Have you been here before? Making the choice to find a therapist is a positive step toward improving your well-being, but then you start looking through your insurance panel. You notice that the in-network therapists are either booked through next year, don’t meet your needs, or far exceed your budget.
You spend hours typing inquiry emails, making phone calls, and filling out contact forms, only to not hear back from anyone. This is such an exhausting process. If you’re feeling frustrated, while just trying to find support for your mental health, you’re not the only one.
A 2015 survey conducted by the New York City Department of Health found that 1 in 5 New York adults suffer from depression or some other kind of mental health disorder, which is a drastic difference from the national statistic of 6.7 percent, but less than 40% of New Yorkers with a serious mental health issue get treated for their illness.
Keeping up with New York City’s sky high costs of living is no simple task for many New Yorkers, and finances can be a huge source of stress. Unfortunately, the cost of healthcare is not exempt from this list. When the therapy you need seems to be out of reach, what do you do?
In this article, we’ll explore your options for more affordable mental health care and alternative resources in New York City that may be useful to you.
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Introduction to low cost therapy and affordable mental health
You may have heard of the term, “in-network.” When a therapist is in-network, that means that they have signed a contract with an insurance company to provide services for them. According to that contract, the insurance company will pay the therapist a specific amount for each session they provide.
It can be especially difficult to find an in-network therapist in New York City, for reasons that are no mystery. Insurance companies, whether public or private, often make decisions that impact the delivery of therapy services. They don’t always accept therapists’ applications to join their networks, which tend to be over-saturated in bigger cities, like New York.
Many insurance companies also haven’t increased the amount they pay therapists to provide their services in decades, or they’ve simply cut their reimbursement rates, which can make sustaining a practice or organization complicated.
These barriers can seem like a lose-lose result for therapists and their prospective clients, but not all hope is lost. There are other avenues for you to find a therapist who may even be more affordable than an in-network provider, and who may be a better fit for your needs.
Consider these affordable mental health solutions:
If you have trouble affording therapy sessions with out-of-pocket fees or don’t have health insurance, then consider these more affordable alternatives:
1. Check out clinical internship programs.
Many private practices and clinics in New York City house training and internship programs where graduate level mental health students charge lower fees than licensed providers. If you notice yourself having thoughts of hesitation even as you read this, that’s understandable! You may wonder if a clinical intern can offer you the kind of support you need if they’re still learning the ropes, which is a valid thought to explore.
Know that clinical interns receive close consultation from an experienced supervisor and often learn the latest interventions, since they’re immersed in the learning process. Research also shows that the connection, or therapeutic rapport, you build with your therapist is an essential part of therapy’s success. Often, the most important aspect of therapy is finding someone who you truly feel “has your back.”
2. Give group therapy a try.
Group therapy offers many benefits. It can often be more affordable than individual therapy sessions, helping you feel less isolated and more connected to others who are experiencing similar struggles. If you already attend individual therapy and notice that it’s become less financially sustainable, ask your therapist about therapy groups that may benefit you or if they’re offering any groups that could fit your needs.
3. Ask about sliding scale fees.
For many people, it can feel unnerving, scary, or embarrassing to ask about sliding scale therapy offerings. Talking about money can be hard! However, many therapists in New York offer fees on a sliding scale, and they’re happy to discuss options with you with the utmost compassion and understanding.
Sliding scale payments are determined by your income level. Some therapists may be open to offer sliding scale fees, but don’t list the details on their website, so let them know about your financial concerns and see if they can work out a payment plan with you.
4. If you have health insurance, talk to your insurance company.
Trying to find a therapist in New York City who is in-network can limit your search. If you find a therapist who is out-of-network, you will likely have to pay the full price of their out-of-pocket fee on the day of your session. However, you may be able to get some of that money back in your pocket.
If you have out-of-network benefits through your insurance plan, you can ask your therapist for an invoice for each session you attend with them. Send that invoice to your insurance company, and they may reimburse a portion of the cost of your therapy sessions by sending you a check later on.
If you don’t know what your benefits are for outpatient mental health services (it’s okay if you don’t – not many people do!), New York Behavioral Health therapists often recommend that you call your insurance company. You can directly verify your benefits with your insurance company by calling the phone number listed on the back of your insurance card.
Try asking these questions when speaking to your insurance company’s representative:
- What is my out-of-network coinsurance for outpatient mental health services?
- What is my out-of-network deductible?
- How can I submit insurance claims for reimbursement?
5. Take advantage of being a student.
If you’re a college student with limited expendable funds, you may be able to seek counseling for free or a low cost. Many schools, like New York University, Columbia University, and schools within the CUNY system have counseling centers. These centers offer individual counseling, weekly groups, and some even offer wellness workshops for students.
Some of these programs may only offer a limited amount of sessions, at which point your school therapist can help connect you with external services if you still need support. However, some short-term therapy approaches can often result in improvements, so this option may be worth trying.
6. Turn to your community.
New York City has a wealth of free or low-cost support groups. These groups are often not led by a licensed professional, so they may not be as regulated as a clinically informed group, but they may offer you connection with people who are going through similar experiences.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI NYC) offers over 30 support groups, and they are only one of the many organizations who run these sorts of groups. If you’re struggling with the stress of living a bustling city, know that you’re far from alone in your struggle. There is probably a support group somewhere in the city (or even online!) that can speak to your needs.
7. Reach out to crisis and suicide prevention hotlines.
Sometimes, waiting for an appointment with a therapist isn’t a realistic option, and you need help sooner. If you are experiencing a more immediate crisis, we recommend that you either call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. However, if you need to talk to someone and aren’t in immediate danger, NYC Well can be a useful resource.
NYC Well is a free online service that is available all hours of the day. If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, you can text “WELL” to 65173, call their hotline, 1-888-NYC-WELL, or chat with a trained counselor or peer support specialist on their website.
8. Consider supplementing therapy with self-help resources.
Many types of therapy, like Cognitive Behavior Therapy, emphasize the value in practicing skills outside of therapy, not just in your sessions with your therapist. If the cost of weekly therapy is out of your reach, self-help coping skills can supplement your wellness between sessions.
You can find many self-help tools right here on our website, including our Stress Relief Toolkit, which you can download for free.
Have questions or want to schedule an appointment?
Finding Your Therapist
Cost doesn’t need to stand in the way of your well-being. After exploring these options, you may find mental health resources that fit your life. If you’re ready to start therapy and are interested in seeking support from a clinical intern or licensed therapist, New York Behavioral Health is here for you. Feel free to get to know our skilled, compassionate interns on our team page or request an appointment from our scheduling system.