Are psychologists expensive in Birmingham?

Psychologists can be expensive in Birmingham and elsewhere for a plethora of reasons, including the qualifications some Psychologists go through, recovery and processing time, insurance and overhead costs for the Psychologist, time commitment and the high demand for mental health professionals, particularly Psychologists. There are, of course, free options for therapy in Birmingham which you may consider though these, quite often, have a big waiting list. 

Firstly, a bit of context for why therapy is so expensive. Mental health problems are on the rise internationally and locally. In the United Kingdom, one in six people report experiencing a mental health problem in any given week. Despite the increased awareness and support, access to information, and stride towards destigmatization, barriers to seeking treatment still remain – one being cost.

Pursuing therapy can be expensive, but there are many reasons behind the high cost of sessions. Let’s go through these reasons in detail for you. 

Psychologists are highly qualified professionals just like any doctor

One important item to add to our list of reasons why therapy is so expensive is that training to become a Psychologist typically takes several years and requires investing time and money into education. In addition, Psychologists have to complete hours of low-paid work to gain experience in the field. In the United Kingdom, this involves:

3-4 year bachelor’s degree → 2 + years of work experience → 1-year masters degree (optional) → 3-year doctoral degree 

Training is intensive because it requires a comprehensive understanding of human behaviour and mental health. Psychologists must be able to recognize and diagnose, as well as provide effective treatment. In order to do so, establishing strong therapeutic relationships with their clients and maintaining ethical standards is essential. All that training, of course, is costly for the Psychologist and will inevitably affect their rates.

Additionally, education does not end for Psychologists once they complete the doctoral degree. The majority complete additional training throughout the years to stay up to date with advances in research and therapeutic models. This is important as the world is constantly changing and humans are evolving. Psychologists need to continue to advance their practice to keep up with the changing needs of society. All of these aspects require extensive training, knowledge, and money which is a big factor in therapy prices.

Doctors, lawyers, accountants, and architects generally earn the same, if not more, than Psychologists. In other words, Psychologists go through the same amount of training as doctors, so why would they charge any less? 

Your trauma affects your Psychologist too!

Psychologists who work privately are only paid for the hours they see their clients in. This means that if they had the capacity to see more clients they would be able to charge less per session. However, therapy is emotionally taxing for the Psychologist too. Psychologists are often expected to be objective and not let their emotions get in the way of their job or personal life. It is often said, “leave your baggage at work before you get home”. But we are human too!

Another reason why therapists are so expensive are the overhead and insurance costs.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that approximately one-third of Psychologists reported high levels of burnout. A contributing factor was the high workload. There is little time to reflect and unwind following sessions so by charging more and seeing fewer clients, there is a better chance that each client receives a higher standard of care. 

Psychologists are required to actively listen, reflect, respond to and ask open-ended questions during a therapy session. Therapy can be a cognitive overload, which in turn, can lead to mental exhaustion – one reason why Psychologists have limited caseloads and capacity. In order to reflect on client sessions and how this has impacted their day-to-day life, Psychologists have to go for therapy as well! In some countries, like the UK and the US it is mandatory for a Psychologist to have their own Psychologist. All these are paid by the client, i.e. the Psychologist. 

Additionally, many Psychologists choose this career to help others, to make a positive difference in people’s lives and with Psychology generally not considered to be a high-paying field, this can be a challenging career path.

Insurance companies and overhead costs take away most of the Psychologists’ money! 

Many insurance companies do not cover the total cost of therapy sessions, leaving the client to pay out-of-pocket for some or all of their treatment. Some Psychologists prefer not to accept insurance because insurance companies take away most of your money and the professional is not fairly reimbursed for the sessions she has with you. For example, if your session costs £80, the Psychologist is likely to receive at best half of that, probably lower. Unfortunately, it is not financially possible for Psychologists to only accept insurance and keep their business running.

In addition to that the cost of a single session includes more than just the Psychologist’s salary. It must also cover overhead costs such as office rent, insurance, utilities, marketing, and other business expenses. This means that the Psychologist deducts money gained from the session and uses this to cover other business expenses. 

