We’re more informed and aware about our mental health than ever before, and that’s especially true for younger people. Yet, while we may be more open to the idea of therapy, a lot of people think that it’s too expensive to even consider.
It’s true that mental health services can be unaffordable for many people, but there are several resources that can help you pay for mental health counseling.
Why Does Therapy Cost So Much?
Just like other medical care, the base rate for an hour of mental health services can be pretty high, but when you take into account the education level and experience of the practitioner and the costs associated with running a practice, the price makes sense.
However, health insurance or other programs can drastically reduce the cost of medical care, so the final price usually comes out to something more affordable for the average person. It’s when this base price can’t be reduced that the cost of therapy becomes a problem.
A major issue is that many people find that their health insurance won’t cover talk-based therapy or therapists in their area, or that all of the in-network therapists near them are booked solid for months.
According to a 2014 study published in “JAMA Psychiatry,” Only 55% of psychiatrists accept insurance plans, compared to 89% of other health care providers. This means that being able to pay for an appointment with a psychiatrist – the mental health professional that can prescribe medications- is more difficult. This is especially impactful on those who are struggling with serious mental illness, who often need to take medications regularly to manage their symptoms.
But it’s not all on the practitioner. Insurance companies usually don’t see mental health services as completely necessary, so they might not cover certain services or coverage might only be temporary.
Does Health Insurance Ever Cover Therapy?
Some insurance plans have actually been covering mental health services since the 1950s, but it didn’t become common until much later, when the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) was passed in 2008.
This law requires that insurance companies cover behavioral health services at the same level that they cover physical health services. This means that if they offer a certain number of in-network medical doctors in an area, they must also offer at least that number of in-network mental health professionals in the same area. If the company offers emergency services, prescription drugs, a certain copay or deductible, etc., then all of that must be the same for mental health services.
While this law has made mental health care much more accessible, most people with insurance still aren’t fully covered for mental health services – and people without insurance often can’t afford them at all.
5 Ways to Pay for Mental Health Counseling
So if you don’t have insurance, how can you pay for mental health services?
Here are a few options that may help:
1. Ask About a Sliding Scale
A sliding scale option allows clients to pay what they can afford. Community health care centers, clinics and some practitioners offer a sliding scale. All of our community services boards offer sliding scales or reduced prices and you will never be turned away for the inability to pay. We’re more than happy to work with you to minimize the price you pay for services!
2. Use Medicare or Medicaid
If you don’t currently have health insurance, you might be eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Medicare offers health insurance for adults 65 and older and for younger people who have a disability or certain conditions. Medicaid offers health care, behavioral health care, and long-term services and supports for eligible individuals.
3. Try Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
More companies are offering what’s called an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) these days. An EAP offers all employees short-term help for life events, including mental health concerns. An EAP will typically offer a few appointments with a mental health counselor at a reduced cost or for free. These initial appointments can help you through a time of grief or increased stress, after a traumatic experience, or with substance abuse. Taking advantage of an EAP is also a great way to try out therapy, to see what it can do for you, at minimal cost.
To find out if your company offers an EAP, reach out to your HR department.
4. Look Into Local Colleges and Universities
Some colleges and universities offer mental health counseling on a sliding scale or for a reduced cost. The services are provided by graduate students under the supervision of licensed professionals, so you can often access the same quality of services at a reduced cost.
5. Consider Online Therapy
Online therapy may be the right fit for you, if you’re interested in lower costs and are ok with not meeting with your counselor in person. Most online therapists can meet with you via phone, video chat or even text messaging – whatever makes you most comfortable.
Bridging the Gap for Community Health and Healing
Region Five is the central point-of-access for mental health support services for the Greater Tidewater Hampton Roads Area. We pride ourselves on providing accessible and equitable mental health care to all of our community members.
Looking for mental health counseling?
Make an appointment at your local community services board. CSBs accept all forms of payment and can work with you to reduce the cost or make a payment plan – no one is ever turned away!
Need help right away? If you’re experiencing a crisis related to mental health or substance abuse, call the Region Five Crisis Line at 757-656-7755, anytime, 24 hours a day.
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