How to Get Therapy FOR LESS: The Sliding Scale

Receive affordable therapy with the sliding scale payment system. Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash.

Receive affordable therapy with the sliding scale payment system. Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash.

The Cost

In today’s increasingly distressing world, more people than ever before are seeking professional mental health diagnosis and treatment.  However, with insured and uninsured patients alike having to pay upwards of $100 per session (maybe MORE), many who desperately need the help decide to go without.  The worst part?  This tragedy is avoidable!  Professionals in the field of psychology are aware of how costly mental health treatment can be.  To accommodate patients of lower income levels, there is a payment system in place.  It’s called the SLIDING SCALE PAYMENT SYSTEM.

What is the sliding scale payment system?

When a therapist offers ‘sliding scale,’ it means that the patient pays them what they can.  The final bill could be $30, $10, or it could even be $1!  The cost of therapy works in relation to the patient’s income.  Once your income is verified, rest assured: if you make less money, you will pay less!

What do I do if I want sliding scale therapy?

Therapists will almost always have fully-updated, verified, professional profiles posted on the website Psychology Today.  In order to find therapists who offer the sliding scale payment system in your area, follow this list of steps:

  1. Go to Psychology Today.
  2. Enter your city or zip code into the search bar.
  3. Initiate the search. This will bring up the therapists that work in your area.
  4. From there, locate the ‘Price’ filter at the top of the page, click it, and select the ‘Sliding Scale’ box from the dropdown menu.
  5. As soon as you click the box, the website will automatically update your search. The remaining therapists offer sliding scale!

Then, if you’re able to find a therapist you’re interested in working with, it’s a good idea to email or call their office to verify that they accept sliding scale payments before scheduling an intake appointment.  From there, discuss the therapist’s sliding scale rates (they will be different for each therapist) with their scheduler.  Doing so will ensure that you get the help you need at the right price.

Don’t be afraid to shop around!  If one therapist is still too pricey, try another.  There’s no shame in comparing the prices of different therapists to find the best treatment for you.

If you can’t find a therapist that you’re interested in on Psychology Today, calling around or visiting local therapy clinics can get you fantastic referrals from their staff.  Many will have connections to professionals who work with lower-SES families and individuals and are willing to treat you.

Won’t I get lower-quality care for paying less?

No.  Therapists will always give you the same care quality that they give their full-price patients.  They are bound under an extensive code of ethics to provide the best treatment they can to everyone and not to discriminate based on income level, class, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc.

In addition, billing is frequently handled by a clinic secretary or accountant.  Because of this, it’s likely that your therapist won’t be aware of you paying them a lower rate unless you speak about it directly.


Seeking help for mental and emotional distress is a brave and difficult undertaking.  Sadly, the cost of treatment makes proper care inaccessible to those who may need it the most.  The sliding scale payment system allows for people of lower income levels to get help without jeopardizing their finances.  If you or someone you know could benefit from treatment but has trouble making ends meet, receiving therapy with the sliding scale system could be helpful.  Even lifesaving!

Life Insurance Questions?

We hope that this information on the sliding scale is useful to you.

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About Cristin Dickey

Born in Maryland, raised in Texas, and educated in Utah, Cristin is a purveyor of stories from all widths and walks of life.  With a background in filmmaking and a staunch passion for literature, she aspires to give digital spaces a uniquely human touch.

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