Unless you’re fortunate enough to have insurance that pays for it, when you enter therapy, you’re likely committing to a significant monthly expense for an indeterminate length of time. Private practice therapists are free to set their own fees, and these can run upwards of $100 or $150 per weekly session. You’d probably like to know why.
First and most important, the therapist’s work extends well beyond the typical 45-50 minutes you spend together each week. In my case, before you arrive I prepare the space and my psyche for our session – cleaning the office, heating tea water, putting on music, lighting candles, reviewing my notes, and grounding and centering myself. After you leave I jot down notes about our session and spend time reflecting on you: what you’ve brought in, what we discussed, what I imagine your deep psyche is calling out for. I research things that came up in session and explore how you might best be served the next time you come in. I read books, take classes, and meet two to three times a month with clinical supervisors to ensure I’m offering the highest quality services and continually deepening my skills.
Second, for most therapists it is impossible to see 40 hours’ worth of clients each week. Most of us know the number where our energy maxes out and our effectiveness and presence start to drop; for me, right now, that number is about fifteen. Limiting my client number allows me to delve deeply into the reflection, training, and consultation described above. If I saw more people each week, I might be able to offer a lower rate, but I would not have the time or energy to do the things that I know make me a high-quality therapist. I would burn out and you would not get the therapy you need and deserve.
Third, on a nuts-and-bolts level, private practice therapists are business people and must somehow pay for everything you see in their office (and lots of stuff you don’t!) – things that are usually provided by the company for those who work more traditionally: printer, ink, paper, tissues, toilet paper, candles, art supplies, practice management software, continuing education, student loan repayments, health insurance, liability insurance, clinical supervision and consultation, professional memberships, and marketing. Several of these are significant monthly outlays. But together they’re the bedrock of a solid, effective practice.
Here’s how I see it: We humans tend to spend lots of money taking care of our physical bodies – not just shelter, food, and clothing but also health insurance, medicine, cosmetics, haircare, health clubs, and luxuries such as fancy coffee, dinner out, manicures, massages, and so forth. We also buy things that are meant to soothe body and mind but often do just the opposite – for example substances and entertainment sources that numb us more than they enliven us. But we typically spend little to heal our hearts and souls even though, if we did, we would very likely move closer to feelings of connection, congruence, creativity, expansiveness, depth, and satisfaction with our lives and the people around us.
I encourage you to give it a try – to stop treading water and take the plunge into the daring adventure of depth psychotherapy. I suspect that, when you do, you will come to see it as an essential part of your life that’s worth significantly more than the money you put into it.