If you are interested in psychotherapy but worried about the cost, I am here to help you understand your financial investment in a new light. I am here to to convince you that it’s worth it.
Overcoming the Money Hurdle to Getting Counseling
Over the years as a psychotherapist in Chicago, I’ve heard many friends and acquaintances mention the cost of therapy as a barrier to them seeking out this very important support. In this article I’d like to share my thoughts on why we have developed the perception that psychotherapy is “so expensive”, articulate what I see as the value of counseling and hopefully help you shift your mindset so that you can feel not just ok- but possibly excited (!?)- about choosing to invest money in yourself and your future through therapy.
Why is Therapy "So Expensive"?
First, why we have developed the perception that therapy is “so expensive”.
I don’t have hard statistics on this, but here are my theories:
Cultural values: It seems that Americans tend to value mental and emotional health much less highly than other developed countries.
Health care costs rising: We spend a TON as a country on physical health (personally and collectively). Most of us see this as a problem and we often feel overwhelmed with health care costs. So our emotional health gets put on the back burner when we are thinking about it as a subset of health care spending.
People envision being in therapy FOREVER. Like on the movies or tv, where people just have “my therapist” that they see once a week to vent, ad infinitum. A financial commitment to spending $X per week for an indefinite amount of time is daunting.
Let Me Convince You of the Value of Psychotherapy
I am a huge advocate for being frugal and making intentional money choices that empower your best hopes, dreams and values. You won't find anyone who bangs the drum for saving money and spending wisely louder than me. So I definitely get being concerned about the financial investment of therapy.
From one money-obsessed person to another (and really, who isn't money- obsessed?), here is what I want you to know about therapy:
Rather than focusing on the “cost” of counseling, I believe it is much more helpful to think about the“value”.
We are all making decisions about where to put our limited resouces, all the time. So it doesn’t really matter in absolute terms what something costs as much as whether that thing is worth it to us.
Psychotherapy is an investment in yourself, your relationships and your future.
While finances are certainly a real concern, your emotional, mental and spiritual well being is of the highest value and this is not an area to "bargain shop".
We do so many things in the interest of self-care that cost money (retail therapy, getting a massage, getting a manicure, throwing back a few drinks, taking a vacation...) but they never bring real, lasting change. You are left having parted with your money and right back where you started.
Clients who thoroughly invest themselves (both financially and emotionally) in the process of therapy report that it brings them a greater return on investment than they ever would have thought possible- in the form of clarity on their goals, fulfilling relationships, self-confidence, peace of mind and innumerable other benefits that are specific to each individual. If you want to learn even more about what makes the therapy process unique, check out these posts: What Is Therapy and How Can It Help Me? Part 1 and What is Therapy and How Can It Help Me? Part 2.
A question I often ask of clients is:
When you are 80 and you are looking back at your life now, what are you going to have wished for yourself? What do you want to be proud of at the end of your life?
When people start therapy, it is the very things that they name during this exercise that they are looking to improve (their marriage, their satisfaction with their work, their relationship with their children, their ability to have a thriving life). If psychotherapy offers a turning point for you to focus on and transform the very things you care most about in life, how much is that worth to you? How much might your willingness to invest in that transformation be worth to you when you look back at your journey?
So What Are You Getting for Your Money?
Regardless of how highly you value your emotional health in theory, it is still fair to wonder where the rates that therapists charge are coming from. I can't speak for anyone else; but for me, the rates I charge have come from a careful evaluation of my values and what is necessary for those clients that work with me to get the highest quality of services I can possibly provide.
These values include the following:
Prioritizing my own mental health, physical health and the resulting ability to be present for each and every client session. Therapy is professional but it is also oh so personal. The professional investment in another human being that I want to make as a therapist requires self-knowledge, emotional investment and the ability to engage with many hard topics each day. Research shows that seeing more than 25 sessions per week is significantly more likely to lead to burn out for therapists. I keep my caseload small because I am in this to see clients thrive and I’m in it for the long haul.
Prioritizing depth over breadth. When I work with clients, I want to go deep. I want to be fully present for what is happening in the room and as thoughtful as possible about what professional tools I have that will help them. I am not using a one size fits all approach or a manualized style of treatment.
Prioritizing ongoing education and training. I spend time each week getting better at what I do. I am always self-exploring and seeking feedback from other professionals. I am constantly attending trainings in my areas of expertise and improving on the psychotherapy treatment approaches that I use. All of this is time not spent in the room with clients, which means it is not “billable”. So my fees are set to enable me to remain fiercely committed to getting better, so that my clients are getting my best.
What this means practically is that when you receive psychotherapy from me, you get:
A therapist with 8 years of education, professional supervision, experience and training
A therapist that can afford regular, specialized ongoing training in my areas of expertise
A therapist that remembers you and your last session in detail
A therapist that is focused on you reaching your goals and committed to your growth and change
A full 50 minute therapy session with 20-30 additional minutes for notekeeping and preparation
A therapist that earns a living wage
A well rested therapist that keeps the practice intentionally small to provide my utmost attention in each session
Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is
I hope you walk away from this article with more understanding about the cost of therapy, clarity about why it’s worth paying for and that you feel empowered to make financial decisions that prioritize your mental health. If you live in Chicago and would like to talk about working with me, click here to schedule a free phone consultation. I also offer online counseling in Illinois. You can learn more about those services here.