If you were to conduct an informal poll amongst therapists or even the general public on why people avoid therapy, the top reasons might include stigma, fear of being judged, embarrassment and lack of time. While all of those may be true, I believe there is another, very important factor at play: money. Despite the well-documented facts that the lack of proper mental health care places a large financial burden on our society, mental health therapy – with the exception of anxiety and antidepressant medications – is barely covered by insurance.
Analyzing The Actual Cost of Therapy
When people consider therapy, they often choose to do their own cost-benefit analysis, without necessarily understanding the actual cost, the potential benefits, or even the process. So how much does therapy cost and how much do you actually need? Of course, there’s no black and white answer, so let’s make some informed assumptions.
- One year of therapy. Weekly therapy for one-year with a good therapist is a platform to make real, tangible progress with potentially life-altering results. Some people stay longer and others shorter, but the therapy process takes time.
- Subtract holidays/vacations. Assuming that you and your therapist will not meet during holidays and vacations, one-year of therapy is typically 46 weeks.
- Multiply by the average rate. My rate of $180 per session, which is average in my area of the country. When you multiply my rate, you will spend $8,280 per year.
- Subtract any health insurance reimbursements. If that number seems scary to you, remember that many insurance companies will reimburse a percentage of your out-of-network costs (typically around 70 percent) once you’ve met a certain deductible.
Regardless of the deduction you may receive, I recognize that amount isn’t trivial. It’s more than a gym membership, less than a country club and about the same as a winter break in the Caribbean. By no means am I being cavalier about the cost. I’ve been broke before and I know what it feels like to have barely enough money to eat and put gas in the car to get to work.
Good Therapy Means A Better Future
Assuming you have the financial means necessary, then therapy is a choice. What’s missing when people pass on therapy because of cost, is context with the rest of their lives. Consider the extent to which people go to correct physical ailments – new knees, shoulders, hips, chiropractic care or Lasix. Their rationale is completely understandable: “the ailment kept me from enjoying my life.” Yet, that same rationale is often not applied to mental health issues.
Anxiety, depression and other problems affect the core of people’s lives. It impacts their happiness and ability to enjoy life’s events, both big and small. Plus, their friendships and relationships suffer.
Let’s look at it in reverse. What are the tangible costs to not seeking treatment for your mental health issues? They can contribute to your:
- lack of career advancement
- substance abuse
- chronic illness
- sleep issues
- marital problems
Finally, ask yourself how much of your discretionary luxury spending each year is to provide comfort and distraction from your emotional issues?
Therapy IS Worth It
Here’s my advice on money and therapy. Approaching therapy with a short-term mindset and weekly cost-benefit analysis actually undermines the process. If you have an emotional issue (or issues) to work through, consider how your life would change if your issues improved or were eliminated. Then, weigh that against the cost of one year of therapy.
If you decide on therapy, commit in your mind to one year, knowing that you can stop at any point. Once you’ve made an investment in yourself, let go of the weekly expectations, trust the process and enjoy the ride.