How Much Does a Therapist Make?

Whether a particular therapist is a couples therapist, family counselor, or a psychotherapist specializing in a unique niche, they’ve likely entered their career with one goal in mind: to help people improve their lives.

Although money wasn’t the driving motivation behind their pursuit, paying bills is a reality nobody can avoid. So there’s a lingering question. How much does a therapist make? 

There is no typical therapist salary, as they depend on education, training, and particular clinical specialties, but in general therapists salaries fall within the range of \$40,000 and \$90,000 . Although there are therapists who make both less and more.  

Below, I’ve listed salaries for various specializations along with four crucial tips to help any therapist increase their salary. 

Salaries for Various Therapy Jobs

Behavioral Disorder Counselor: $47,660 per year // 22.91 per hour

Clinical Psychologist: $79,820 // 38.37 per hour

Genetic Counselors: $85,700 per year // $41.20 per hour

Industrial-Organizational Psychologists: $96,270 // $46.28 per hour

Marriage & Family Therapists: $51,340 per year // $24.69 per hour

Mental Health Counselors: $47,660 per year // 22.91 per hour

Psychologists: $82,180 per year // $39.51 per hour

Recreational Therapist: $47,710 per year // 22.94 per hour

Rehabilitation Counselors: $37,530 per year // $18.05 per hour

School and Career Counselors: $58,120 per year // $27.94 per hour

Social Worker: $51,760 // $24.88 per hour

Substance Abuse Counselor: \$47,660 per year // 22.91 per hour

*All salaries below are taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; they display median pay and reflect the year 2020 unless otherwise stated.

But How Much do Private Practice Therapists Make?

Salaries for Private Practice therapists vary wildly. Some articles report an average salary of $150,000 per year, while others claim that a licensed professional counselor working in Cambridge, MA, grosses $39,778 annually. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

Based on user-submitted data reports that Licensed Professional Counselors earn, on average, $61,232 annually.

But averages only say so much.

If we return to the BLS page for mental health counselors we can see that salaries differ quite depending on state, sector, and years of experience.

Top Paying States for Mental Health Counselors (Mean Wage)

Map from the Bureau of Labor Statistics detailing the annual mean wage of mental health counselors and therapists by state

t’s interesting to note that mental health counselors are currently paid the most in states outside of major metropolitan belts. This is likely due to fierce competition in populous communities. The laws of economics hold even for therapists.

States with the Highest Employment for Therapists: (Mean Wage)

As expected the highest rates of employment is in states that have high populations, with California being the most populous state in the union. The other states below:

The BLS predicts that demand for mental health counselors will continue to increase in the coming years.

That applies particularly to rural communities that have so far been underserved by the profession.

Wages by Sector for Mental Health Counselors (Mean Wage)

The sector for which you perform your duties is fairly large determinate of your average salary, although it does not have the final say or stop you from earning more—or less for that matter.

Years of Experience

As with any occupation the more experience you bring to the table the higher your salary. For private practice therapists, this often means honing your business instincts along with developing yourself as a therapist.

Job Growth for Therapists

It’s interesting to note that the BLS predicts extraordinary job growth for many types of therapists.

Marriage and Family therapists are expected to grow by 23% between 2016 to 2026.

Meanwhile, Psychologists are growing 14% year-over-year, while School and Career counselors are growing by 13%.

Average job growth from one year to the next (that includes all occupations) is only 5 to 9%.

But Many Variables Affect A Therapist's Income

Something to keep in mind is that while statistics provide insights into the general picture of therapists’ income, there are many variables at play for any particular individual.

Working Part-time vs. Full-time.

Many private practitioners work flexible hours at hourly rates.

Full-time work will typically yield a higher income: promising a workweek between 32 to 40 hours on average. Whereas part-time work falls under 32 hours which on paper has a lower average income; although technique and efficiencies can make up for less hours.

Working at various places.

When therapists are new to private practice, they often supplement their income by working for agencies or schools, while maintaining a part-time position in their private practices.

Hourly fees.

Some of the “high end/boutique” therapists I work with charge $250/hr. I have one therapist client who charges $450/hr for phone conferences. Plenty of others charge $100-120/hr while seeing between 23-28 clients/week.

Marketing strategy and website.

Having a strong marketing strategy often results in more clients and higher wages.

Supplemental online courses and webinars.
These allow therapists to continually supplement their income.

A Final Note on Therapist Salaries

Before jumping to conclusions, it’s important to consider the elements that factor into the above figures. With any statistical data, these numbers are meaningless unless you understand what elements generate the sum.

Remember, there is no set-in-stone salary. Some therapists make $30,000 a year while others fill their bank account thanks to a six-figure salary. The variations can be extreme. And are dictated by whether or not a therapist works for the government, a hospital or other healthcare facility, or has their own private practice.

How much you make isn’t dependent on data, but on you.

There is a Wide Range of Earning Potential for Therapists

The question, “How much does a therapist make?” is, therefore, more complicated than it appears on the surface. The meaningful question should be: “How much money can I make moving forward?”

To increase your income you need to begin learning how to successfully market yourself.

By developing a solid marketing strategy—or by hiring a reputable, effective marketing company such as Counseling Wise—your income and practice can grow exponentially.
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