February 6, 2024

How Much Does Therapy Cost?

The cost of therapy varies from free to costly; it depends on a wide variety of factors, including the waiting time, the quality of service and the difficulties that require treatment.

We are lucky enough to live in a country where some mental health services are available for free. The NHS does provide therapy such as CBT, but unfortunately, you might find yourself waiting a long time for a short period of therapy. Additionally, there is less help available for treating specific psychological conditions such as perinatal depression, ADHD and PTSD. For these reasons, more people are opting for private therapy.

  1. NHS vs private therapy
  2. How much is therapy?
  3. Cost of therapy vs counselling
  4. Why is therapy so expensive?
  5. Cost of online vs in-person therapy

NHS vs private therapy

In the UK, private therapy is not as common or visible as in countries that already rely mainly on private healthcare. As a result, private healthcare is generally viewed as either a luxury or a desperate move for those who cannot wait for public healthcare; therapy might even seem prohibitively expensive - but that’s far from the truth.

Just as we spend money on experiences or items to help improve our lives, why do we sometimes baulk at the cost of therapy? When therapy can lead to a better, happier life, its actual value is almost incalculable.

This argument is even more apparent when you consider the cost of many other forms of therapeutic activity which may ease your difficulties for a period of time but not actually resolve them; undergoing a course of proven, effective clinical therapy from a qualified professional can be more cost-effective than you’d have thought.

While you may have been looking for a definitive list of costs, there’s no clear answer. Your treatment depends entirely on your chosen therapist’s experience and your own unique needs. So, pricing is not a question of choosing from a menu, but instead consulting with a therapist to ascertain what type of therapy you’ll need, how long you may need it for and whether it should be online or offline. Costs also vary based on your physical location - though as online therapy becomes more accessible, this is less of a challenge.

Let’s take a deep dive into the cost of therapy.

How much is therapy?

Therapy is not one single ‘thing’ - so it cannot have a single cost attributed to it. Therapy is split into a wide range of techniques, practitioners and approaches. On average, counselling from a counsellor can be around £30-60, whereas professional clinical psychologists charge anywhere from £60-150 and up.

In the UK, private therapy prices are based mainly on provider’s qualifications and the length of your sessions. Time with a counsellor, for example, is often cheaper than with a clinical psychologist - but that’s solely based on hourly rates and not indicative of how long you’ll actually spend in therapy/how much you’ll spend long-term.

What’s vital to remember is that many private therapists and counsellors are not actually medically trained. Some ‘therapists’ are instead holistic therapists who have no accreditations with any recognised institutions. Be wary of this type of therapy because though it may work for you, it has no evidence-based research behind it, and costs can vary wildly based on the whims of the practitioner and the length of your therapy.

For therapists who hold no official qualifications or accreditations, it’s in their interest to extend your therapy sessions indefinitely.

A clinical psychologist who is properly accredited will instead charge a set fee and will agree on a timeframe for treatment. Unlike therapeutic techniques, which aim to provide relief to a specific feeling, a clinical psychologist aims to help you overcome your difficulties that you no longer require active therapy sessions.

For that reason, it’s often cheaper in the long-term to work with a better qualified and more experienced therapist who charges more per hour but can deliver a treatment plan that will work for you.

Cost of therapy vs counselling

A qualified therapist’s costs are based almost entirely on their professional qualifications and experience. For example, a doctorate-level psychologist with further postgraduate education and then experience in the NHS or other clinical environment can command a higher fee than an undergraduate degree-holding psychotherapist and a far higher one than a counsellor.

This fee, however, should not only be based on experience but on effectiveness - if you pay for a more expensive clinician, you should feel comfortable in the value you’re receiving. Fees for a psychologist are typically between £90-150 per session*, though some counsellors command rates far higher.

How much does counselling cost?

On the other hand, Counsellors have less formal training, and fees vary wildly depending on practice area and reputation. Prospects.ac.uk lists private counsellor fees at between £40-80 per 50-minute session - though it is worth noting that higher costs can be justified by those private counsellors who only go private after first gaining experience in volunteer, public and part-time private work.

If you are considering choosing private counselling, look for someone who is accredited with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), who recommend that counsellors hold at least a Level 4 Diploma/undergraduate or postgraduate degree.

Why is therapy so expensive?

It might seem like counselling is the more affordable option for you - but remember that counselling is not the same as clinical therapy. Where counselling may be greatly beneficial, it is not driven in the same direction as therapy, which aims to resolve issues and equip you with the skills needed to overcome your illness. Where counselling may help support you in feeling better, therapy is about diagnosing and bettering your condition.

Remember also that simple mathematics can easily recontextualise how expensive therapy really is. If, for example, you complete a 12 session course with an experienced clinical psychologist at £100 per session, you’ll have spent a total of £1,200. If you’ve had the help you need and achieved your goals; you’ll be well enough to continue without treatment. Alternatively, £40 per fortnightly counselling session with no timescale for an ‘end’ can lead to higher costs over years of treatment.

We asked clinical psychologist Dr Duncan Precious, for his opinion on the cost of therapy: “It’s only when you put a price on something that it is truly valued. Expert private therapy does have a cost and committing to self-funded treatment is an investment.

“However, by investing in psychological therapy, you have made the decision that it is important, that you are motivated and committed to the process and achieving the best outcomes that you can. Only with this significant personal investment, commitment and motivation to change can someone become a better version of themselves.”

Like all things in life, the cost of therapy is about how much you value your own wellbeing. If you can afford to seek private treatment, it can be an excellent way to learn not only to live with your challenges but also to overcome them entirely and learn how to be a more meaningful, fulfilled and healthier you.

Dr Joni Patton agrees with the above, adding that the cost of therapy isn’t as simple as just an hourly cost, it’s the whole experience and long-term impact that reflects the price you pay. She says: “One goal of therapy is to provide the client with the tools to help themselves in the future. In psychological therapy the work tends to be short term, structured evidence based interventions for the specific presenting difficulty.

Cost of online vs in-person therapy

Going online has made therapy so much more accessible and straightforward compared to visiting a therapist’s office. Dr Duncan Precious extolled the virtue of online therapy, stating: “Online therapy works because it is so accessible. It works because it is more likely that someone feels more safe and comfortable to meet with a therapist in their own home.

“There is a growing evidence base that a trusting therapeutic relationship can be developed through video therapy.”

Online therapy typically means a lower overall cost - if not from a lower fee, then from a reduction in travel fees via commuting. By its very nature, online therapy can leverage technology to improve learning outcomes and therefore expedite the therapy process - meaning that over the course of treatment, you may spend less than you would in person.

So, you’ve seen what constitutes average costs for counsellors and therapists across the UK. At HelloSelf, we’ve created a technology-enhanced platform designed to make it easier than ever for you to reach clinicians and build trusting relationships which will help you be your best self. If you’re going to invest in your own wellbeing, what better way than via online therapy, which is focused on getting you better?

Get in touch today if you’d like to learn more.

Costs here are an average based on researching the top 10 results for “private psychologist fees” via Google UK in 2021.

Further Reading

A Session-to-Session Examination of Homework Engagement in Cognitive Therapy for Depression: Do patients experience immediate benefits?

Tailored Text Message Prompts to Increase Therapy Homework Adherence: A Single-Case Randomised Controlled Study

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