Going to therapy can be a challenging proposition. Thankfully, the stigma surrounding therapy has diminished in recent years, with more and more people realizing it’s a good and often necessary part of mental health.
But even if you do find the right therapist, the cost per session can be a huge roadblock. A single therapy session can cost $100 to $200 or more out of pocket. That can quickly add up beyond the average person’s ability to afford.
Combined with the struggle of finding the right therapist for you, therapy can start to seem like it’s just not worth it. But fortunately, there are some strategies for finding affordable therapy when you need it.
Check your health insurance policy
People go to therapy for a variety of reasons — their marriage is in trouble; they’re suffering depression or suicidal thoughts; they need help with grief or loss.
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If you have health insurance, one of the first things you should try is contacting your insurance provider to see what they’ll cover. Health insurance doesn’t always cover everything when it comes to therapy, and even if you are covered, your out-of-pocket costs may vary.
In general, most insurance companies offer coverage for some mental health issues, if they’re considered medically necessary. Most likely, your insurer will want an official mental health diagnosis before providing coverage.
Another possible obstacle to finding therapy your insurance will pay for: you may have to find a therapist who’s “in network,” which may not include a therapist you’ve found that’s right for you.
Go for counseling at church
Or choose another religious or spiritual group that you belong to. Many pastors, rabbis, and imams are trained in family and marriage counseling, which they provide for free or at low cost.
Some churches and religious organizations even have room in their budget specifically to help with the counseling needs of church members.
Of course, not all religious counselors are equally equipped to handle the more complicated aspects of a troubled marriage (for example, when it comes to sex). But if they can’t handle your problems themselves, they may be able to provide a referral to another marriage counselor, or to community resources that can be of help.
Inquire at your local community center
Not every therapist has their own practice. There are many licensed and qualified mental health professionals who work at community and public health centers and can provide lower-cost treatment.
Check with community centers, hospitals, and peer support or recovery groups in your area. You may also qualify for psychiatric help from the state, if you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness. You should check with your state’s department of health to see what they provide and if you qualify.
There are also several phone numbers you can call if you need more immediate help with your mental health.
Approach your employer
Whether your employer provides health insurance or not, they may offer some counseling assistance outside of that. Larger companies sometimes have employee assistance programs that can help with a certain amount of counseling sessions.
Wellness programs are becoming more common in the workplace, and don’t always take the form of fitness programs — some companies even offer incentives for their employees to look after their mental health. Check with the human resources department at your workplace to see what they offer.
Try online counseling
In-person counseling can be a challenge to manage and schedule, especially when taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic. Online therapy can be a viable and affordable alternative.
Online therapy apps and services often charge a lower rate than in-person therapists, and are easier to schedule and attend. Therapy apps like ReGain, TalkSpace, and others can provide therapy for a wide variety of needs.
Inquire at a local college or university
An often overlooked option for those seeking affordable therapy is inquiring at the local college or university. Many schools have students or are studying mental health counseling or psychology and looking to complete an internship before graduating. A student mental health counselor is supervised by an experienced professional, so patients do not receive inferior care, and their rates are often considerably lower.
They also often have a smaller caseload, and so can provide more individualized care, and because they are studying to get their degree, they may have more up-to-date techniques and information that older therapists who are more set in their ways might not employ. Depending on the internship programs at the school, you may even be able to get counseling for free.
Finding the right therapist for you, especially one you can afford to see on a regular basis, can be a challenge for even the most patient. But looking after your mental health, relationships, and general well-being is of paramount importance, and looking for affordable alternatives is worth exploring and could pay off — in more ways than one.