The world can be a stressful place. You are feeling overwhelmed, and nothing seems to be working consistently. You’ve reached out to friends and family. They may have helped a little, but not enough. Perhaps friends or family are somehow associated with your stress, which leaves fewer people in whom to confide.
The day has come when you finally decide to seek help to get where you want to be. As you type “psychotherapist” into your search engine, you feel a strange mix of anxiety, apprehension, and determination. Next, you find someone who seems to be a good fit for what you hope to accomplish in therapy. Finally, you’ve gained the courage to call or meet with this so-called expert, who has brought you at least some relief through validation and, perhaps, recommendations. As you get to the end of the free consultation, you ask about fees.
“You don’t take insurance? You charge how much? An hour is actually 50 minutes? You suggest I see you every week?”
Now, you quickly start adding the expense in your mind, and think to yourself, “I should have been a therapist. They must be making a killing.”
Rest assured, you are not alone in these thoughts. That hourly rate creates a bit of tug and pull for all involved.
You know your financial strains, and probably do not care to be reminded. So, let us take a moment to explore that expensive rate your therapist charges to support his or her lavish lifestyle.
The reality is that most therapists, the good ones anyway, are not able to see 40 clients per week. That means 40 hours of face-time every week, plus paperwork, phone calls, and preparation for your session.
Consider where your money actually goes when you make an investment in self-improvement. There are rent and utilities for the office space, which in the metropolitan cities are a market all to themselves.
If your therapist employs the extra effort to make the space comfortable and relaxing, there are expenses for those amenities.
Hopefully, your therapist is staying caught up on the latest research, or at least on the information you need. Aside from the minimum required continuing education hours, there are seminars, workshops, webinars, books, and journals that provide the ongoing knowledge and practice needed to stay sharp and effective in helping you make positive changes in your life.
Think back to how you found your therapist. Perhaps you heard from a friend or family member how amazing their therapist had been for them, and decided to make that call for yourself. Maybe you searched the Internet to find a website or Psychology Today listing. These also come at a cost.
At this point, you may consider letting your therapist off the hook for the $100-plus dollars per session, but don’t give in just yet. After all, other professionals have expenses, for which they may not charge $400 to $500 per month. What makes therapists so special? Skill and expertise, with a dash of unconditional compassion.
Let’s talk education. Unless you are meeting with Lucy from the Peanuts cartoon, your therapist had to be trained somewhere — ideally, an accredited graduate school. Postsecondary education is an expensive endeavor. It is also one of the most necessary endeavors in a growing, competitive job market. Approximately 70 percent of Americans borrow money via student loans to pay for college or graduate school (US News.com, 2014), and spend up to 10 or more years paying them off.
In summary, the hourly rate on which your therapist seemingly lives the posh lifestyle has to cover quite a bit. What’s left over from the above-mentioned necessities go toward paying personal and family expenses and the occasional leisure activity. The helping profession can be quite exhausting. We, too, need our practices for unwinding, recharging, and coping with life’s difficulties. Whether yoga, meditation, supervision, our own therapy, or the occasional time away, we need our clarity and well-being, not only for you, but for ourselves. For therapists, to be sick or take a vacation means not earning an income.
Do your research. Don’t hesitate to call around for the average cost of therapy in your area, and who the experts are for your specific needs. Doctors, clergy, attorneys, other therapists, and the Internet are great resources for finding this information.
Bidwell, A.(2013, December 4). Average student loan debt jumps 10 percent. Retrieved December 19, 2014, from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/12/04/average-student-loan-debt-jumps-10-percent.