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When Is It Worth It to Spend More on Counseling?

When Is It Worth It to Spend More on Counseling?

If you're experiencing a mental health crisis, aren't sure where to go, have limited funds, and lack insurance, a public mental health program may be the best place to get the immediate treatment you need. We're adding information about each state's public mental health system to OpenCounseling to make it easier to understand when and how to seek these services.

When you're not in crisis and can afford to wait, but can't afford counseling fees, a local non-profit counseling center may be able to link you with free or low-cost counseling. When money isn't an issue, you have more options—maybe even too many. With so many counselors in private practice, sometimes it's harder to know where to begin when you can fit counseling fees into your budget.

Maybe you've scrolled through the listings on OpenCounseling or other lists of local therapists and feel stumped. Do you go with a counselor who is in-network with your insurance company or with the one who charges the lowest hourly rate? Should money be the deciding factor if you can afford to pay more? If not, how do you decide? Do you choose a counselor a friend has praised, or whoever has the nicest smile on their online profile?

Factors Other Than Cost to Consider When Choosing a Therapist

Research shows that the most important elements of successful therapy are the strengths you bring into the therapy room with you. The next most important element is the relationship you have with your therapist, followed by the method the therapist uses. Specifically, client factors account for 40 percent of the effectiveness of therapy, the therapeutic relationship accounts for 30 percent, and the method a therapist uses accounts for 15 percent. How much hope therapy inspires accounts for the other 15 percent.

How do you choose a therapist with whom you can build a strong therapeutic alliance? One way is to select someone who specializes in a type of therapy that is effective for treating your symptoms. While research shows that the method your therapist uses is less important than the overall relationship you have with them, it still makes a difference and may be an easier way to narrow down your choices in the beginning.

Choose the Best Therapeutic Method for Your Needs

Some therapies are particularly effective for certain conditions, while others can successfully treat a wide range of disorders. Each method requires specialized training to practice, and many therapists only specialize in one or two. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective interventions in general and is particularly good for alleviating symptoms of depression. While CBT is widely practiced and popular, it's only one of several evidence-based interventions for anxiety and depression, and other therapeutic methods can be better for other conditions.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is one of the most effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is a good choice for a wide range of trauma-related symptoms and conditions. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) was specifically designed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD) and research shows that it successfully reduces rates of hospitalization for people with BPD. Like EMDR, DBT is also good for other trauma-related conditions. Mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy are also widely effective, especially in treating depressive and anxiety disorders.

Choose a Therapist You're Likely to Connect with Personally

If you've narrowed down the therapists on your list based on the therapeutic method each one uses, the next step is to review other elements in their profiles. If you don't have a preferred therapeutic method or a specific condition you're seeking to treat, this may be your first step.

Consider the following: does the therapist whose profile you're reviewing have experience treating other patients like you? This doesn't just mean whether they've treated people with your same symptoms, but whether they have a history of working with a broader category of people like you and whether they use a method that resonates with you spiritually or philosophically.

Some therapists specialize in helping artists or other creative people recover their lost mojo, for example, while others excel in using classic methods to explore childhood experiences or the symbolism of dreams. Some therapists incorporate meditation, mindfulness, or energy work, while others base their methods in a school of philosophy like existentialism. Some offer faith-based counseling that embraces principles and teachings of a particular religion.

You may feel drawn to a particular therapist in an intuitive way. Perhaps the way they worded something in their profile makes you think they'll "get you." Anything that resonates with you can be a sign you've found a good match. Just keep in mind that a strong alliance depends on many factors and is never guaranteed. It's okay to decide that the therapist you've chosen isn't a good match and to look for another therapist if you don't click.


Whether it's worth it to spend more on therapy depends on how important it is to you to have a certain kind of therapist. If all that matters to you is to see someone who is professionally equipped to help you improve your mental health, then most licensed therapists will be able to meet your needs, and it may not be worth it to spend more. However, when you have specific needs, it's often worth it to spend a little more to work with someone who meets your criteria.

When you have a large number of affordable therapists to choose from, there are many factors to consider when deciding who to call. You're more likely to hit the ground running with a therapist who has treated other people with your symptoms or who has helped people meet therapeutic goals similar to your own. You're also more likely to connect with a therapist who has an approach or philosophy that resonates with you. Choosing based on these factors won't guarantee that you will click, but it's a great way to increase your chances of success.

When you have specific ideas in mind about the kind of therapist you want to see, online therapy can be your best option. Therapists with a wide range of approaches, philosophies, and areas of focus are available at BetterHelp (a sponsor), and they may offer better rates than counselors in your local area. In some cases, going online may be the only way you can see the kind of therapist you want to see. Research shows that people form alliances with online therapists that are just as strong as therapeutic relationships forged in person. When you're looking for a therapist, consider all of your options, not just cost—you may find that the right person is only a click away.

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Stephanie Hairston, MSW
Posted on 04/21/2019 by Stephanie Hairston, MSW

Stephanie Hairston is a freelance mental health writer who spent several years in the field of adult mental health before transitioning to professional writing and editing. As a masters-level clinical social worker, she provided group and individual therapy, crisis intervention services, and psychological assessments. She has also worked as a technical writer for a medical software company and as an editor for a company that appeals denials of insurance coverage for behavioral health treatment. As a writer, she is motivated by the same desire to help others that brought her into the field of social work and believes that knowledge is one of the most essential recovery tools. She strongly believes in the mission of OpenCounseling and in making therapy accessible for everyone.