Can I afford to see a therapist?
Once you’ve made the decision to see a professional for therapy or counseling, how to pay for it might concern you. Generally there are a few different ways that people pay for mental health treatment:
- Out-of-network insurance benefits
- Out of pocket
Some therapists accept insurance and are an “in network provider” with your insurance. To find someone who is in network with your insurance you simply go to your insurance company’s website. You can also call them, just like you would a medical doctor.
Some therapists do not accept any insurance at all. There’s a variety of reasons why a counselor may not accept insurance but in some cases if you are insured you may have out of network benefits.
Paying for therapy with insurance
Insurers are legally required to cover mental health treatment just like they would other doctor’s appointments. This is due to the mental health parity law that was passed in 1996. There are exceptions but for the most part, if you have insurance it likely covers counseling. That does not mean that every person you might want to see is covered however!
If you have insurance but want to see a provider who isn’t covered – perhaps you were recommended a particular counselor by someone you trust or there’s a therapist with a specialty that you really want to see – some insurances will pay at least something toward that.
In and out of network insurance benefits
The first column is “in network” benefits. As you can see there is a copay of 20% due from the client once the deductible is met. This means that at the beginning of the year, visits will go toward a deductible just like other medical expenses. Because of that you will probably be paying out of pocket for therapy until that deductible is met. After that deductible you’ll pay your copay of 20% which with this insurance would be $26 if the therapist’s hourly rate was $130.
The second column is out of network benefits. After meeting the yearly deductible the insurance will only pay 60% instead of 80% like they would with in network providers. This means that instead of paying 20% the client would have to pay 40%. If your counselor had an hourly rate of $130 that would make the copay $52. In some cases it might be worth it if you need very specialized treatment or if you are seeing a therapist you already know and trust but your employer changes insurance providers and that person is no longer in network.
What if I don’t have insurance?
If you do not have insurance or if the therapist you want to see does not take insurance, you will have to pay their hourly rate. Depending on the area of the country you live in, the type of therapist, and the specialized training he or she has, this might be anywhere from $100-$500 per hour. Some therapists will take sliding scale payments, meaning that in some situations they will agree to take less than their posted hourly rate to see you. If you have low or no income, are a student, are waiting for insurance coverage to begin, or other circumstances, they might work with you to take sliding scale payments. Most that do accept sliding scale will only have a certain number of appointments that qualify for sliding scale so you might be put on a waiting list.
The website Open Path allows mental health professionals who accept sliding scale to register and you can search for a therapist in your area there.
Grace Christian Counseling, where I see clients, is a non-profit counseling center. We work with people regardless of their ability to pay. For more information call the office 601-636-5703 or contact me. If you live in other areas it is very possible that there is a therapy practice near you that has similar policies!
Community mental health centers
In the state of Mississippi community mental health centers provide therapy and medication for individuals in the community. In Mississippi what they charge is based on your income so they do require documentation. For a list of community mental health centers in MS visit this website. There are drawbacks to community mental health but in some cases it is the only option.
Some churches in your area may offer counseling. Solomon Counseling Center at Catholic Charities in Jackson MS is an example of a church funded counseling center. They offer low cost or sliding scale therapy. Always be sure to check with any church based therapy to make sure that the person you are seeing is a licensed mental health professional. Volunteers are great but they need to have the right training.
Should I pay out of pocket for therapy?
Whether or not you should pay out of pocket for therapy is ultimately up to you. It is possible that the therapist you want to see does not take your insurance. They may or may not be the only therapist with the specialty that you are looking for. While specific specialties like EMDR are growing in popularity not all areas have many people who are trained. It may be wise in some cases to invest in treatment that will make your life better, just like investing in a retirement account or 401K. An investment in counseling is an investment in yourself and your future. If I asked you, “how much would you pay to be happier?” most people would not turn down the opportunity to pay to feel better and that’s exactly what mental health treatment is for.