According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), therapy is a treatment technique that "aims to help a person identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts and behaviors." A variety of therapy modalities, including art therapy, talk therapy, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and others, help people with anxiety or stress, depression, anger management, life improvement goals, specific fears or phobias, addictions, weight loss, and other issues. Traditionally, therapy takes place in a licensed therapist’s office with talk being the basis of the session, although many providers also offer online sessions these days.
Therapists who are also licensed psychiatrists can prescribe medication for mental health needs, but therapy is not reliant on medication. Most people engage in therapy to improve their well-being by creating shifts in thought patterns and behaviors. People can work with a therapist regardless of whether they have insurance or not, and some therapists offer sliding-scale rates for patients with financial hardships.
NIMH recommends that individuals find a therapist who specializes in their area of need. Some needs are situational, such as divorce, the death of loved one or a major life change. Professional therapists offer support to individuals and families transitioning through these kinds of changes. Some people need or want ongoing professional support in dealing with specific mental health issues such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder. Several factors affect the cost of therapy.
Therapists’ rates vary, depending on their training and experience, geographic location, and other factors. Many therapists incorporate more than one type of therapy approach, often with cognitive behavioral therapy as the base. It’s a good idea to research a prospective therapist to learn about their specialties, training and other background to be sure to find the best fit. Here are a few cost examples for individual therapy sessions:
John Nichols, Psychotherapist, MS, LPC/MHSP in Brentwood, Tennessee: $125
- He offers a sliding scale based on need.
WholeStar Therapy in Denver, Colorado: $90
- A sliding scale is available based on need.
Cat Russell MS, LPC in Corpus Christi, Texas: $60
- The first session is $30, and each additional session is $60. This therapist typically recommends working together for six to eight sessions.
Couples therapy provides support and solutions for relationships in crisis as well as for relationships that are thriving and doing well. Some couples choose relationship counseling to strengthen an already strong foundation. Some may be suffering and considering a divorce, in which case outside support may help. In couples therapy, the relationship itself is the client, not one person or the other. Cat Russell MS, LPC helps couples identify and deal with the underlying issues that drive the actions, thoughts and even feelings that may be causing harm to the relationship. She aids with communication, problem-solving and conflict resolution. Here are some examples of couples therapy costs:
WholeStar Therapy: $120 for a 60-minute session
- Joan Warren Therapy in New York, New York: $150 for a 60-minute session
Some therapists offer concentrated programs to address specific issues such as anger, weight loss, smoking cessation or grief. Sometimes these programs are offered as a series of sessions in one package, with reduced per-session rates when the package is purchased. Package sessions give therapists ongoing intensive time to help clients resolve issues that are holding them back. Joan Warren Therapy, for example, offers an eight-week anger management counseling course for $800. Standard therapy sessions from Joan Warren Therapy are $125, so this package offers a $200 discount.
Many therapists offer sliding-scale pricing for their sessions. A sliding scale is usually determined by financial need—clients who are able to demonstrate their income may qualify for lower rates. Not all therapists advertise sliding scale rates, even when they offer them, so it’s always a good idea to ask if this is an option. Yasmina Mobarek in Seattle, Washington, charges $50–$120 per session, depending on her clients’ needs. Dr. Mobarek focuses on a psychoanalytic approach to therapy, and her specialties include marital and premarital counseling, depression, trauma, and PTSD.
When to get help
The National Institute for Mental Health recommends seeking help if you are experiencing overwhelming sadness or helplessness that doesn’t go away, serious or unusual insomnia, sleeping too much, difficulty focusing on work or carrying out everyday activities, constant worry and anxiety, excessive drinking or drug use, harmful behavior toward yourself or others, or dealing with a difficult transition (such as divorce, children leaving home, job difficulties or the death of someone close). If children have behavioral problems that interfere with school, family or peers it’s also helpful to seek professional help from a therapist for the child as well as yourself.