Therapy Basics Part 4: Why is Therapy So Expensive?

1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in any given year. Yet, many have difficulty affording high quality therapy. Many therapists, especially those who are more experienced or specialized do not take insurance. The average cost of out of pocket fees varies widely based on the therapist’s degree, years of experience, and location, with therapists in some big cities charging up to $300! The average cost for therapy in Knoxville, Tennessee where I am a therapist is around $120-$175 per session. Therapy is expensive for many people.

So why is therapy so expensive?

I’ve written about why many therapists do not accept insurance, and how this benefits not only therapists, but you as the client as well. But as someone who has been a therapy client as well, I understand the difficulty of paying out of pocket for weekly sessions.

However, I also see the immense value of therapy, on par with other medical or health-related services that many of us spend much more money on. For example, many people get their hair cut and colored every 6 to 8 weeks. This costs on average of $150-$200. This ends up being between $975 to $1,733 per year. A client experiencing depression or anxiety may see relief in about 8-10 sessions. For a therapist charging $140 per session, this comes out to $1,120 to $1,400. So the cost for receiving therapy in this situation is comparable to a year of hair cut and color.

Further, other professionals such as lawyers may charge $200 per hour or more. A 15-minute check-up with a primary care doctor likely costs $120 to $200. An interior designer can charge up to $200 an hour. All of these services are comparable to the cost of therapy.

Is therapy worth it?

Therapists are highly trained healthcare professionals with a Masters degree or higher, years of training, and many business-related expenses. While the fee per hour may sound like a lot, most therapists in private practice have expenses like rent, malpractice insurance, advertising, utilities, internet, EHR software, license fees, and continuing education. Further, many therapists in private practice do not get paid if they don’t see a client. There is no paid vacation, holidays, or sick days. If a client doesn’t show up, the therapist does not get paid! Many therapists have massive student loan debt from years of graduate education. All of these expenses account for an hourly rate that may seem high.

Yes, therapy can be expensive. But it is an investment in your health that may positively impact your relationships, your work, and your overall well-being. Don’t let cost hold you back from investing in something that could pay dividends and improve your quality of life.

Contact me to schedule therapy in Knoxville and discuss cost and pricing options.


Nicole Pajer, May 4, 2017, “Why is Therapy So Expensive?”, Huffington Post. Link.

3 thoughts on “Therapy Basics Part 4: Why is Therapy So Expensive?

  1. Garbage Person Who Goes to GreatClips May 6, 2023 — 7:40 pm

    I for one am not spending $1400/year on hair cuts and throwing this out like it’s the client’s fault for not being willing to cough up the cash for therapy makes you sound very entitled. Think of it this way: there are millions of people without access to quality mental health therapy b/c a bunch of white therapists living in the suburbs with their Peloton bikes prefer to make $100k+/yr instead of a measly 70k (gasp!) like the peasants. The reason therapy is so expensive is because you prefer to make more money vs opening your services to people of a lower income bracket.

    1. I validate your feelings of frustration over the cost of therapy. I understand not everyone spends money on hair cuts; this was just used as an analogy to give people a sense of the total cost. I understand the frustration and difficulty with accessing care. There are options for lower cost therapy, such as seeing an intern, negotiating a reduced rate, and community mental health centers. I have never made either of the salary amounts you mentioned and I spent the first 7 years of my career in nonprofit settings earning about a public teacher’s salary so I could work with underserved populations. Our education and training as mental health professionals is very expensive and while there may be some who are motivated by money, the majority of therapists just want to help people while being fairly compensated for our work and have a comfortable lifestyle. Thank you.

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