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If you're someone who's considering seeking therapy to support and nurture and heal your mental health, you've also likely considered whether you can even afford it. One look at the figures for what a weekly or even monthly therapy appointment will run you may convince you that your budget simply can't accommodate that kind of expense—particularly during a financially trying pandemic. But writer, wellness coach, and licensed therapist Minaa B, LMSW, says that options for therapy on a budget are available if you're willing to sit down, do your research, and ask plenty of questions.
- Minaa B., MSW, LMSW, licensed social worker and mental health educator
"I often tell people who are new to finding a therapist to first plug in websites like BetterHelp, Psychology Today, Therapy for Black Girls, or Black Female Therapists," Minaa said at a recent event to celebrate the launch of Well+Good's 2021 wellness trends. "Those are some key search engines that you can utilize to find a therapist by typing in your zip code and being able to find someone where you are located." From there, she recommends choosing two or three who seem like the absolute best fit for you.
Once you've narrowed down your pool of potential therapists, you'll likely arrive on their homepage and find their standard pricing. Whatever number you see, though, don't view it as a roadblock. Instead, check out Minaa's four tips for finding someone to talk to who fits into your budget, because therapy shouldn't be a cause of more stress.
4 tips for getting access to therapy on a budget, straight from a therapist
1. Ask for a consultation (and whether or not it's free)
"When you reach out to the therapist, ask them if they offer a consultation. 95 percent of therapists do because that is how they gauge if they feel like they have the skills to work with that client and if they can meet their needs," Minaa said. Many mental-health providers will offer this first-time consultation on the house, she adds, so take them up on the offer before you talk about pricing for follow-up appointments.
2. Inquire about sliding scales
Sliding scales are a way to make many forms of wellness—therapy included—more affordable to all people. "A sliding scale is basically for people who cannot afford the full price of a session. The average out-of-pocket session, if you are seeing a therapist in private practice, can range from $150 up to $300 for a 45-minute session. If a therapist is offering a sliding scale, they may reduce their $150 session to maybe $75 or $50," Minaa said.
"If a therapist is offering a sliding scale, they may reduce their $150 session to maybe $75 or $50." —Minna B, LMSW
Therapists who use this model will inquire about your salary and expenses to determine what bracket of pricing fits into your budget, so be prepared to talk about that in your consultation.
3. Call your insurance company and ask what they will pay
Under the Affordable Care Act, most companies are required to cover mental-health services. That means, at least in part, if you receive health-care benefits through your employer, your job will foot part of the bill of your therapy appointments, provided you choose a therapist who's in-network. "If you have insurance, you can call your insurance provider and have them connect you to a list of their behavioral-health specialists…those people are in-network. Someone who is in-network means that they accept your insurance, so you don't have to worry about whether you have to pay out-of-pocket," said Minaa.
4. Know that you're never locked into a therapist—you can quit at any time
"I often tell people to recognize that, as therapists, we are used to people coming and going. It is our job to sit in discomfort. So if you don't like our services, it is okay to tell us... Don't feel obligated to just stick with one person, and be comfortable with just saying, 'You know what? I think I'm going to move on,'" said Minaa.
Keep this in mind, and you won't feel locked into a year or more of attending (and paying for) therapy sessions. You'll just be doing what works for you right now—and hey, that's big for your mental health and financial health.
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