The Facts About Therapy
How to Get Started and the Cost of Therapy
Bottom Line: What Does Therapy Cost?
The price a therapist charges is based largely on four things: her level of training, years of experience, reputation, and location. "More highly trained, experienced therapists in urban areas are going to be at the high end: from $90 to $350 or more for a 45- to 60-minute session," says Susan Heitler, PhD, a marriage therapist in Denver and author of The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong and Loving Marriage. In some areas you might be able to seek help at a mental-health center or see a therapist for as little as $40 per hour, and some offer a sliding scale based on your income. Many therapists accept certain types of insurance, but that varies across the country. Insurance companies and policies vary widely in their coverage. You may be more likely to get coverage if you have a diagnosable disorder, like depression or anxiety, than if you have marital problems or are suffering from grief, but always ask.
How to Get Started
The relationship between you and your therapist is the most important element in determining how effective your sessions will be, so it's crucial to find someone you click with. Counselors and social workers usually have a master's degree. Psychologists have a PhD or PsyD, and psychiatrists have an MD and can legally prescribe medication. Ask family members, friends, your doctor, or your local university's psychology department for referrals, then meet with potential candidates for informational sessions. Or try these resources:
And forget about the couch. Most therapy these days is very interactive, where you sit face-to-face with the counselor. More and more therapists are using cognitive behavioral therapy to treat a wide range of problems, including depression and anxiety. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, so the goal of therapy isn't to delve into the past. It's to help you see things in the here and now from a different perspective and to recognize and change unhealthy thoughts and actions. As a result, therapy sessions begin with setting goals and are like talking to a smart, interested, compassionate friend. A therapist will ask questions about the problem and help you come up with alternative perspectives to reframe your thinking. He might also give you homework assignments, such as books to read or activities to try, to push your thinking in new directions.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, May 2011.