By Pieter De Wit
About a year ago, I struggled with some problems I couldn’t manage to solve myself. Although I read a lot of self-development books, I needed some help to overcome certain mental roadblocks. My girlfriend suggested I try some therapy sessions, so I decided to take the leap.
I found it very beneficial and took some great lessons from it. But because of the cost, I reluctantly stopped going, knowing that there was still so much of myself to explore. While therapy can be extremely helpful, the financial burden may put extra pressure on people at a fragile time.
It got me wondering: if therapy is so beneficial and could help us cope better, why is it so expensive? In some countries, it is barely accessible to the middle-classes, never mind those in lower-income brackets.
Why Is It So Expensive?
Licensed, practising therapists have invested in their careers and studied hard to achieve a Master’s degree. They operate mostly as self-employed professionals giving you a personalised service. Additionally, the market forces of demand and supply currently don’t work in the customer’s favour.
About one-quarter of US adults reported having mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression or emotional distress, one of the highest rates from 11 high-income countries. I am worried that due to the current crisis, these numbers will rise, while at the same time the people who need it the most, will be those who can’t afford it, due to financial constraints and job losses.
Is It Value For Money?
In America, an average therapy session costs $90 USD per hour, but with health insurance coverage, rates average $20 USD to $50 USD per session. Unfortunately, for most people, therapy is a long process, and rushing through it is often counterproductive. Weekly sessions are often the norm, so, assuming you need at least ten sessions, the total amount due needs to be multiplied by ten too.
But I also appreciate that the cost is relative. Life is expensive, and the majority of peoples’ budgets are spent on rent or mortgage, food, transport etc. Most of us, when we have some extra money to spare, spend it on luxury goods we don’t really need: fancy clothes, a flatscreen tv, an overpriced car and too much alcohol. Without pointing fingers, I think it is useful to consider what should be our real priorities. On New years day or birthdays we wish each other “good health”, seeing it as a necessity for our luck and wellbeing, but the other days of the year we don’t act on it.
For me, personally, investing in myself was a process on its own. I always found it easier to spend money on material things, pretending it was a better investment. But through the years I have made a change and stopped buying stuff I didn’t need. I started to spend some money on extra education and my own health. And it feels good. I think that those investments are the best I ever made.
Can You Make It More Affordable?
To make therapy more affordable, you must think about what kind you need and what you want to get out of it. Define your problem, choose the right therapist and focus on working on your main issues. Without a specific goal, therapy can theoretically go on until you are enlightened, and if you are like most of us, I guess that won’t happen any time soon!
The first way to make therapy more affordable is to look for alternatives to the more expensive one-on-one sessions. Group therapy can be a very effective strategy. Sharing your thoughts and emotions can be a healing process and is especially popular with addiction problems such as alcohol misuse.
Another way to make therapy more affordable is to raise its value in your mind and see the bigger picture. Imagine you have an alcohol problem, which is not serving you and costing you lots of money. Investing this money in expensive therapy could end up saving you lots financially and healthwise. If you are depressed or lack self-confidence, treatment could give you back the mental strength to get a job or land a promotion, leaving you with more money than before.
I sincerely hope that you realise that YOU are the most valuable and important element in your life. You are worth spending money on. You are not being selfish, you are taking responsibility for your own life. Only when you invest in your mental health and happiness, will you find the strength and energy to shine your light on others. Going to therapy should be something you do for yourself, but if you can’t see your own worth yet, do it for your loved ones. They’ll thank you later.