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Attending Therapy on a Limited Budget: An Informative Guide

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

Friends are excellent for helping you navigate everyday pressures, but sometimes issues and circumstances require more professional guidance than venting over a glass of wine can provide. However, you’re not alone if you believe that regular therapy sessions cannot fit into a tight budget. However, that’s not entirely accurate – finding affordable therapy is not impossible.

“People often only think of pricey, private therapy, but there are numerous options for seeking help when facing challenging situations and emotions,” states Theresa Nguyen, L.C.S.W., Chief Program Officer and Vice President of Research and Innovation at the nonprofit Mental Health America.

Indeed, seeing a psychologist can significantly strain your budget. However, there are actually plenty of cost-effective therapy options available, ranging from $50, $25, and even free sessions. “Money should never be the sole determinant preventing someone from seeking help,” Nguyen adds.

Here are nine ways to find affordable therapy so you can discuss your concerns with a professional.

Consult your insurance provider.

If you have insurance, there’s good news in terms of finding affordable therapy. Since the Mental Health Parity Act was enacted in 2008, all insurance plans, including those under the Affordable Care Act, offer mental health coverage. According to Nguyen, the cost of a therapy session should be the same as your co-payment for other medical appointments. The only challenge lies in the limited number of in-network therapists compared to out-of-network ones. This means that the therapists your insurance covers may have a full schedule with patients in a situation similar to yours. However, it’s worth calling the providers who only require the co-payment to inquire about their availability.

If you need immediate help, considering out-of-network therapists who accept your insurance is still a viable option. You will need to fulfill your deductible before your insurance company begins covering any costs, and even then, you may still need to pay nearly half of the expenses. Nevertheless, this discount might be sufficient to ease the burden on your bank account. If not, there are several other alternatives.

Explore your employee benefits.

The solution to affordable therapy may be hidden in your employee benefits options. Many employers provide mental health services to their employees, which may include access to telehealth platforms (more on that later), resources for mental well-being, or a designated number of mental health days off per year.

Lots of companies also possess Employee Aid Programs (EAPs) that can offer concealed guidance, amidst additional amenities, at minimal or zero expense to you.

Inquire about cash rates.

If you desire to consult with an authentic therapist immediately, you are likely seeking a professional who is not affiliated with any insurance network or who does not accept insurance at all (which is true for around 30 percent of psychologists). It is certainly worthwhile to emphasize your limited income and inquire about any more economical therapy options or alternative payment plans, suggests Nguyen. Many practices will offer a discount if you pay in cash, although it is important to note that psychologists establish their own rates. This means that if they are in high demand, their cash rate may not necessarily be the most inexpensive therapy option available.

Inquire about variable scales.

Another cost-effective therapy option if you have financial limitations is to inquire about a sliding scale. Not every therapist offers this, but some may charge, for instance, $20 per hour and balance that by charging higher rates to other clients, explains Nguyen. You can typically filter your search for therapists who offer this option on a database. If you do not wish to or are unable to search for someone with a sliding scale on your own, consider joining the Open Path Psychotherapy Collective. After paying a one-time subscription fee of $59, you will be matched with a therapist in your vicinity who will only charge between $30 and $60 per session.

Explore college services.

If you are currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate school, your university likely provides mental health services, and you will be speaking with someone who comprehends your community and your life, points out Nguyen. This is an excellent approach to obtain affordable therapy, as most of the time it is completely free.

Collaborate with a pre-licensed professional.

Opting to work with someone who has recently completed their education instead of an officially licensed psychologist or Ph.D. may have financial advantages. Pre-licensed professionals receive training under the guidance of a licensed psychologist and may charge lower fees for clients. However, Nguyen notes that this does not necessarily reflect the quality of their work. “Feeling a connection and rapport with a person is more significant than their degree,” she emphasizes. It is certainly a viable and affordable therapy option, but it is still essential to conduct research on the individual, just as you would in any other situation.

Call a warm line.

“A warm line offers a completely free, telephone-based opportunity to have a conversation with someone if you only require a couple of discussions and do not need regular therapy sessions,” explains Nguyen. These lines are typically operated by the local government and staffed by individuals who are not licensed clinicians but have received training on how to listen empathetically in order to provide clarity. You can explore this warm line database or refer to the National Alliance on Mental Illness warm line directory to find a local number.

Utilize a digital counselor.

Advancements in technology have made it even simpler to discover cost-effective therapy – inexpensive online therapy is readily available these days. “The pleasant aspect of a telehealth application is that you have significantly more control in finding someone you appreciate. It can be intimidating to terminate your relationship with a therapist face-to-face, but with the applications, you can experiment with different listeners and therapists and locate one that offers you the assistance you require,” includes Nguyen. Additionally, they are typically much more affordable than in-person therapy.

Digital therapy applications span a wide range of individuals to connect with and the sort of aid you can receive. Some, such as Talkspace or BetterHelp, pair you with a certified counselor that you can communicate with through text or video chat at any given time, any day, for a fixed monthly fee. Others, like Happy, provide “compassionate listening” services, linking you with someone who has been trained to lend a sympathetic ear as you pay, typically calculated by the minute.

Discover a digital support community.

Whatever challenge you are grappling with, odds are that someone else is enduring the same thing. That is the foundation of support groups on Facebook and mental health support community applications – essentially contemporary chatrooms for individuals struggling with anxiety, physical appearance concerns, postpartum melancholy, and virtually any other issue you can envision. “There is a bit of everything obtainable for each person, and all of a sudden you are establishing connections with individuals who genuinely sympathize and become an excellent network of support,” states Nguyen.

This might not be the most ideal cost-effective therapy alternative if you require someone to navigate an extremely complex problem alongside you, but if you have inquiries you are eager to learn but do not necessarily require immediate answers to, digital support communities can be fantastic. Plus, they are free!

Choose group therapy over individual sessions.

Nguyen states that private or public group therapy is often free of charge. These are typically peer support groups held in various ways – sometimes local mental health organizations will arrange group discussions that anyone can attend, often centered around specific topics such as depression or sexual assault; certain healthcare companies will hold, for example, strain management group talks at your workplace. Take a look at your regional Mental Health America affiliate, who can guide you to support groups in your vicinity.

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