How Do I Pay for Therapy Without Insurance?

How Do I Pay for Therapy Without Insurance?

Therapy is an investment in a better you. The resources you put into therapy on the front end can generate significant long-term benefits, such as increased self-confidence; more satisfying relationships; a clearer, quieter mind; and a more balanced, meaningful life.  

But like any other investment, therapy can also represent a significant financial commitment that warrants careful consideration.

For one thing, you want to make sure you’re getting a solid return on your investment in therapy. Not all forms of therapy (or therapists, for that matter) are created equal.

You also want to ensure that therapy will be financially sustainable. You don’t want to pay a fee that’s going to deplete your funds long before you reach your intended goals.  

This raises an important question:   

What’s the best way to pay for therapy?

In this post, I’m going to share 9 different ways to cover (and reduce) the cost of therapy, as well as some of the more important things you need to know about each option.   

Use Your In-Network Mental Health Benefits

Not all health insurance plans cover the cost of therapy, but many do. To determine whether your plan includes mental health benefits, it’s best to contact your insurance company directly and ask a few basic questions.

  1. Does my policy cover Individual Psychotherapy?
  2. How many sessions are covered per year? Some insurance plans place a limit on the number of sessions they will cover each year.  
  3. What percentage of the fee will be reimbursed? It’s unlikely that your insurance will cover the full cost of therapy. Knowing what portion of the fee your insurance won’t cover is important to determine in advance.  
  4. What’s my deductible? Often, insurance policies require you to meet a deductible—a predefined amount you pay out of pocket—before the insurance company will pay its portion.

As this list illustrates, there are pros and cons to consider when using insurance to pay for therapy. It’s a good idea to do some homework on this topic before your first therapy session.  

Use Your Out-of-Network Mental Health Benefits

In-network insurance benefits can certainly help when it comes to cutting down the total amount you’ll end up paying for therapy (though not always). One potential downside to using in-network insurance benefits to cover the cost of therapy, however, is that this option limits you to seeing only those therapists who are paneled with your specific insurance company.

What’s so bad about that? Well, not all therapy is created equal, and different people respond to different forms of therapy. You know yourself better than anyone, which is why it’s always a good idea to read up on the therapists in your area. What are their specialties? What age groups do they work with? Do they look like someone you can trust? (I know, I know…you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But when it comes to therapy, I’m willing to bet you want to work someone who looks trustworthy.)

Of course, not all insurance policies include out-of-network mental health benefits. But it’s important question to ask, as out-of-network benefits enable you to choose from a much larger pool of therapists in your area.

Use Your Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

If you contribute to a health savings account (HSA) or a flexible spending account (FSA), those funds can usually be used to cover the cost of therapy. As with out-of-network insurance benefits, an HSA or FSA grants you the freedom to choose the therapist with whom you most want to work. The major difference between out-of-network benefits and HSAs/FSAs, is that the latter will cover the cost of your therapy sessions in full. It’s also worth noting that not all the funds you contribute to an FSA carry over at the end of the year (not the case with HSAs). In other words, when it comes to FSA funds, you either use them, or you lose them.  

Leverage an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Check with your employer to see if you’re covered under an EAP, or employee assistance program. EAPs are an employee benefit that, in many cases, will cover a set number of therapy sessions. As with each of the payment options outlined in this post, be sure to read the fine print before making your decision.     

Pay Out of Pocket

Of course, when you don’t have health insurance, an HSA or employee benefits, paying for therapy out of pocket may be your only option. BUT private-pay is not always a bad option. In fact, in many cases, paying for therapy out of pocket can be a better option even for those who do have access to mental health benefits

For starters, working with a private-pay counseling practice and paying out of pocket can sometimes end up saving you money. But I’ll leave that for another post.

The other major benefit to paying out of pocket for therapy is that you have complete control over the care you receive. You choose the therapist you want to work with. You choose the type of therapy you want to receive. You choose how long your treatment will last. Given the wide range of personalities, treatment approaches, and areas of specialization in the counseling profession, having control over the care you receive can have a major impact on how effective the therapy you receive ends up being.  

Ask Your Tax Professional About Potential Tax Deductions

In some cases, out-of-pocket health expenses can be deducted from your taxes. Check with your tax preparer to see if you can deduct annual therapy expenses from your taxes at the end of the year.

Inquire about Sliding Fees

In my practice, I offer two standing sliding-fee slots. These tend to fill up quickly, but it never hurts to ask if a therapist you’re interested in working with offers a sliding scale.

Attend Group Therapy

In most cases, group therapy tends to cost significantly less than individual counseling. Of course, you don’t receive the same level of individualized attention in group therapy, but therapy groups can help you learn more about yourself through interacting with fellow group members.

Meet Less Frequently

If you’re concerned about weekly therapy not being financially sustainable, consider asking potential therapists about meeting on a less frequent basis. In my practice, I generally prefer to start out meeting with new clients on a weekly basis. This helps us to get acquainted, develop a level of trust, and start to build momentum. After getting started, however, meeting on a less frequent basis, such as bi-weekly, can cut your costs in half. Of course, weekly therapy tends to deliver faster results, but in certain situations, meeting less frequently may make sense.

Therapy can be a life-changing investment! Contact Modern Era Counseling today to learn more about how we can help you go from stuck to thriving.  

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