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Negotiating A Fee: Making Therapy Affordable

In last week’s post, we went over the reasons why therapy is expensive. A therapist has to pay for office space, furniture, utilities, continuing education, and marketing, not to mention taxes. Furthermore, a therapist has already paid for a master’s degree or doctorate: he or she has to pay off student loans for quite some time.

Nevertheless, it is important that the fee works for BOTH you and your therapist. Below are a few ideas for how this can be done:

Appointment time. Many clients do not realize that a therapist is typically restricted in the hours he or she can practice. For example, not many people want to meet at 3pm throughout the week; most want evening hours—5pm, 6pm, 7pm, or even 8pm. If you cannot meet your therapist’s full fee, one way to negotiate a deal that works for both of you is to move your schedule around so that you can see them during a time they are not typically busy.

Session frequency. It is recommended that you attend therapy at least once weekly for the following reasons. First, it helps establish a sense of routine between you and your therapist, which leads to a more productive and comfortable environment. Secondly, people usually seek therapy when times are difficult; meeting less frequently than once a week might not be enough to keep up with everything that is going on.

If you find yourself unable to pay your therapist’s rate, however, meeting once every other week is always an option. If your budget cannot handle $400/month, maybe it can handle $200. Keep in mind that some therapists will charge more per session if this happens. The reason for this is due to the fact that it will be difficult for the therapist to fill your slot for the weeks you aren’t there.

Conversely, if you feel that life is so overwhelming that you need to see someone more frequently than once a week, a therapist will often lower his or her rate to accommodate you. This is because the therapist is filling two guaranteed slots in his or her schedule, so typically you can get a break.


Session time. In addition to meeting with a therapist once a week, it is also recommended that your sessions last 50 minutes. While there is some speculation that 50 minutes was decided upon arbitrarily (i.e., Freud could only hold his bladder for that long), most clinicians have found this to be an ideal balance of practicality and therapeutic indication. 50 minutes gives the client and therapist enough time to get into “the deep stuff;” it also allows a therapist to schedule appointments on the hour, with the assumption that he or she will need 10 minutes between appointments to answer phone calls, use the restroom, and complete notes.

If the fee becomes an issue, though, some therapists will offer “half-sessions” of 30 minutes, which allows you to meet once a week but also reduce the cost. Conversely, if you think you need more than 50 minutes a week, but not quite two separate sessions, some therapists will offer 90-minute sessions to accommodate you.

Group. Just as in many ventures, the more people that come together for a service, the less cost per person. This is the case with group therapy. A typical individual session might cost $100/hr, whereas a typical group session will cost between $30-$40. It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are important differences between group and individual work. Group work is only helpful at certain stages of a person’s therapeutic journey. Typically, we at Growth Thru Change recommend a few individual sessions before the possibility of group is even broached. This gives us enough time to understand what the core issues are, and in which format they would be better served: individual, group, or both.

For more ideas on how to negotiate a fee that works for you and your therapist, ask your therapist! The degree of comfort you feel in discussing such a delicate topic like money will tell you a lot about the prospects of your continued work together.


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