Should You Go a Little Broke for Your Mental Health? Would you avoid therapy to save money? Or settle for an unideal therapist? When should you "splurge" to take care of your mental health?It was September 2015. I was three months pregnant and feeling sick all day. The sight of my husband made me mad, and his smell drove me crazy. To make matters worse, I was also three months into a new position at work.

The toxic work culture was taking its toll – I switched to survival mode. I entirely stopped getting my hair done or ironing my clothes, though I pushed myself to bathe, even though that was a battle.

I cried all the time – in the shower, in the car, on my way home…

Despite all of these stresses, I continued to beat myself up.

“Stop crying, Kara,” I told myself. “What do you have to cry about? Just woman-up and push through.” But the bottom was clearly dropping out.

Still, denial allowed me to function a little longer. That is, until I found myself spending my Christmas vacation alone on my couch desperately searching Psychology Today for emergency counseling.

My Out-of-Network Experience

My first day of therapy started in mid-January 2016. I worked with Toni – a young, kind therapist who gave me the right amount of push and support. But she was also out-of-network. This meant that she was expensive. My health insurance would only partially foot the bill for my sessions because, technically, I could have received similar services from the many in-network counselors and therapists.

And God knows, I tried to go the cost-effective, in-network route. But it wasn’t adding up.

Very few of the therapists I reached out to returned my call for an initial appointment. And with those that did, I didn’t feel a connection. There was no chemistry. I didn’t feel that I could trust, confide in, or feel vulnerable with them, so making progress would have been virtually impossible.


How Much Does Therapy Cost?

When I finally made the decision to work with Toni, I had to call my health insurance provider to crunch the numbers. Each 60-minute session cost $150. I had a $150 deductible, and insurance was willing to pay $55 for each of my sessions. So I had to pay $95 out-of-pocket each session, which amounted to $380 a month.

I religiously attended therapy for 11 months, which meant a total of $4,180 for therapy. And it could have been worse – without insurance, I would have had to pay $7,200. But on the other hand, if I had chosen one of the therapists from my network – which had a co-pay of $15 – I would have only had to pay $660 in total.


Cost of Therapy at a Glance

Therapy without insurance: $7,200

Therapy with insurance (out-of-network therapist): $4,180

Therapy with insurance (in-network therapist): $660


How Much is Too Much?

Based on these numbers, I could have saved big on therapy if I’d settled for in-network therapists. But that’s just it: I would have settled.

From the little nudges she would give me to come in when I was feeling discouraged to the continued support that she still provides even though I no longer see her, I would have to say the only thing that I lost in this situation was money.

I know it sounds obnoxious to write that as many of us struggle with a range of competing expenses – from rent to groceries. But when I made a commitment to investing in my mental health and emotional happiness, I literally had to put my money where my mouth was.

I liken the process of looking for a therapist to that of looking for a partner. While it would have been nice if my husband were independently wealthy, it wasn’t necessary for love. Similarly, I would have been ecstatic to find an in-network therapist that I loved. But I didn’t.

The experience of finding a therapist helped me to truly understand the difference between cost and worth. Cost is the dollar amount that we place on a service. Worth is a little deeper, and extremely personal. Since I valued my emotional and mental health – and realized that I needed support in reestablishing my self-respect and identity – I knew that choosing the more expensive option would make the most sense for me and for my goals.


How Therapy Eventually Paid for Itself

In therapy, I had the chance to rebuild myself and rewrite the narrative that I told myself (and others) about who I was.

Through my inner work, I cultivated the courage to establish and maintain boundaries. I also gained a deep level of respect for my feelings, an awareness of my passions, and a deep trust in my ability to make the best decisions for my own life and for my newborn baby.

In concrete terms, between the time that I started therapy and the time I ended it, I left my toxic position at work and found a new one where I was valued for my contributions; nearly doubled my revenue and client base for my personal business; and felt better in my own skin.

So, should you go a little broke for your mental health? My answer: yes.