What If I Can't Afford Therapy?

Updated: Mar 29, 2020

New Leaf Counseling Group, LLC was established by Logan Cohen in Charlotte, NC in 2014 with the primary goal of of increasing community access to down-to-earth mental health care. Since then, the practice has consistently taken measures to make the process of going to see a professional counselor or therapist a more comfortable one. Even so, there are still many community members in Charlotte, NC who cannot afford mental health services at the full market rate, so practitioners at New Leaf Counseling Group leave a portion of their availability for clients who require affordable counseling and low cost options with a sliding scale. Please note these timeslots are limited, based on a sliding scale, and are up to the discretion of each practitioner.

It used to be that only the wealthiest of the wealthy were able to work with a professional counselor or therapist. As treatment in Therapy and Counseling began to be recognized as effective healthcare methods by Western Medicine, standards of practice require that accessibility be increased.

While accessibility to professional therapy and/or counseling has increased in the last several decades, the issue of cost is still a barrier for many households. Since the Affordable Care Act, more Americans have health insurance than ever before, but the expense of co-pays and high deductibles are often still so much that many People still can't afford therapy.

As a country with economic principles founded on capitalism, the almighty dollar seems to have a lot of power symbolically too - representing safety and security. For many people, the really tough situation of needing mental health treatment, while at the same time believing they can't afford therapy, is twice as shameful. The absence of low cost counseling options often creates a situation where people in need who can't afford therapy never seek the care they need.

After seeing this trend enough in Charlotte, NC, New Leaf Counseling Group decided to be a part of the solution for community members who can't afford therapy. We have created a solution for community members to secure affordable counseling based on annual household income. We believe that people should never have to let financial limitations result in a situation where they literally can't afford therapy - then allow that to block the from meeting their potential with Self and/or Loved Ones.

While we have created a solution for community members in Charlotte, NC who require access to low cost counseling, we also want to be part of the solution in as many other areas as we can. In cases where you might not be in Charlotte, NC, we are also going to share a bit more about how to navigate this space of requiring affordable counseling when it seems like you can't afford therapy.

5 tips for talking to mental health providers when you believe that you can't afford therapy

#1 Tip When You Can't Afford Therapy - Self Advocacy It is essential that you remind yourself that the embarrassment from talking about money and cost has nothing to do with you. It has to do with a Culture that is over-focused on what money symbolizes. Money is a necessary part of Life, especially in a capitalist country like the United States. You deserve to feel comfortable enough to discuss cost with a healthcare provider when you think you can't afford counseling, but know it needs to happen.

Once you have identified that cost is an issue, it is best to be as direct and honest with your healthcare provider as possible. When you make first contact to schedule an appointment, be sure to be clear about the health insurance you have, even saying directly, “This is my insurance, but do you take that particular insurance? And if I can’t afford therapy or make my co-payment, then what other options do we have? What kind of options do you offer for people who don’t have access to adequate financial resources to pay this fee?”

While openly talking about your perceived ability to pay - much less bringing this up yourself - may not be what you prefer to be discussing first thing, it is so important to have that conversation if/when we think we can't afford therapy. If we are going to have access to sufficient care, then we need to consider shifting our thinking to take into account the fact that long-term wellness far outweighs the temporary emotional discomfort associated with a conversation about cost. If you are not able to take a calculated risk and advocate for yourself when you think you can't afford therapy, then when will you advocate? Everybody deserves basic access to adequate healthcare.

#2 Tip When You Can't Afford Therapy - Shop Your Options There is a good chance that you will ask a therapist about affordable counseling options and get an answer that doesn't help at all. You do not have to take that “NO” for the official answer! Just because one therapist or counselor will not meet you in the middle on cost, that doesn't mean that's how all the other mental health practices with respond.

It might even be helpful to ask the therapist who said "NO" if they have any knowledge of places that you expect to find affordable counseling. It is not common for a therapist to turn someone away with limited financial resources with no referral or suggestion of where else to meet those needs when you can't afford therapy.

And in the off chance that you get a rude response when you ask about financial limitations, this particular therapist or counselor is probably not a healthcare practitioner you want to work with anyway.

#3 Tip When You Can't Afford Therapy - Community Resources If you are having a hard time and finding that you can't afford therapy, then it might make sense to consider other alternatives that are low cost, while also meeting your personal needs. For example, there are many areas where you can find a walk-in clinic that has little to no cost associated. A lot of other professional therapists, counselors, and group practices provide other affordable counseling options, so again - be sure to ask.

If you happen to live near a graduate school or university, try giving the graduate psychology department a phone call and ask if they have a counseling center for people in the community. Many times these institutions have facilities that are staffed by graduate students who are essential in their graduate level clinical rotations. While they are learning to provide therapy, you can have access to care this is supervised, reasonable in quality, and with affordable counseling options.

In virtually every community of any significant population density, there tend to be crisis care services for people who are struggling with a mental health crisis while they can't afford therapy. In these particular situations, very specifically trained healthcare support staff will guide you over the phone - and may even be available to come to your home and help you through the acute crisis. Often times, these services include connecting people to affordable counseling as well as adequate care, so this can be a great resource for people who don’t know where to turn for assistance.

Also, oftentimes a healthcare provider will be willing to negotiate a rate for affordable counseling that is based on a sliding scale. If you can agree to implement private pay, rather than utilizing health insurance - some providers are able to offer a sliding-fee scale, like the one discussed above at New Leaf Counseling Group.

A sliding scale creates options of affordable counseling for people to pay based on their personal income and what they can afford - whey they can't afford therapy at the traditional rate.

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