Starting the search for a therapist can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure where to start with your budget. Here, we do a deep dive into costs, financial aid, insurance, and more.

Online therapy is not for mental health emergencies

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or call 911 or local emergency services.

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If you’re dealing with some tough stuff, whether it’s a broken relationship, trauma, a new phase of life, or anything else affecting your mental health, it’s important to fully work through it. Sometimes we can’t do this well on our own, which is where therapy can be very helpful.

You might choose the in-person route – maybe you get more out of non-verbal cues, feel more comfortable face-to-face, or prefer it for any other reason. Online therapy is another option, offering benefits like the ability to take appointments from nearly any location and cost and time savings in getting to your therapist’s office.

There are therapy options for every budget — with online options averaging about $65-95 per session (and some resources being cheaper or free) and in-person options for about $100-200 per session.

Navigating all the considerations that come with finding the right therapist might feel overwhelming, especially at first. It can be challenging to find a good fit within your budget. Whatever decision you make regarding your therapy needs, be sure to do your research, ask questions, and listen to yourself and your gut feelings.

Average cost of therapy

It’s important to remember that therapy costs vary depending on many factors, including location, length of session, type of mental health therapy, type of specialist, and whether you have insurance. Therefore, it’s important to speak directly to the therapist or the company providing therapy services you’re considering to get specific cost information for your situation.

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In-person therapy

The typical cost of in-person therapy in the U.S. varies from about $100–$250 per session (depending on the state). That said, prices can fluctuate by location, the therapist’s professional degree, type of therapy needed, and more.

If you have health insurance, you can offset some of the cost with the copay for therapy. Keep in mind, if your therapist is considered “out of network,” you’ll likely need to pay the full fee upfront and request reimbursement afterward.

Some therapists operate on an income-based sliding scale (with or without insurance), allowing patients to access therapy on a specific budget. This will vary from therapist to therapist, but the model is typically based on financial need.

Online therapy

Many online therapy platforms bill by the week, often based on one session.

Like in-person therapy, the rates vary and can fluctuate by location (even with online therapy, therapists must be licensed to offer treatment in specific locations), the professional degree the therapist holds, the type of therapy needed, and more.

Many online therapy options cost about $65–$95 per week, though some might be as low as $40 or even free. As well, if you’re looking for messaging services only, this might cost less than video, messaging, and even workshops in some cases (which can be over $100 per session).

Several factors can influence the cost of therapy, ranging from the specific specialist, type of therapy, and session technique or frequency to the medication offered and the geographic location of the therapist.

For example, therapists will set their rates based on their education credentials, experience, and more. Prices vary for different specialties or types of therapy, such as psychodynamic or behavioral. The session frequency can affect cost, as some therapists offer a lower per-session rate when you attend therapy a certain number of times.

Techniques used, including prescriptions offered and medication management, may also affect a therapist’s rates. Therapists are different from psychologists in their education, diagnosis authority, and treatment approach, and their rates will reflect this. (Therapists have master’s degrees, while psychologists have doctorate degrees).

Finally, different states or regions may have typical fee ranges. For example, therapists in the South might charge less than those located on the West Coast.

If you have insurance, this is a great way to cover at least some of your therapy costs. You might assume your plan automatically covers therapy, but this isn’t necessarily true as some have limits. Different laws regarding health insurance plans are in place for different-size companies, and they don’t always need to include mental health services.

So it’s important to check in advance on your health insurance coverage for online or in-person therapy and what your out-of-pocket costs will be, before booking your first appointment.

To find out if most online therapy services take insurance, check out the company’s website. Most will have information on the insurers they work with listed or provided through a link.

If you can’t check for your specific plan coverage online, it’s a good idea to call your prospective therapist’s office to find out if they’ll accept your insurance or call your insurer directly to ask who you can work with.

As you consider therapy and whether it’s within your budget, exploring what your insurance covers (if you have it) along with affordable and low cost options for therapy can be helpful.

Affordable and low cost therapy options

There are low cost and free online therapy options available. Free resources, for example, include Bliss (an online therapy service for depression), Crisis Text Line (a text or message hotline service), Mental Health America, and FindTreatment.gov.

You can get weekly plans for online therapy ranging from $50-$110 from various platforms offering different services. Others, like Therapy Aid Foundation; a platform that offers services specifically for first responders and healthcare professionals; offer video appointments for free up to $50 per session, while Open Path Psychotherapy Collective has in-person or online appointments from $40.

Look for other affordable therapy options through your health insurance company, employee assistance program, local college or university, or mental health organizations.

You might be unsure of whether in-person or online therapy is best. The answer is not the same for everyone. It depends a great deal on your preferences, needs, budget, and lifestyle or situation.

Teletherapy is therapy done remotely over the phone or video. Therapists often offer it through their private, in-person practices. On the other hand, some companies, like Talkspace and BetterHelp, are online platforms that only provide teletherapy. They can match you with a therapist for online or phone sessions.

Studies have shown that both therapy models can be equally effective. Digital therapy platforms are convenient and can even be more affordable than in-person therapy. It’s also helpful to also consider that the emotional experience of in-person versus online therapy can be quite different.

In-person therapy is by nature more intimate. With online therapy, your therapist may not be able to clue into your unspoken feelings, body language, and other visual cues that can be helpful. This might be OK, especially if you feel in control and are confident with your therapist.

What to look for in a therapist

Finding the right therapist can be tricky, as everyone prioritizes traits or characteristics differently, and each of us has different values and needs. All this makes the “right” therapist different from one person to the next.

There are several things to consider that can make the process quicker, smoother, and more effective. These include thinking about your goals ahead of time, exploring local resources, using a reliable online resource, and more.

Resources for people of color

Access to culture-conscious therapists can be important for your well-being. Here are some resources to consider when looking for a therapist:

Paying for therapy is worth it for many people. Our mental health is integral to our overall health and happiness. Often, if you’re dealing with something that goes untreated, it will persist or get worse.

Therapists have expenses for licensing fees, which allow them to treat patients and qualify them to diagnose specific things. They must pay for their office or clinic space, technology used for appointment bookings and payment, insurance, and other overhead costs.

Plus, therapists’ time is spent not only in sessions but also in between sessions to ensure they’re prepared to give their best to advance their patients’ treatment plans.

The cost of therapy varies and depends on many things (including the practitioner’s location, specialty, type of therapy offered, session technique or frequency, and medication prescribed, if any). How much you spend on therapy will be determined by this along with your needs, budget, and lifestyle or personal preferences.

Typically, in-person therapy in the United States will be about $100–$200 per session (depending on the state). Online therapy rates vary, with many options costing about $65–$95 per week, though some might be as low as $40 or free. Some therapists may offer an income-based sliding scale (that may accommodate insurance coverage).

If you’re living with mental health issues, no matter what they are, it’s important to seek help. Therapy is an accessible and useful way many people can get the help they need.

While therapy can be expensive or out-of-budget for many, there are various options available, including lower cost or even free therapy.

Finding the right fit for your budget and circumstances may take time, but remember, finding the right fit is key to properly supporting your mental health needs and overall well-being.