Nearly two years after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, almost every person's life has been affected in some way that has taken a toll on their mental or physical health.
Since last year, health officials have predicted that the world's next health crisis could be a mental health pandemic and wondered what long-term impact the past two years would have on people.
Many individuals and workplaces have made efforts to try and make mental health and wellness a priority. From people setting up home gyms to interact with others on video chats, to companies like Google and Nike providing mental health days for their employees, it's very possible that we've never talked about mental wellness as much as we do today.
"There’s a new dynamic… it’s almost like it’s OK to get help," Carl Clark, president and CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver told Axios. At the Mental Health Center, demand for kids’ mental health services has doubled due to the stresses of virtual learning and loneliness.
Local and state governments have made efforts to support mental health services in different ways, and employees have started to demand mental health coverage from their employers.
According to the Pew Research Center, 73% of Americans reported feeling anxious a few days a week since the start of the pandemic.
According to McKinsey, COVID-19 could create a potential 50% increase in the prevalence of behavioral health conditions. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of Americans thought the pandemic was harming their mental health.
Perhaps more than ever, people are seeking therapy. According to a survey by ValuePenguin, 1 in 5 Americans have sought out therapy to help them with stress or anxiety related to the pandemic.
While many are using digital apps like Talkspace and BetterHelp, most people are still seeing therapists without these apps. And if you've been considering seeking therapy yourself, you might be wondering what the average cost of therapy is in the United States.
Unsurprisingly, the cost of therapy varies significantly by state and city, where a therapist in a rural area likely charges less than a therapist in the middle of Manhattan. Here are a number of estimates from licensed therapists in major cities across the country.
Starting in Texas, Melissa (Reilly) Zawisza, a licensed therapist with 18 years of experience, said, "In Dallas-Fort Worth, I have seen the range from $75 to $200… I have seen individuals with less experience charging more and those with more experience charging less. A client mentioned my rate ($125) was the lowest of referrals provided."
Rashad Skinner, a therapist in Houston with over 10 years of experience in private practice, said, "The cost range in Houston for individual counseling is $135 to $215." He added, "Most therapists don't take insurance for various reasons...I don't take insurance usually because the insurance will tell the client that it'll cover treatment, but won't tell them that they have to meet their deductible of thousands of dollars first."
In Chicago, according to therapist Ilyssa Lasky of Obsidian Counseling, "Mental health counseling will range from about $125 to $350 out of pocket for ongoing individual sessions in Chicago and the northern suburbs of Chicago."
She continued, "A licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) can charge more if they have been trained in rigorous training such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS)... Not surprisingly, many mental health counselors are opting to not accept health insurance as a form of payment and instead charging out-of-pocket fees."
Dr. Cornelius Jones, a therapist in Jacksonville, Florida said, "I can say with certainty the average cost per session is $120. That average has not increased for a great number of years... On average, the standard 50 minute sessions in the state of Florida are between $80 -$130 per session. In cities like Orlando and Tampa, the average cost of mental health therapy is $125, $5 more than in the city of Jacksonville."
Similar to Lasky's perspective, Jones addressed why many therapists don't take insurance. "For many of us it's easier to be out-of-network providers, than to deal with the low-ball rates that insurance companies try to pay for our services.."
Amanda Conroy, a therapist who provides Christian Counseling in Denver, estimated, "The average cost of mental health therapy in the city of Denver is $150.00 for a 50-minute session." Her estimate was in line with Denver counseling practice My Denver Therapy, which used multiple different sources to determine how much therapy costs in Denver.
Unsurprisingly, rates in New York City are higher than they are in other parts of the country. Dr. Jason Durant, a therapist in Manhattan, said, "The average cost for a 45 minute session in Manhattan at an out-of-pocket rate for a doctoral-level Psychologist starts at about $250 and only goes up from there."
Many people are looking for a therapist that accepts their insurance, but Durant also provided insight into why many don't—a common theme expressed by many therapists.
"Finding therapists who are willing to accept in-network insurance payment is getting increasingly difficult every year. The formulas used by the major carriers to determine how much to pay providers leave therapists with such low reimbursement rates that they are forced to limit the number of insurance patients they can accept or to avoid them altogether."
As you might expect, the rates for therapy in Los Angeles are comparable to those in New York City. Shelby Stone, a therapist in Santa Monica, said "Therapy rates in LA for licensed therapists average between $175-$275 per session. This fee is greatly impacted by location and therapeutic setting with intensive treatment centers and private practice settings ranging between $200-$300 per session and counseling centers ranging from $125-$200. The rates for pre-licensed therapists and trainees can be lower depending on setting."
To help explain this wide range of prices, she added, "Other factors such as a therapist’s years of experience, certifications, trainings, and specializations inform therapy rates as these qualifications require significant time and financial investment."
Stone expanded upon how specializations can affect what therapists charge. "Therapists who work with certain populations such as families or high-risk populations often have increased rates in order to better coordinate services and ensure they have more availability."
If you're trying to figure out how much therapy costs, the answer might be what you expect: It varies depending on where you live and what you're looking for. Rates are higher in bigger, more expensive cities, but most people can expect to pay $100 or more per session.
After getting feedback from therapists around the country about their rates, even without being prompted to address it, many therapists explained why they don't take insurance and how fewer therapists take it due to the administrative hassles and lower rates for their services. If you're having trouble finding a therapist with availability who takes your insurance, these could be two of many reasons why.
McKinsey's research indicates that the demand for therapists' services, looks like it will continue to grow due to an increased normalization of and need for mental health services, regardless of the rates they charge.
"What has effectively been a 'don’t ask, don’t tell' approach to mental health in the workplace is becoming instead 'do ask, do tell, let’s talk.' There is a coming revolution in how companies (and public-policy makers) think about, talk about, and cope with all forms of mental health issues."
With the rise in awareness and need for mental health services caused by the pandemic and a tumultuous past couple years in this country, therapists are in high demand around the country. However, most people with behavioral health issues still don't receive treatment due to cost, insurance, or other reasons.
While many therapists offer in-person services, the normalization of teletherapy has made seeing a therapist more convenient for people in cities and in rural areas, where fewer therapists may be available.
Whether we already have or may see a mental health pandemic in this country, it's clear that the the pandemic has changed how many people and businesses understand the importance of mental health as part of overall wellness.
If you're a licensed therapist in a city that wasn't covered in this article, share your best estimate of the average rates for therapy in your area in the comments to help others who might be seeking therapy near you.
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