How Much Does Therapy or Counseling Cost?

Davis Yates
September 2, 2020

As a society, we’ve made progress destigmatizing mental health services (e.x. #bellletstalk); the American Psychological Association surveyed 1,000 randomly selected Americans and found that 91% said they would consult or recommend a mental health professional if they or a family member were experiencing a problem.  What great news!

Why then, as we reduce the stigma, is the usage of mental health services so low? Consider a couple of statistics below:

  1. In 2017, 57.4% of adults with a mental health condition received no mental health services in the past year.
  2. At any given time, approximately 50% of patients with a severe mental disorder are not getting treatment.

And it’s not like mental health issues are going away:

  1. Almost half of adults will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime.
  2. 1 in 10 youth have experienced a period of major depression.
  3. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It accounts for the loss of more than 41,000 American lives each year, more than double the number of lives lost to homicide.
  4. Untreated mental illness costs the US up to $300 billion every year due to losses in productivity.

It’s a shame, because there’s surprising consensus in the academic community that therapy is effective - the average client receiving psychotherapy is better off than 79% of clients who do not seek treatment.

At Dawn, we believe the low usage is due to cost; as Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA's executive director for professional practice, puts it "we've made progress in people's attitudes toward getting mental health treatment or seeking it for their loved ones, but cost, lack of insurance and access still can be barriers for people in getting the help they need."  In fact, 87 percent  of those polled pointed to lack of insurance coverage as a barrier to seeking treatment, and 81 percent pointed to cost concerns.

In an effort to combat affordability issues, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions about pricing and insurance, and are announcing a program that will improve access to affordable counselling. 

How much does therapy cost?

Per-hour cost of therapy can range from $60 to $250 per hour depending on a number of factors (therapist experience, reputation, length of session, etc.). 

Generally speaking, the per-hour cost of therapists by credentials are:

  • Psychologist - $200 
  • Social Work - $110-$160
  • Counsellors - $80-$110

This often leads to the question...

How can I access free or discounted therapy or counselling?

There are two potential options: private and public counselling.

Private - therapists can offer sliding-scale (discounted) counselling.  Typically, to be eligible clients need to be without insurance coverage.  You can use Dawn’s database of therapists to see if a therapist offer sliding-scale or not.

Public - in major metropolitan areas there are often programs that offer free services.  Take Calgary Counselling in Calgary for example.  Calgary Counselling offers a pay-what-you-can model, with per-hour cost as low as $6. These public programs are good for brief stints of therapy, but often have long wait times and you may be required to work with a different counsellor each session.

How to pay for therapy

There are three ways to pay for therapy which depend on if you have benefits and if your therapist direct bills insurance:

  1. If you have benefits and your therapist offers direct billing, the therapist can charge your insurance company directly so no money leaves your pocket (like the dentist!). 
  2. If you have benefits and your therapist does not offer direct billing, you can pay your therapist via e-transfer, credit card, cash, or cheque and submit a reimbursement to your insurance provider.
  3. If you don’t have benefits, you can pay your therapist via e-transfer, credit card, cash, or cheque.
What types of therapists insurance covers 

For your insurance plan, you’ll want to check you (or your partner’s plan) for three things:

  1. The type of therapists covered 
  2. How much coverage you have
  3. What the maximum amount and % co-pay
Type of therapists coverage 

The credentials covered vary via insurance company and plan.  We highly suggest calling your benefits provider to understand exactly what is covered before booking an appointment.  Most plans cover Registered Psychologists and Social Workers, some cover Counsellors.

How much coverage you have

Benefits plans can provide different levels of coverage: some will cover $400, some up to $3,000.

What the maximum amount and % co-pay

Some plans have a maximum amount per session (example: max $200 per session).  Also, some plans require you to pay a % of the cost (example: 80% coverage).

If you want help understanding your insurance plan, please reach out by filling out an intake

What we’re doing to help

Dawn’s mission is to make mental health services more accessible.  To do that, we’re offering $50 to anyone who is willing to:

  1. Get matched to a therapist via Dawn 
  2. Share their experience in therapy via social media 

We hope this accomplishes three goals:

  1. Continues to reduce the stigma about therapy
  2. Educates people of the benefits of therapy
  3. Reduces the financial barrier to getting started

What are you waiting for?  Get started today.

Photo credits:

"Man Talking Angry on the Phone Cartoon Vector.svg from Wikimedia Commons by Videoplasty.com, CC-BY-SA 4.0"

Davis Yates
Founder, Dawn
Today is the day.
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