Why Is Therapy So Darn Expensive (In Private Practice)?

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Some clients may have this image of psychologists driving around in a late-model Escalade, the seats cushioned with $100 bills, singing Lil Wayne’s Money On My Mind, but that lavish image is best saved for the rappers in Hollywood. 

I’m not going to try to convince you that therapy isn’t expensive. Because, let’s face it: it is. But maybe this can help someone understand why it costs as much as it does. 

Therapists in private practice must pay out of pocket for essentials that run into several hundreds to several thousands of dollars apiece, annually.  

Some common costs are:

  • Office space rental

  • Psychologist licensing fees 

  • Psychologist insurance fees

  • Personal insurance fees (if you work for yourself, you must provide your own benefits)

  • Professional  association fees (of which there may be several)

  • Professional supervision by another psychologist (required, if you’re a provisional psychologist; strongly advised even for seasoned pros)

  • Marketing

  • Continuing professional education;

  • Vacation time, sick days, and parental leave; 

  • Personal psychotherapy (not an official requirement, but recommended for optimal service competence and delivery to clients)

  • Preparation time and tasks outside of session  (e.g., research; responding to emails/calls; writing unpaid reports’ communicating with physicians, family members, partners of client; finding appropriate referrals, etc.)

  • Administrative meetings

  • Case consultations with other mental health pros

  • Sliding-scale clients (this may not be part of every practitioner’s picture, but many psychologists provide lower-cost services to those in need who cannot pay full rates)

F.Y.I., a $200 per 50-minute session fee in Alberta is not arbitrarily set by psychologists, but is the professional standard as set by the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta.

Stay tuned for related blogs on: common psychological struggles with paying for therapy even if it’s financially manageable, questions to ask ourselves when in conflict regardingspending money on therapy, and resources for subsidized services if you are unable to afford seeing a psychologist in private practice.