Some Psychologists prefer not to accept insurance because insurance companies take away most of your money and Psychologists are not fairly reimbursed for sessions. The lack of insurance is a significant barrier to seeking therapy and it reflects how society views mental health. 

Insurance companies tend to look at things from a medical standpoint and mental health care may not be deemed a “medical necessity”. This may occur if you do not have a mental health diagnosis or have been deemed fit to forego therapy. There is a shortage of Psychologists, and few accept health insurance which means people have to go down the private route therefore certain groups of people may not be able to access therapy as easily, such as working-class individuals, minority groups, etc. 

Therapy requires committing time and therefore money 

Yet another reason why therapy is expensive is the time and effort required.

One important item to add to our list of reasons why therapy is so expensive is that therapy often requires multiple sessions over a long period of time, which can add up quickly in terms of cost. This does not mean to say that a single session of therapy would not be helpful, but the more time you spend in sessions the more time you have to reflect and overcome challenges. Therapy, like any other skill, takes time to master. If we exercise once it is unlikely that we will see the results instantly, we need to return to the gym consistently – it is the same with therapy! 

If you are interested in reading more about the possible benefits of single session therapy read this blog “Can you get results from one therapy session?”

Therapy is a process of self-exploration, self-awareness, and growth that can vary in length depending on your needs. We often want a quick fix but progress takes time and patience, don’t expect results overnight! To witness long-lasting change, therapy will normally require your time and money. 

Psychologists are in high demand but there is a lack of resources

The demand for Psychologists often exceeds the availability, especially in certain areas or for certain types of therapy. Higher demand generally leads to higher prices. 

According to a report from the World Health Organization, there is an estimated global shortfall of 4.3 million mental health workers. In the UK, there is a shortfall of approximately 3,500 therapists alone. 

According to a report from the World Health Organization, there is an estimated global shortfall of 4.3 million mental health workers. In the UK, there is a shortfall of approximately 3,500 therapists alone. This has been attributed to a lack of mental health funding and resources. Moreover, demand for mental health services has increased significantly following COVID-19. 

The National Health System (NHS) is a helpful system because it provides free healthcare in the UK, regardless of your financial status. You are able to access primary care and mental health services. However, Psychologists are facing a number of challenges in the NHS that are leading to increased stress and burnout. These include increased demand for services due to rising mental health concerns and lack of resources to meet the need, long waiting times for appointments, and increasing pressure on Psychologists to deliver more with fewer resources. Therefore, the demand in the private sector means sessions are more costly. 

If private therapy is expensive, why should I do it?

With those challenges in mind, if you have access to therapy, be it for free or privately, therapy is worthwhile for a range of reasons, such as:

  1. It allows you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
  2. It aids in the development of coping strategies for managing stress and difficult emotions. 
  3. It helps you to identify and work through patterns of behaviour that pose obstacles to living a fulfilling life. 
  4. It encourages personal development, self-awareness and growth. 
  5. It helps you to achieve your short-term and long-term goals. 
  6. It improves your relationship with yourself, as well as with others. 

The list can go on! Overall, therapy can assist you in improving your mental and physical health, in turn improving your overall quality of life. 

We are aware that paying-out-of pocket for therapy is dependent on your financial situation. If you are unable to do so, group or online therapy can be more of an affordable option if you feel comfortable with this format. The NHS is a fantastic service, however, just be aware of the waiting times. There is also a range of low-cost/free therapy services, if you are looking specifically in Birmingham you can read “The 5 most affordable and free therapy services.” Finally, don’t hesitate to ask whether the Psychologist offers a sliding scale fee which is based on your income. 

I encourage you to reflect on the above when considering whether paying for therapy would be worthwhile for you! You are investing in yourself and your long-term mental and physical health and well-being.

Saiyuri Naidu is a Senior Assistant Psychologist at the RESET Health Group and an MSc Clinical Psychology Graduate with a special interest in trauma and how this can affect an individual’s mind and body. 

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Are psychologists expensive in Birmingham?