As a New York-based psychologist, I know that finding affordable therapy in the city is tough. Many therapists in NYC don’t take insurance, and those who do can have long waiting lists. But there are ways to increase your chances of finding a quality therapist at a lower cost. There are even a few secrets that have gotten me to lower my fees. So, whether you’ve already found your therapist, or you’re still searching, here are eight ways to lower your bill.
First off, a note on insurance: If you have insurance or are part of an EAP (employee assistance program), you may qualify to see an in-network therapist for a very low co-pay. You also might have an “out-of-network” benefit which allows you to see any therapist, pay directly and then be partially reimbursed by your insurance provider.
1. Bargain for your care. Ask the therapist if they’ll lower their fee based on your income (sliding scale). They might even have scaled-down rates for the traditionally cash-strapped (students, artists, single moms, etc.) Don’t be afraid to ask. But don’t feign financial need. You probably won’t get the best care if you ask for a lowered fee and then whip out your American Express Platinum card.
2. Go during the day. Find out if your therapist is willing to charge less for daytime sessions. This has happened.
3. Be like-able. Therapists are people too, and they might be willing to accept a lower fee for someone they’ll at least get along with for an hour a week. All things being equal, I’m more likely to lower my fee for someone in financial need if they also like surfing, writing and have a deep appreciation for the beauty of Brooklyn. And even if you hate surfing and you’ve never set foot in Brooklyn, be on-time, be polite, and we’ll likely be off to a good start. I happen to have a soft spot for respectful people who ask for a fee reduction rather than demand one (go figure!).
4. Try them out. Before discussing the fee, ask the therapist if and how they think they can help. Many therapists will talk to you on the phone and/or give you a free session to evaluate how well you match. Take this opportunity to ask about their plan for you. On the financial side, the better rapport you have going in, the better your chance to get a reduced fee.
5. Use the Psychology Today web site. This site has a listing of local therapists at every price range starting at $20 a session. It’s a great resource to find private practitioners willing to see patients at lower rates.
6. Consider group therapy. Group therapy can be very affordable, but it’s not for everyone or every case. A group can be very effective for interpersonal issues but may not be right if you’re in a lot of distress. You should consult with the mental health professional about these issues. You may find groups below or you can look on Psychology Today.
7. Try a low-cost clinic.
To start you out, here are a few low-cost clinics I recommend in the area:
Weill Cornell Dept. of Psychiatry clinical services, various locations, 888-694-5700
(Cornell Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy, 425 E. 61st St., 212-821-0775)
American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, 136 E. 57th St., suite 1101, 212-308-2440
Washington Square Institute, 41 -51 E. 11th St., 212-477-2600
Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, various locations
8. Don’t be afraid of a new therapist. Sometimes people ask me why therapists even consider sliding their fee. The most altruistic among us, of course, simply want to help those in need—money, or lack-thereof, aside. The more realistic answer is that many therapists who’ll lower their fee are just starting out. Does this mean you’re getting any less for your money when you see a (relatively) inexperienced therapist? Not necessarily. Newer therapists are often fresher, have access to the most cutting-edge training and techniques and can be more energetic and motivated than their “more experienced” counterparts.
In the end, when it comes down to choosing the right therapist, the most important variable is how comfortable you feel with your counselor. Good luck and be well.
Dr. Jonathan Fader teaches at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and maintains an active private practice. He’s also the team psychologist to the New York Mets. Learn more about him here.