Why Is Therapy So Expensive?

You have been feeling stuck and stressed. You have tried to fix your problems and asked for support from friends or family, but it feels like you only get temporary relief. You’re tired of being on the hamster wheel of trauma, anxiety, or depression and have decided to try therapy or counseling. You hop online and start to search for professionals in your area, and you find some that you think would understand you and be able to help you with your problems. However, it feels like all the good therapists you like aren’t affordable. 

You start to add up the costs in your mind and begin to feel frustrated and hopeless. This therapist must be making a killing! Isn’t this person supposed to help people? How can anyone afford this? Know that these thoughts are totally normal, but let’s take a step back and consider what you’re paying for. Remember, the service you get from a discount store is different from the service you receive at a high-end boutique.


Every therapist has a minimum of a Master level degree in either social work, counseling, psychology, or marriage and family therapy and some therapists have a doctorate level degree. Each degree requires years of schooling, fieldwork (often without pay), state board exams, and professional supervision. Below is an example the education and training of a Licensed Master Social Worker in the state of Michigan.

A Licensed Masters Social Worker (LMSW) has a master’s degree in clinical therapy and counseling. Some clinical social workers even have a doctorate.  After receiving an undergraduate education, this degree required at least two years of schooling and fieldwork (working without pay). After receiving a Clinical Masters in Social Work (MSW) degree, professionals have to become fully licensed within seven years of obtaining their degree in order to practice in the State of Michigan legally. To tally up the years required to be fully licensed, we have four years of undergrad, at minimum two years of masters’, and an additional 2-7 years of on the job work. So, your social work therapist has experienced 8-13 years of training to obtain their full license. In addition to school and training, MSWs are also required to have supervision, state exams, background checks, and licensing.

Continued Training

After becoming fully licensed, there are continued costs of supervision and continuing education. You want your therapist to be educated on the latest research and practices to be sure you are receiving the best care. Some therapists go through additional training to earn certifications to provide specialized care to their clients. Training can cost thousands of dollars per year, and during this time therapists cannot see clients. Therapists also keep up to date on best practices through purchasing books and journals. So chances are a therapist you are interested in has trained long and hard to be able to provide the best care to you. 


We have all had experiences of seeing health professionals and felt we did not receive the best treatment. Maybe they were running 30 minutes late and then made you feel rushed during your appointment time. Perhaps you did not think that your needs were met, that you weren’t heard, or that you didn’t get the best treatment. It is crucial that you feel respected, understood, and that you are receiving the best services.  

A good therapist will be choosy about whom they see for therapy. Therapists should only take on the people they know they can help. No therapist specializes in everything, and so choosing clients who are a good fit is essential to make sure you meet your therapeutic goals as quickly as possible. If someone isn’t a good fit, a therapist will often try to provide you with resources and referrals to be sure you do get the help you are looking for. If you feel disappointed that a therapist does not feel you are a good fit, it can be helpful to reframe this experience as, “This therapist cares about me and my wellbeing, and feels there is someone who will help me start feeling better.” This is actually an act of love and respect and not rejection. 

It may seem like you’re paying a lot for a 50-minute session, but there is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into your sessions. Outside of your session, your therapist may be engaging in supervision, working on your treatment plan, and tracking your progress. Also, if a therapist takes your insurance, there is additional documentation needed that is required in meeting insurance standards. So even when you’re not in the office, your therapist is working for you. 

Finally, seeing too many clients, feeling overwhelmed, and having trouble making ends meet can cause therapists to resent their clients. This would result in a waste of your and the therapist’s time. A therapist that understands and respects their own needs will be able to provide better services to clients. 


Therapists who own their practices are also entrepreneurs and wear the hats of managers, billers, receptionists, administrators, and other office staff. Therapists who run their practices are also responsible for the overhead of a business, including rent, liability insurance, phone, Internet, fax, websites, marketing, electronic medical records, and assistants or medical billers. Solo practitioners have more control over the care they provide, which allows them to focus on specialties and offering unique services. Although this may seem like an extra burden, those who venture out as a solo practitioner often feel very passionately about the care they provide and do not want the constraints of working for someone else. For example, if you were interested in walk-and-talk therapy, you might have to find a solo practitioner because it might not align with the values of a group practice and insurance may not cover it. So, a therapist might cost more than other therapists due to the level of service they are trying to provide. 


Your comfort is a priority when it comes to healing work. If you don’t feel comfortable, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to get the desired change you want. Here are some things to consider: How does the office look and feel? Does the therapist have any extras in their office to make you more comfortable such as coffee or tea? If they have a specialty, do they have any specialized equipment, furniture, or other items that other offices might not provide? Any amenities that offer you increased relaxation and comfort are helping to create the space for you to heal. Also, when therapists have specialties or certifications it can help give you the peace-of-mind that you are seeing someone who is trained, experienced, and passionate about the work they provide.