The costs and benefits of psychotherapy are some of the most important things to consider when thinking about engaging in mental health treatment.
In this post, I attempt to briefly summarize the various things to consider before committing to a course of psychotherapy. It is important to understand, however, that ultimately the costs and benefits of treatment vary between individual providers and clients, and should be discussed and clarified with your provider as part of the informed consent process prior to the start of any course of treatment.
What are the costs of psychotherapy and why does it seem to vary in price?
The main costs of psychotherapy are typically money, time, and the willingness to be open, honest, and emotionally vulnerable in your sessions.
Factors that contribute to the financial cost of psychotherapy include: therapist training, specialty, experience, location, and type of treatment provided.
Therapists who have a higher education (e.g. Doctoral-level vs. Master’s-level), are more experienced, and/or specialize in a specific area of psychotherapy tend to have higher rates per session.
With regard to time, most courses of psychotherapy begin with weekly, 50 minute sessions; although the frequency and duration of sessions may vary depending on the treatment plan and goals for psychotherapy. In my practice, I’ve found that most patients feel some relief of symptoms after the first few sessions and an average course of treatment lasts 8-12 weeks/sessions, followed by occasional “booster” sessions offered as-needed.
Many mental health treatment providers will also ask clients to complete assignments or practice skills in between sessions in order to gather more information and to build confidence in new skills.
Moreover, the success of psychotherapy is dependent on the rapport or “therapeutic alliance” between the client and the provider. While it is the providers responsibility to create a safe and inviting space, the client may also be asked to be emotionally engaged in sessions in a way that may trigger distressing emotions, for psychotherapy to be successful.
What are the benefits of psychotherapy?
Evidence-based psychotherapy provided appropriately by skilled mental health professionals can help people suffering with a wide range of stressors.
The many benefits to psychotherapy include relief of symptoms, solutions to specific problems, improved relationships, and an overall sense of well-being and health.
These benefits also vary depending on therapist-client rapport, therapist skill and training in addressing the specific client needs, and individual client investment of time and effort in the treatment process.
How do I access care?
The best way to find the right mental health provider for you is by evaluating your needs and goals for psychotherapy, the type of care you wish to receive (e.g. level of training/expertise you would like your therapist to have and the type of treatment they offer), and the time and resources you have available to participate in this type of treatment.
If you feel comfortable asking, you may find that your family doctor, or even family or friends may be good sources for referrals.
Online directories, such as the ones provided by your insurance provider, the American Psychological Association, or Psychology Today may also be helpful in finding a therapist.
It is important to note that not all psychologists are meant to work with all clients and vice versa. Therefore, you may need to meet with several therapists, before finding the provider that is the best fit for you.
Most clients find that once they find the right provider, the benefits can far outweigh the costs and psychotherapy is well worth the investment.