Why Is Therapy So Expensive?

Two woman, one consoling the other, sitting on beanbag chairs.

Therapy is often a necessary medical treatment, but for many people, therapy is prohibitively expensive.

Even for those who can afford it, the price of a single session can initially come as a shock.

So, what are the reasons behind the high price of therapy?

From the entry costs to the price of running a business, we’ve discussed some of the reasons why therapy is so expensive.

Why Is Therapy So Expensive?

There’s no escaping it: pursuing therapy is expensive.

But there are many reasons behind the high costs therapists charge.

Therapists Have To Undergo Years Of Training

The average therapist will need to complete at least four years of schooling, and many will have spent between six and ten years in education. It isn’t just a job you can walk into, and all these years of education are expensive. 

Having completed education, a therapist also needs to gain experience, which means working low paid jobs under supervision.

These initial price barriers are reflected in the cost of treatment, as the therapist has to pay for years of schooling and training.

However, that does mean the cost has to compensate the education and skill of a licensed therapist.

Therapists Have To Keep On Training

One of the major reasons for the high price of therapy is the high entry costs of the business.

Multiple years of schooling are required to qualify, and therapists have to complete hours of low paid work to gain experience for a license.

While this definitely goes part way to explaining the high price of therapy, after several years running a successful practice, you might wonder how the initial entry costs are still having an effect.

Education doesn’t end for a therapist when they get their degree

Most therapists will complete additional training throughout the years, as they keep up with new developments and trends in therapy, start a specialization, or take further exams to renew their license.

Therapists are also expected to visit conferences, read the latest publications, and attend networking events.

These experiences benefit the client, as they allow the therapist to expand their methods, and make reliable referrals.

Work Happens Between The Sessions

For a therapist, a session isn’t confined to the time they spend with the client. The 50 or so minutes of face to face discussion are just one part of the overall experience.

Between sessions, the therapist has to evaluate the conversation, and prepare for future treatments. On top of this, the therapist has to carry out the administrative work.

This can be replying to emails, updating records, designing new marketing campaigns, etc. And then they need to start preparing for the next client.

It might seem that during an average work day, a therapist should have time to see seven clients, and take an hour for lunch.

But in reality, a therapist might be able to see only four or five clients in a day.

One potential solution is to hire help. An assistant could do the administrative work, freeing up time for clients. However, the cost to hire assistance would need to be reflected in the cost of the service.

Therapist smiling at her client.

There Are Unexpected Costs To Running A Practice

The price of a single session covers more than just the salary of the therapist. It also needs to pay for the general costs of running a practice. 

These basic costs are easy to overlook, but if they don’t get paid, the practice can’t function.

Rent, bills, and other essentials all need to be accounted for in the cost of each session. 

Accepting Insurance Is Long And Complex

Insurance can help make therapy more affordable for those in need. However, it isn’t the easy solution that many see it as. Accepting insurance is a long and drawn out process, and it can leave therapists out of pocket.

One of the biggest disadvantages to accepting insurance is that insurance providers don’t reimburse certain diagnoses. The insurance provider wants to diagnose and treat an issue in a certain timeframe, and this isn’t always a viable course.

Sometimes, a therapist lays out a treatment course, the insurance provider refuses to cover it, and the therapist loses money.

In addition to this, insurance providers require therapists to jump through hoops to receive reimbursement.

There’s paperwork to fill out either side of a session, and there’s a constant risk that they’ll refuse the payment. Accepting insurance can add more administrative work to the practice, which isn’t covered by the payment. 

It can be an incredibly frustrating system, for both therapists and clients. 

Therapy Can Be Emotionally Taxing

We’ve talked about the day-to-day labor that a therapist has to charge for, but it’s also important to consider the emotional labor.

This can be a tricky subject to bring up—the client will always have the more emotionally taxing experience. 

However, therapy can be overwhelming for the therapist as well as the client.

When each day is packed with clients, there’s no time for the therapist to unwind, reflect, and compartmentalize a session.

Instead, they have to dive straight into another emotionally powerful conversation.

Overtime, this can have a serious effect on the wellbeing of the therapist. It also affects the kind of care they can provide.

By charging more and seeing fewer clients, each client can receive a higher standard of care.

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About Your Pricing Structure

Choosing the right pricing structure for your business is essential to ensuring your practice can thrive, and this might mean charging more than you initially feel comfortable with.

When you have to turn down a client in need because they can’t afford your service, it can be distressing

But it’s important to step back and think about what each payment covers. Consider the administrative costs, as well as any debt from schooling you might need to pay off.

Don’t forget to account for the hours spent working away from the office, and the time between each client. Think about how much you’ll take home every week, and how much money you need to live comfortably. 

If you’ve done all that and you still think your prices are too high, then consider a sliding scale.

The clients who can’t afford therapy, pay less. But don’t undervalue your service in the process.

Final Thoughts

Therapists are highly skilled professionals who require years of training to offer a quality service.

This, alongside the hidden costs of running a practice, are all reflected in the price.

Although insurance can make therapy more affordable, the complex reality of working with insurance providers often renders this option unsustainable.

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