One of the most common (if not the #1 most common) question I receive in intake calls is, “Do you accept my insurance?” It is always a bummer to speak with a therapist that feels like a good fit and then find out that they don’t accept your insurance. Unfortunately, not every therapist takes every insurance, and many therapists don’t take insurance at all. This limits access to affordable therapy services for many clients, but there are alternatives to finding affordable therapy.
Finding the right therapist for your unique needs can be tough, but it isn’t impossible. There are more ways than ever to find a therapist that meets your needs and provides affordable services. In fact, most therapists strive to not just provide affordable services, but to have lots of recommendations for low cost services throughout their communities as well.
Many individuals seeking out mental health treatment haven’t had to look for a therapist on their own before. Entering college, starting a career, recently engaged, having their first child…all these periods of life transition can spark an interest in getting some professional guidance on how to cope. Unfortunately, scheduling that first session at a therapist’s office isn’t as straight forward as making an appointment for your annual exam at your doctor’s office. It involves a good amount of research and an open mind to find the right fit. I can provide you with a few tips and tricks on ways to find an affordable therapist for your mental health needs.
#1 Check Your Insurance Directory
If you want to utilize your insurance to cover therapy services, it is totally possible to do so. The easiest way to find an “in-network provider” is to go directly to your insurance provider’s directory. Therapists become “paneled” with various insurance companies in their area and are then listed by the insurance provider. Another way to find out if a therapist takes your insurance is to check the therapist’s website or personal directory listing. Sites like Therapy for Black Girls allow you to filter results by your insurance provider, so you know prior to reaching out if they are paneled with your insurance provider.
#2 Ask about Sliding Scales
Often times, therapists that do not work with insurance providers offer what we call a sliding scale fee. A sliding scale is usually an offer to reduce the normal fee per session by $10 to $50 in order to make services more accessible. Therapists may or may not advertise that they have a sliding scale, so it is always helpful to ask about this during an intake call. The fee may be reduced for a set amount of sessions or be in place for the entirety of your services. Organizations like Open Path Collective also provide a list of mental health practitioners across the country that provide reduced rates for therapy services.
#3 Look for Local Community Clinics
Many major cities have mental health centers that provide reduced cost services for various populations and from various mental health providers. In San Diego, there are multiple centers that provide mental health services at a cost that is significantly lower than the average price of therapy in the area. The Center for Community Counseling & Engagement is one of these clinics. Services are provided by graduate students at San Diego State University whom are studying to become licensed mental health providers. The student therapists are supervised by a team of licensed professionals, and provide services at a cost of $12 to $50 per session. Urban Restoration Counseling Center also provides reduced fees ranging from $60 to $120 per session depending on the type of service rendered and the professional providing it.
#4 Utilize Scholarship Resources
With the increased support for providing accessibility to mental health services, it has become more common to find scholarship type resources to supplement the cost of therapy. The Loveland Foundation is one such fund that provides vouchers to be used with therapists from the Therapy for Black Girls directory that reduce the cost of services for a decided amount of sessions. In San Diego, the New Life Counseling Center also provides reduced services from licensed professionals thanks to an established fund within the center. Asking about the possibility of getting assistance with the cost of services is the first step in discovering new ways to cover the cost of therapy.
#5 Advocate for Mental Health Policy Changes
This is the most long term solution to making therapy more affordable and more accessible to everyone. Currently, insurance providers cover services for diagnosable and medically necessary mental health treatment. This is a vast improvement from just a few years ago when mental health needs were not covered at all. However, we still have a long way to go. Getting insurance companies to provide coverage for preventative care and the more nuanced mental health treatment will require more advocating for policy changes. We all hope to reach a point where you can make an appointment with your therapist and pay a simple co-pay for as many sessions you need and for as long as you need to feel you have reached a place of wellness and happiness.
Finding a therapist that takes your insurance is not the only way to find affordable therapy services. Knowing these tricks of the trade can help make therapy a little more accessible for everyone. Anyone and everyone who wants to better themselves should be able to receive mental health treatment. Utilizing some of the suggestions above can help to make affordable therapy more accessible.