How To Find Affordable Therapy

I know of two great ways to deal with issues in one’s life: drinking heavily, or seeing a therapist. I’ve tried both, and I have to say that the therapy route is more efficient, because if done correctly it can help you figure out why you do what you do, so that you can properly enjoy your liquor without all the tears.

The problem is that therapy sounds expensive, but there are actually affordable options out there if you know where to look. Here are some tips.


Look for a training institute.

If you live in a large city, there’s a good chance there’s some sort of training institute in your area. It’s where you’ll find post-graduate therapists getting real-world experience before opening up their own practices, and the fees will be a lot lower than what you’ll find in a private practice. Many institutes will offer a sliding-scale fee structure and work with people who don’t have insurance.

To find these places, do a Google search in your city for the phrases “pyschoanalytic institute,” “psychoanalysis institute,” or “psychotherapy institute.” And don’t worry–despite those terms, most therapists aren’t going to automatically start Freuding you with sex-talk about your mother.

Check with the local university.

If there’s a school with a psychology department in your town, there’s a chance they offer a sliding-scale fee structure for therapy to the student body, or sometimes to the community at large.

Call private therapists in your town and ask for advice.

Some therapists reserve a couple of slots in their patient roster for people who can’t afford their normal rates, so it’s worth asking directly if you can pay less. Even if the therapist says no, he or she might be able to refer you to someone who you can afford.

Check whether your insurance covers mental health treatments.

Many policies do, although usually they stipulate a specific duration for the treatment (n number of sessions and that’s it!). If there’s a specific issue or crisis dragging you down, a shorter-term engagement may be enough to help get you back to a productive state again.

Check whether your workplace has an “Employee Assistance Program.”

Our commenter speedwell, avatar of snark points out below that your employer might foot the bill for some visits to a therapist: “I went to an excellent therapist who straightened me out and got me functioning in just six sessions. For ‘acute’ issues, that’s often just right, and may work for some ‘chronic’ depressions and anxieties too.”

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And finally, here are a few tips if you decide to talk to someone. I got these from my own therapist, so they’re practically from the mouth of Freud. Or Jung? Oprah? Meh.

  • Don’t feel you have to settle for the first person you talk to. There’s no predicting how well your personalities will match up, and if it doesn’t feel like you can trust or open up to the therapist, it’s perfectly okay to try someone else.
  • It’s okay to ask the therapist if he or she is in therapy. Some won’t answer because that’s not how they roll when it comes to the patient-therapist relationship, but it’s not offensive or inappropriate to ask. You may feel more comfortable with a therapist who is also exploring what makes him or her tick.
  • Don’t try this if you’re a Scientologist. You will get so many Thetans stuck to you that it will take a billion years to audit them all off. (My therapist did not actually say this.)