Americans are concerned about the cost of mental health treatment and some have already been forced to alter their therapy sessions as inflation creeps higher, according to a new survey from Verywell Mind.
The survey found that nearly half of American adults in therapy are concerned about its affordability long term, and would have to discontinue seeing their therapist if their out-of-pocket costs increased.
One-third of respondents said they already have canceled sessions, or reduced their frequency, because they couldn’t afford out-of-pocket costs not covered by insurance or other assistance. A strong majority of those surveyed (80%) said they believe that therapy is a good investment, but respondents outlined financial barriers that hindered their ability to continue seeking care.
Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they paid at least some out-of-pocket costs for therapy—an average of $178 per month. Although 71% of respondents said their insurance covers some of the cost, most insurance plans require a mental health diagnosis to cover therapy. In other words, most plans only cover therapy if it is deemed medically necessary, which might not be the case for everyone.
Cost-related barriers have forced many Americans to either reduce the frequency of sessions or quit therapy altogether. In fact, changes to insurance coverage, the expiration of employee assistance benefits, and the expense of therapy sessions were among the top, cost-related barriers cited by survey respondents as reasons they stopped going to therapy. One-third of those surveyed said they have canceled sessions because of out-of-pocket costs, while nearly 40% reported they attend therapy less often to save money.
Meanwhile, Americans are grappling with a variety of daily stressors that could be helped by therapy. Nearly 60% of U.S. adults agree that the pandemic remains a daily stressor, according to the recent Stress in America survey conducted by the American Psychological Association and The Harris Poll. The survey found that money concerns were the top source of stress, with nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults marking it as a significant stressor—the highest recorded by the survey since 2015. A wide majority (87%) reported that the rise in prices of everyday items such as groceries and gas due to inflation, is another source of stress.
Additional, secondary, costs related to accessing therapy make seeking care even more expensive. Transportation is one of the top out-of-pocket costs for therapy noted in Verywell Mind’s survey, and it’s only gotten costlier as average gas prices are now $4 per gallon or more in all 50 states, Nearly half of those surveyed by Verywell Mind drive themselves to therapy, spending an average of $164 monthly on gas to attend sessions.
There are ways to help lower your therapist’s bill, such as negotiating costs or taking advantage of sliding scale fees. However, the Verywell Mind survey found that many people are not aware of these options—only one-third of those surveyed have tried negotiating costs with their therapists, while a little over half are aware of sliding scale fees. Choosing providers that offer sliding scale fees based on income and financial situation, accessing telehealth, and seeking a federally funded health center through the Health Resources and Services Administration are all ways to help reduce the out-of-pocket costs for therapy.