Cost can often be a barrier to accessing mental health care.
To provide therapy to uninsured Americans and people who have trouble affording it, many clinicians use a “sliding scale” to set their fees. The sliding scale bases fees on the client’s income, allowing them to access the care they need.
As an organization that offers sliding scale models, in today’s blog post, we discuss how they work and the access to mental health care they can provide.
The Costs of Mental Health Care
People without insurance or who cannot pay their deductibles are left suffering without treatment.
Mental health clinicians are committed to providing care yet must also cover the costs of their practice. This makes it challenging to offer reduced rates or pro bono (free) services for lower-income patients.
APA Ethical Guidelines
According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) ethical guidelines, clinicians are encouraged to keep appointments open specifically for underprivileged clients.
They offer those time slots either pro bono or at reduced rates. However, the number of reduced fee slots available is limited due to increasing clinician overhead costs.
The Need for Sliding Scale Fees
A recent survey found that half of those receiving mental health care with a therapist worry about covering their treatment fees over the long term.
Also, a third have either had to reduce the number of appointments they schedule or cancel appointments due to the cost. More than one in three Americans discontinued therapy for cost-related reasons.
The same survey also found that although so many patients worry about the fees or cannot afford them, only 36% ever think to ask about sliding scale fees and other financing options. In addition, 44% of Americans don’t even realize the sliding scale exists.
How Does the Sliding Scale Work?
Although most therapists offering sliding scale fees list their rates online, it is always best to ask.
If the scale still seems high, there is often room for negotiation based on exceptional circumstances. Clients with financial difficulties should discuss their financial situation and ask if there is a chance the rates can be reduced. Common reasons a mental health care clinician might consider either waiving fees or reducing them include heavy medical debt or unemployment due to mental illness.
Some therapists offer payment plans. While there are better situations for those already in debt, it does allow you to avoid paying with credit cards or missing appointments altogether. For example, if you have a high deductible, your clinician might be willing to bill your insurance and then allow you to pay an agreed-upon monthly amount to pay off the debt.
Sliding scale therapy helps even the playing field, so mental health care is available to everyone. Asking about fees when you book your first appointment or initial consultation allows you to discuss your situation and come up with a solution. Also, if you have been paying for your therapy but find your therapy sessions are becoming unmanageable, ask about payment plans and sliding scale fees. This avoids disrupting your treatment at a pivotal point.
Samaritan Counseling Center
Our Vision: Samaritan Counseling Center’s vision is to empower communities, families, and individuals in their journey to live the best version of themselves.
Our Mission: Samaritan engages all people as they are – mentally, spiritually, financially – offering evidence-based psychological care for hope, help, and healing.
Our Values: Teamwork, Client Satisfaction, Clinical Excellence, Community Engagement, Inclusiveness, Gratitude.
Samaritan is accredited by The Solihten Institute.