’s a chance your plan may cover some or all therapy costs.
To find out if your insurance covers therapy or mental health care, log into your plan’s website, which should contain information about your coverage. You can also call your insurance company or even chat with your company’s HR department.
If you find a therapist you want to talk with, you can also ask if they accept your insurance.
How to choose a therapist
Even if you find a platform or mental health professional in your budget, they might not be the best fit for you.
It’s important to know this is completely OK and actually quite normal. It can take some time to find someone who is a great match for you, whether that means they:
- are familiar with LGBTQIA+ issues
- are a Person of Color
- speak multiple languages
- have different specialties, such as couples therapy and counseling, trauma processing, or grief counseling
You’ll know your therapist is a good match when they consistently make you feel comfortable and welcomed.
If you don’t think they’re a good match, communicate that to them by asking them not to schedule another appointment. This can be done face-to-face or over a text, call, or email.
Find more tips on how to pick a therapist here.
Frequently asked questions about affordable therapy
How can I afford to see a therapist?
If you want or need to talk with a mental health professional but are worried about being able to afford it, you do have options.
Low cost therapy may be available through social services, nonprofits, and universities, while some platforms offer financial aid or sliding scales.
If you’ve found a therapist you’d like to start seeing, you can contact them to see whether they accept your health insurance. Some of these costs may be covered through your insurance.
How much is therapy in the United States without insurance?
The average cost of therapy largely depends on the counselor, how often and long your sessions are, and where you’re located.
Generally speaking, an hour-long therapy session can cost anywhere from $65 to $250.
How often should you see a therapist?
The frequency of your therapy appointments depends on your goals, why you’re in counseling, and what your therapist thinks.
You may see your therapist once a week, biweekly, or even once a month, but you can always talk with them about increasing or decreasing the frequency of your appointments.
Finding low cost mental health professionals can be a challenge at first, but there are plenty of resources available. Remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and it shouldn’t have to take a toll on your finances.
If you need help right away, consider looking for a support group or calling your local university. If you have a digital device and an internet connection, telehealth services may also be available to you.
Choosing the right mental health professional doesn’t have to be expensive, and the benefits of having support will be well worth it in the long run.
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Juli Fraga is a licensed psychologist based in San Francisco, California. She graduated with a PsyD from the University of Northern Colorado and attended a postdoctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley. Passionate about women’s health, she approaches all her sessions with warmth, honesty, and compassion. See what she’s up to on Twitter.