When we think of therapy, we often believe that it is a luxury for those who have expendable income. Which doesn’t describe a lot of people. However, therapy is actually more affordable than you think, you just have to ask the right questions to the right people.
Now, the information that I am about to share is to educate you on what is available. It is important to note that mental health services should be as valued as a medical doctor or dentist. So, seeking low-cost services is really an option for those who need it, not for those who simply don’t find the value in the services they are receiving. Keep that in mind when talking with mental health professionals about the cost of services.
COMMUNITY AGENCIES & CLINICS
For those who are looking for low-cost services, a lot of community agencies can provide free to very low-cost services to impoverished areas.They also help to serve clients who don’t have insurance to cover the cost of services by offering a reduced fee option. They are funded through federally funded or private grants to help provide these services to help those who need it.
One of the biggest benefits of community agencies is that their services can even be done in-home or online. This helps individuals who may have a hard time getting childcare, a ride or who have tight schedules.
You can also seek services through college clinics. These services are provided by graduate students currently seeking their Masters or PhD’s. They often have a licensed supervisor to help if needed. It is a great option to receive services at a really low cost while also helping to train upcoming mental health professionals.
SLIDING SCALE OPTIONS
You can also contact private pay therapists to see if they offer a sliding scale. Many do. A lot of therapists offer a limited amount of sliding scale slots, but they are available. Some will require proof of income while others will simply have you sign an additional form acknowledging the lower fee.
There are also plenty of online databases of sliding scale therapists for you to research. Websites like Open Path Collective have a listing of professionals who are more than willing to provide a sliding scale fee to those in need. The range of fees are as low as $30 and are no more than $60 (for individual therapy).
Group therapy is also another option to get your feet wet until you are ready for one-on-one counseling. More often group counseling is offered at a lower fee and you can find groups tailored to your specific need. While the idea of sharing your issues with others can seem daunting, it can also be freeing to know that other people are having a similar experience. Having that connection can reduce the feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, which can improve your outlook overall.
WHY THERAPY HAS A COST
While the cost of therapy has increased over the years, it is simply because the cost of living has increased. Not to mention, the cost of schooling to receive the necessary degrees has increased as well. That is why it is vital to understand the importance and value of mental health professionals and the services we provide. We go through hoops to be able to receive our advanced degrees (which can amount to $60K - $150K of student loans), our licenses and certifications (which is also a financial strain) to educate ourselves on what is needed to help those with mental health stressors, and unfortunately that comes at a cost. While we do try our best to give back to communities by offering sliding scale spots, we aren’t able to provide those benefits to all of our clients. However, when our sliding scale slots fill up, we usually have referrals to send your way, so don’t hesitate to call and ask. We all want to help find you the right fit.
THE PROBLEM WITH “BIG BOX” THERAPY
Now, I know many people would be surprised that I don’t talk about the “big box” therapy options that “advocate” for mental health and its accessibility. Unfortunately, while the idea of what they provide is great, the execution is less than desired.
One of the biggest issues with “big box” therapy is the ethical and legal concerns that come up with those platforms. For one, the usage of client data is extremely important. Therapists are required to maintain confidentiality in order to protect their clients, however, with “big box” therapy client data is often sold to gain more profit. Something most people aren’t aware of, but it is listed in the fine print within the terms and conditions.
Additionally, “big box” therapy, for whatever reason, doesn’t always abide by the law and rules that govern mental health professionals. Granted, some of these laws place more obstacles for those looking for services, but they are needed in order to protect the public.
Lastly, Therapists must overwork themselves to provide services in order to pay for their most basic needs. It is like working a racehorse to the bone.
Therapists need to be able to maintain a healthy boundary for their own well-being and the well-being of their clients. So, while you may hear 40 clients a week, it isn’t a normal 40-hour workweek, especially if a therapist has high trauma clients (which is NOT suitable for an online or text platform). One client can easily be 1.5 - 2 hours of work (1 hour of session plus paperwork and administrative stuff). Therefore, if you have a caseload of 40 clients, that can be 60 – 80 hours a week.
Which is why there is a high turnover rate for clinicians who work for the platform because they tend to get burnt out by the lack of boundaries.
We need to emphasize boundaries, because it is a skill that we teach clients and one that we need to model ourselves. Boundaries are also important because you don’t want to become overly dependent on your therapist. The goal of therapy is to help build you the tools that you need to live your life without us.
TO WRAP THINGS UP
Therapy is a lot more accessible than most people think. There are a lot of options out there to help serve you, but the biggest tip I can give you is to find the right fit for your needs. Even if they don’t provide a sliding scale, they can probably provide you with referrals for someone who has the same skill set but at a lower cost.
You also have the benefit of seeking out:
Sliding Scale Directories (AKA OpenPath Collective)
If you have more questions about therapy you can check out my other blogs to help you on your journey!
Written by: Jessica Jefferson, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Perinatal Mental Health Counselor and Owner of Cloud Nine Therapeutic Services. My passion is helping individuals through heartbreak, whether that is heartbreak with others or heartbreak within themselves. My goal is to be their guide on their journey to their self-discovery so that they can build the life and relationship they want. I am here for when you want to start your journey.