At the age of 17, after learning that my mom had terminal breast cancer, I sought the help of a clinical psychologist. What began as my adolescent desire for a quick fix and a magic pill to make the pain go away blossomed into an eight-year doctor-patient relationship that helped shape who I am today and forever changed my perception about therapy.
Since then, I’ve been in and out of therapy for a variety of reasons, from dealing with relatively minor issues like poor self-esteem to treating a crippling case of post-partum depression. It should be no surprise that today, I am a huge advocate for mental health awareness and better access to care.
While most health insurance plans cover a portion of mental/behavioral health services, many licensed therapists do not accept insurance. Even if you find a provider who does accept insurance, your out-of-pocket expenses can still be high and your plan may only cover a limited number of visits per year. Without insurance, the costs can be astronomical. Depending on where you live, a good therapist can cost anywhere from $100 to $250 an hour.
But the good news is, there are other options available for those who are low-income, on a fixed income, disabled or without health insurance.
Negotiating fees is a perfectly acceptable practice and actually quite common among mental health professionals and their clients. So don’t be afraid to talk about costs before making that first appointment. Many therapists are willing to work with patients who have limited funds. They’ll often offer cash-only or low-income clients a discounted fee schedule (sliding scale), which is based on income.
Federally-funded health centers often work with low-income individuals and those who don’t have health insurance. Basically, you pay what you can afford based on your income. Not all of these facilities offer mental health services, but many do. Find your nearest federally funded health center here.
Federally-funded health insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare provide free health insurance to qualifying individuals based on their age (65 years and older) and/or income level. The insurance should cover therapy, although there is likely to be a co-pay. Find out if you qualify for government-funded health coverage. Community organizations, like your local synagogue or church may offer free group or individual therapy sessions led by volunteers who are licensed, professional therapists. Don’t be afraid to call around your neighborhood to find out.
Universities and graduate schools where therapists are trained may offer free or reduced-rate clinics to the public. Here, the therapists are typically pre-licensure interns, but they’re working under strict supervision.
Online counseling services are a relatively new, but growing trend. Rates are typically more affordable than face-to-face therapy, ranging anywhere from $25 to $50 an hour. Therapy sessions can be conducted via e-mail, real-time chat, or video conferencing. If you choose to go this route, be sure that the counselors you’re working with are licensed, trained, experienced and accredited psychologists (PhD/PsyD), marriage and family therapists (MFT), clinical social workers (LCSW) or licensed professional counselors (LPC).
I recommend exploring the following online therapy sites, which seem to be pretty legit:
TapGenes Takeaway: Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Don’t avoid seeing a therapist just because you think you can’t afford it. There are more options out there than you might think.
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