Finding affordable psychotherapy can sometimes seem like an
oxymoron. Experienced and highly trained mental health professionals, such as
psychologists, psychiatrists or marriage and family therapists in practice for
decades, can garner fees well over $100/hour for their services.

Finding affordable psychotherapy can sometimes seem like an
oxymoron. Experienced and highly trained mental health professionals, such as
psychologists, psychiatrists or marriage and family therapists in practice for
decades, can garner fees well over $100/hour for their services.

While managed care in the 1990s and continued cost cutting
by health insurance companies have placed downward pressure on most clinicians’
salaries, these fees still seem high and out of reach for most middle-class
Americans. While private health insurance will pick up the majority of this
cost if you’re covered (generally requiring a co-pay of between $10-30 per
session), if you’re not covered or used up your allotment of visits for the
year, you may be looking for
alternative ways to pay for psychotherapy
. 

Alternative Forms of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy isn’t just delivered face-to-face any long.
You can now get psychotherapy over the telephone, online, and even on your
iPhone! Some forms of these alternatives put you in touch with a licensed
mental health professional, just like face-to-face. The only difference is that
you’re interacting with them by telephone, or via email or chat sessions
online. Other forms of online therapy
techniques are more like self-help programs
— step-by-step guides
and tutorials that walk you through common things you might learn in regular
cognitive-behavioral therapy.

The benefit of these methods, besides convenience, is
usually lower costs than seeing someone face-to-face. And don’t worry about
whether these techniques are effective or not — research has
demonstrated their effectiveness for a variety of mental health concerns
,
including depression. 

Discounted Fee Schedules – Sliding Scales

The first place to check is with your current therapist.
Many, but not all, therapists offer a fee service schedule for cash-only
clients that may “slide” – that is, the fee goes down based upon your
income. If you’re making a middle-class salary, the discount offered by such
sliding scales may not be much. But if you’re in the lower socio-economic
class, this discounted fee schedule can cut a regular therapist’s fee in half
or more.

Such discounted fee schedules are entirely up to individual
therapists to set. For their own economic well-being, many therapists can’t
offer them. Don’t blame the therapist – they are in a competitive business.
Many therapists in solo or small private practices are firmly in the
middle-class themselves, and rely on whatever their fees are to make ends meet.

Community Mental Health Centers

Less expensive than private practitioners are public
resources setup during the 1960s to try and help move the mentally ill confined
to hospitals back in to the community. These community clinics, typically
referred to as community mental
health centers
, are available in hundreds of communities across the
country. They are often funded and run by the local government, such as a
county or city.

Community mental health centers rarely offer free
psychotherapy, however. Like the sliding scale model in private practice, these
clinics charge fees to people seeking therapy, but the fees tend to be much
less than what is found in the private sector. Psychotherapy is subsidized in
these centers by government funding, but they still try and recover some costs
directly through the people using the services.

Community mental health centers are often training grounds
for budding therapists. Therapists learn most of what they eventually practice
by doing and being supervised by trained psychotherapists. So while the quality
of the psychotherapy may leave a little something to be desired than that of an
experienced therapist, it is often better than no care at all.

Community mental health centers generally don’t see people
experiencing life problems such as career changes or marital problems (unless
they result in the person getting a serious mental disorder). Because their
resources are limited, these public clinics tend to focus on more serious
mental disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

These mental health centers often have long waiting lists to
get an appointment, so be prepared for a wait to obtain treatment (sometimes it
could be a month or longer). Complain to your local politician to try and get
more resources allocated to the center, as usually such centers are always in
need of more funding.

Working with What You Have

Life often doesn’t present us with the luxury of choosing
what we most need when we most need it. Although many people feel like they
can’t afford psychotherapy when they are at a low point in their life and have
few financial resources, sometimes psychotherapy may be what’s most needed.

Don’t give up if finding low-cost psychotherapy in your
community is your goal. It can sometimes be frustrating to call around from
therapist to therapist, from group practice to community mental health center,
to find a therapist that can meet your price and is available for an
appointment. Helping prepare yourself for the process can help you set your
expectations accordingly.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the tips. I have
    Thanks for the tips. I have another question. I’m seeing a therapist, but I’m not sure how efficient he is. Any ideas or advices. Thanks in advance

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