The Price of Protecting Your Mental Health

With healthcare costs spiraling out of control, more and more Americans are struggling to afford the medical services they need. This is especially true for millennials who are saddled with an average of $21,000 of debt.

In fact, most Americans are already spending upwards of $3,000 per year just to be insured. After factoring in additional co-pays, prescriptions and preventative care, health related costs can easily top $4,000 per year. As if these costs aren’t high enough, these statistics don’t even take into account rising mental health expenses.

Yet, even with an average cost of $150 per therapy session, many feel this is a necessary investment. Especially millennials.

If you also want to invest in your mental health, take a look at ways to save on often expensive therapy sessions.

Work therapy into your budget

Alexa, a 24-year-old scientist from San Diego, began attending therapy in high school after going through knee surgery and realizing that she needed help working through challenging situations. During that time, her family was supportive and paid a small co-pay for her sessions. Today, as a self-sufficient adult, she still sees a therapist for mental health “maintenance.” Yet, her financial situation is different as she pays for her own therapy and has her own insurance. Her sessions now can cost up to $200 a visit – three times more than her weekly grocery bill.

“I don’t take therapy for granted. But, I’ve definitely had to pay closer attention to my spending,” she said.

For those considering therapy yet worried about the price tag, Alexa offer this advice: “Talk with your insurance company and advocate on your own behalf. Even if they won’t cover the whole cost, they will often cover a percentage of it. Remember that you matter. Remind yourself that. The finances are hard but in the end, it’s worth it.”

Communicate with your therapist and ask for a sliding scale

Sarah Jeter, a 29-year-old from Iowa, decided to attend therapy four and half years ago. Diagnosed with depression as a teenager, she took her mental health seriously, but it wasn’t until a particularly horrible breakup that she knew she needed to seek help. However, she was a student at the time and her lack of finances meant she couldn’t pay a normal hourly rate. Instead, she went through her campus mental health clinic and they directed her to her current therapist.

“I pay $40 on a sliding scale per session, though that may change as my insurance has changed. So, my therapist and I are trying to find out if I’m still covered. My therapist also allows me to pay in chunks when I have the money, which lets me plan out my finances around my freelance income…The progress that I’ve made with my own mental health is invaluable, and continues to be extremely helpful in my daily life.”

Even though Sarah can afford the $40 payment per session, she has to make an effort to spend consciously in other areas of her life. She explains, “If attending therapy means that I have to buy lower-cost food or not eat out as much, that’s fine. If you are considering therapy, it’s important to know that you can get help. Don’t let the fear of expense prevent you from exploring your options.”

Low cost, no cost therapy options

When Texan Jo Powers, 23, started college, she was already suffering from depression, anxiety, OCD and suicidal thoughts. When members of her sorority convinced her that therapy wasn’t a sign of weakness, she took the plunge and started working with a mental health therapist. With no financial aid, parental support or job, she was happy to find that individual sessions were $5 per visit through her university. Better yet, group sessions were free.

Unfortunately, she can no longer take advantage of the free services as she graduated college.

“Since graduating and researching outside therapy options, I’ve had to stop going to therapy.  I don’t have insurance and in my area, individual sessions can run you $600 for the initial consultation and $200 for each one after.”

“When I was in college, I didn’t have to choose between groceries and therapy, but right now going back to therapy would mean making that choice. I’m hoping to find a solution by working with a therapist on a sliding scale or through Open Path Collective, but for now, this is where I am.”

With a one-time $49 membership fee, Open Path Collective is dedicated to leveling the current mental health playing field by working with licensed therapists across the country and providing therapy for $30-$50 per session. The sign-up process is quick and painless.

If you can’t afford to pay much – or anything at all – for therapy, here are a couple other options:

  • Try calling 2-1-1. 2-1-1 provides information about community resources and can help connect you with local therapists who provide pro-bono sessions or non-profits which offer free therapy.
  • Turn to Psychology Today’s Therapist Finder. Using the search function at Therapist Finder, you’ll have access to hundreds of therapists in your area who work on a sliding scale.

Just remember: Don’t give up. The time and money you may need to invest in your mental health is worth it.

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Taylor Milam

Taylor Milam is a freelance writer and personal finance blogger. She recently paid off $14,000 of student loan debt from her undergraduate degree and has set a new goal: paying for graduate school with all cash. When she's not writing about money, Taylor can be found at the beach or playing with her cat, Cheddar.