The Truth About Lost-Cost Counseling

Finding affordable and high-quality counseling can be a tricky business.  I estimate that the average cost for therapy is Austin ranges from about $100-$200 per 45 to 50-minute session. Longer sessions or couples/family sessions can run even higher than this. There are many reasons why therapy costs what it does.  Becoming a therapist is time consuming, expensive and includes ongoing costs throughout a therapist’s career.  Fortunately for many of us, we got into the field because we have a passion for the work and for our clients.  Individuals who got into the business of therapy to become filthy rich may be in for a rude awakening.  There are however, some cost-effective counseling options.  One option in Austin, Texas is Capital Area Counseling (CAC).  I am rather partial to CAC as I not only worked here as a volunteer therapist for many years, I am also currently CAC’s Director of Supervision and Training.  CAC offers sliding fee scale counseling utilizing qualified, compassionate volunteer interns who are either working towards their master’s or doctoral degrees or interns working towards becoming fully licensed.  In my opinion, when it comes to low-cost counseling, CAC is the best option in town!  Counseling interns are under supervision and bring enthusiasm as well as their experience and the experience of their supervisors to their work.

If you are not interested in accessing services at a Community Mental Health Center, there are many intern therapists in the private sector that can offer affordable high-quality counseling. With many therapists, there is some room to negotiate the fee, but you do have to ask.  Other therapists are firm in their pricing and can offer referrals to other clinicians who may have some flexibility in their fees.    Therapists are taking many factors into account when they are setting their fees.  For example, most therapists are unable to see 40 clients per week which is a pretty standard work week.  Because of this, fees have to increase in order to cover costs.  Carefully consider what you are able to pay understanding that (In my opinion) therapy is often most successful when it is attended once a week for a period longer than 6 months.

Tips for advocating for yourself and your fee:

1) Ask your therapists if they offer sliding fee scale therapy and if so, what their rate is.  Already having a figure in mind that you are able to pay may help the two of you find a middle ground that feels workable for you both.

2) Consider the value of therapy.  Therapy has the ability to help you change everything in your life.  It can help you improve your relationships, find deeper connections to your life, have a more satisfying career, and  better communication with your children or your parents.  Therapy can help you tackle addiction and process trauma that has possibly plagued you for your entire life….The list goes on and on!  So don’t sell yourself short.  Find a fee that is affordable and honors the true power that therapy can have in your life.

3) Talk about your fees and your finances in therapy.  This is often a taboo topic that many of us shy away from.  Therapy is a GREAT place to talk about money. I know it’s a little silly, but when people tell me “I can’t afford therapy,” I often tell them that they may want to consider talking to a therapist about that.  Therapy can help you figure out how to prioritize your spending so that therapy can be affordable!

4) Make sure you’re working between sessions.  What I mean by this is that you want to make sure you’re thinking about what you talked about in therapy and what you want to talk about at your next session.  Make sure you’re trying out some of the tips or strategies you talked about with your therapist.  Come to therapy prepared with things to discuss.  This will ensure that you’re getting the most out of the money you are spending.  By employing strategies you’re learning in session to real world situations, you will begin to integrate these and may start to feel better sooner!

Using Insurance to pay for therapy:

Some people may choose to use insurance to pay for therapy.  It is important to know that if you use insurance, your therapists is REQUIRED to give you a diagnosis…A diagnosis that you will then carry around with you for years to come.  **If you choose to use insurance, make sure you’re speaking with your clinician about the diagnosis they are using so that it does not come as a surprise to you later down the line.  You have a right to know what your diagnosis is and to talk about this with your therapist.**