Think that the Cost of Counseling is too High? Think again
I’m thrifty when it comes to spending money on certain things. I will analyze cost-benefit before I decide to hire someone to fix a leaky faucet, paint my living room, or change the oil in my car, all which I know how to do myself. But there are still some areas where I will hire a professional to repair, improve, or maintain rather than do it myself.
Counseling is one of those areas. Imagine a cardiac surgeon with a heart valve problem. He may be able to read the results of the tests run, know the options available to him, but should he operate on himself? I think not. There are situations where the doctor needs give himself to be just the patient and “doctoring” to another professional.
Although I am a counselor, myself, I know that that sometimes, I can be blind to the solution that works best in my life. Having someone who can be more objective, see things from a different perspective can save me heartache and time. Talking with someone else can expand my perspective, increase my resilience to life challenges, and encourage real growth in relationships and making important life decisions.
What is that I hear you say? Psychotherapy is too costly? It’s true the price tag is something to consider: Forty-six million American adults need mental health care annually, and 42% percent cite cost as a major obstacle. Yet, it’s important to consider the other “cost” of mental health, which happens when you are overwhelmed by your situation and cannot cope well. So, before you decide therapy’s just not in your budget, here are some things to consider.
Managing mental health can keep issues from developing into more serious, and expensive problems. Some examples can include: loss of a marriage or business partnership. Lawyers charge $300/hour. Loss of health or liberty because of alcohol or drug arrests (again legal costs). Loss of income potential. Even, loss of health due to chronic stress—just to name a few. Research shows that people are happier after spending on therapy than if they had allotted those dollars for other things. In Dallas-Ft Worth area, therapy services range between $60 and $250 for 50- or 60-minute session, with the average being about $100. The cost of counseling can be far less than the cost of the consequences of not the problem.
If you are fortunate to have health insurance, the per-session cost could be less, between $20 and $50 per session. Check with your insurance provider for what your ‘out-of-pocket’ cost might be. Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) in essence requires that certain group health insurance companies treat mental health and substance abuse issues the same medical issues. So, if you have medical health insurance, you may also have mental health coverage as well. Since there is a lot of variability across insurance carriers, I will discuss insurance coverage in a separate article.
Sliding Scale Therapy
Another key variable to cost of counseling is whether or not you qualify for sliding scale therapy. For example, if a therapist’s standard rate is $150 per hour, and they offer sliding scale, your income may qualify you for a lower per session rate. So, again for example, if you make less than a set amount (i.e., $40,000 per year), you could benefit from one-hour therapy sessions for as little as 50% the standard rate. Each therapist and practice sets their own sliding scale fees, so that people with fewer resources can obtain the help they need. If the therapist’s regular fee is more than you can currently afford, ask if they offer a sliding scale.
(Nearly) Free Counseling
Yeah, this is the rate we’d all rather pay. But counselors also have to pay their bills. Many companies, nowadays, offer short-term counseling (2-8 sessions) through an employee assistance program (EAP). Check with your Human Resources department for this benefit.
If you still cannot find an affordable rate in the community and you can’t agree with the therapist on a fee, ask the counselor/therapist to recommend more affordable options in your area. Community mental health clinics typically have lower fees, accept all insurance types. Training institutes and universities with counseling or psychology departments can match you with a mental health intern. These interns are supervised of an experienced licensed professional and will provide therapy at a reduced rate or even free of charge in exchange for experience hours required obtain their license.
Lay and Religious Counselors
Another no-cost or low-cost option can be found with religious organizations (churches, synagogues, etc.). Some offer counseling ministries that provide pastoral or lay counseling to its members. These are generally short term (< 6 sessions) for acute (temporary) distress. If your issue is long term (severe depression or anxiety, for example), this is not the best choice at any price. Chronic emotional distress really requires professional help, which a lay counselor is not qualified to provide. Often although not always, such services are very low cost or free).
If your suffering is due to high-conflict relationships, compare the cost of counseling to the cost of a divorce attorney as the less expensive route. If your suffering is due to life-long low self-esteem that held you back from seeking promotions, compare the gains of more confidence to the cost of being stuck in your pain. Counseling is an investment. With the attorney (divorce, criminal, civil), there are no continuing benefits once the court case is adjudicated. With counseling, the skills you learn can be applied to future issues, making the value much better.