Psychiatrists often charge an hourly rate of around $200. Psychologists get roughly between $80 and $135, and clinical social workers may bring in $75 - $125 an hour. This varies widely depending upon your geographic location, and obviously somebody in Paducah, Kentucky is going to be a tad cheaper than some turtle-necked hipster on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

If you can afford it, paying out of your own pocket to see a therapist in private practice may be the most straightforward approach. You won't have to mess with fine-print restrictions and your therapist won't have to mess with your insurance company.

For many of us, however, insurance will play some role in the process, whether the therapist is in private practice or part of a Health Maintenance Organization. Insurance coverage for mental health is generally more restrictive than that for medical health, and you will have to do your homework to find out exactly what type of therapy your plan covers. Ask specifically about limits to coverage and annual or lifetime maximums. The American Psychological Association recommends seven questions to ask your benefits manager before trying to get your therapy covered by your health plan. Check out the web page to get full explanations of each, but in a nutshell, you should ask about:

  1. Benefits
  2. Professional Expertise
  3. Contractual Limitations
  4. Appeals and Grievances
  5. Confidentiality
  6. Choice
  7. Treatment decisions

Aside from privately practicing therapists and HMOs, community mental health centers are a third option. They are often run by your county or municipality, but can also be private, non-profit centers funded by organizations such as the United Way or religious groups. Many community mental health centers offer 'sliding-scale' fees - or prices based on your income or ability to pay. Other advantages of these places may include broader on-site resources. They often have different types of in-house therapists and programs for other members of your family.

Finally, outpatient clinics at hospitals are another widely used mental health resource.
You can walk in to these facilities and pay out-of-pocket or with your insurance.