How much should I pay for psychotherapy?
Whenever we think of buying any goods or services, we ask not only about the product or service. But also, we ask: How much? What’s the price? It makes sense to do so.
There are three types of purchases. One is when we simply need to buy it, when it is a necessity. For example, nowadays not having a mobile phone is not an option. In this case, we assess the positive benefits that the product provides (in this case, ease of use, multiple functionalities, looks, etc.). Also, we compare different models or brands in terms of benefits. Also, we compare prices.
The other type of purchase is when it’s not a necessity but desirable. For example, some might argue that buying an additional piece of clothing is not really necessary. But, either on impulse or to simply to treat ourselves, we buy it. By the way, often, these impulse purchases account, individually or when grouped, to a lot of money. The price, in this case, is considered but it weighs less than on the previous option.
The third type is related to looks, fashion, trends, appearance. For example, having a Botox treatment (typically averages around $1,200 per treatment, and done 3-4 times a year). No question that looking good is important, it may help us feel better about ourselves. In this case, price is more a concept of “can I afford it?” or “how can I save so I can get it?”.
So, where does a psychotherapy treatment fall? How do we place a value (price vs. benefits)?
One simple, yet not fully comprehensive way to assess the value of psychotherapy is to simply think in terms of how much does a session cost. If we only look at it this way, we might conclude that it’s too expensive (together with the time investment it requires). Or we might shop for the “cheapest” therapist or psychologist.
What, then, are other important elements to consider when assessing the value of psychotherapy? First, the reason we seek psychotherapy is usually to grow or to reduce/eliminate a negative emotions or thoughts that weigh heavily over us (many times it’s a combination of growth and overcoming negative emotions/thoughts!).
The question is how do we monetize the benefits of psychotherapy: growth and elimination of emotional pain? There is no direct way to measure any of these two clear benefits in a direct, objective, quantifiable way. It’s like, how much would we pay for getting rid of physical pain or a severe tooth ache? It’s kind of “priceless”. By the same token, growing as a person or eliminating emotional pain is “priceless”.
However, let’s consider the rewards associated with growth and/or the elimination of mental anguish by reviewing a couple of real-life examples. As a clarification: the names and some details of the following cases have been changed to protect confidentiality (confidentiality is guaranteed as part of the psychotherapy process).
Case 1: Jane is in her 40’s, a successful accountant with her own practice. For years, Jane has struggled with a combination of anxiety and low self-esteem. In treatment, we addressed those issues while identifying specific experiences, and negative or unhealthy self-beliefs that were causing these issues (As a side note, in psychotherapy, I guide, analyze, suggest, recommend, support, etc. but I can’t tell clients what to do. Also, we meet usually once a week for an hour. So, the client takes credit for going on his/her own for the rest of the week, facing the challenges, and, with courage, making positive changes). After working with Jane for a few weeks, Jane reduced anxiety to a manageable level and, importantly, started to believe in herself. This translated into not carrying the “pain” of anxiety in such an extreme way. Also, as Jane became more self-confident, she projected this energy. She was able to attract new, bigger clients while charging a higher price for her services. At one point, Jane said: “I’ve realized, without being arrogant, that I provide a great professional service. I truly believe this now. My services deserve to command a premium in price!”. How do you monetize these outcomes?
Case 2: Peter is in his 50’s and very bright and with a great heart. However, Peter was abused in different ways throughout his life. It involved physical and verbal abuse. It also included sexual exploitation. The cumulative effect of these abusive incidents clearly opened emotional wounds. Specifically, Peter had severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In a brief way, PTSD is highly debilitating. It contributes to having intrusive thoughts or images about past abusive incidents, the person is making an effort to avoid anyone or any situation that can trigger memories, there is hypervigilance, distrust. Also, the person experiences nightmares that interfere with sleep and rest. All this leads to extreme emotional and mental pain. Using CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) together with other techniques (e.g., EMDR), over time, Peter was able to process these traumas. When successfully treated, the memories are still there, but the pain and fear associated with them are gone or significantly diminished. Of course, Peter’s life has changed in a significant way. He no longer “hides”, he is now eager to reach out and to be part of life. Peter recently expressed feeling free, liberated, and alive! What price would you assign to this? Probably, priceless!
As a final reflection, dealing with your potential (growth) or with eliminating pain (emotional, mental) is worth the effort. It is important that you place your trust in not the cheapest option but on the professional that will truly help your journey.
I invite you to invest in yourself and in making changes at a deep level that will help you achieve your full potential liberated from unnecessary pain. Achieving this provides long-lasting, meaningful rewards. It’s just a phone call away!