by Aidan Kang, CFA
Senior Writer
UPDATED: October 26, 2022

If you or a loved one is experiencing any mental health problem, one option is to see a psychiatrist. The problem, however, is that the cost of seeing one can make it difficult to get the treatment that you deserve.

You're not alone. According to statistics, 1 in 5 American adults experience mental illness each year. The sad thing is that only 44.8% of these adults with mental illness received treatment. When people think about visiting a psychiatrist, most of them worry that it's going to be expensive and they will not be able to afford multiple sessions especially if they do not have health insurance.

To help you navigate this concern, this article will discuss the cost of psychiatrist visits with and without insurance, the factors affecting the costs, and some tips on how you can save money on psychiatrist visits.

How Much Does A Psychiatrist Cost Without Insurance?

A visit to a psychiatrist without health insurance can cost you $50 to $300, depending on several factors. Usually, the first visit is more expensive with the succeeding sessions priced at a lower rate.

For example, a psychiatrist may charge you $250 for the first visit and $100 for the next session you book. The number of sessions you need will depend on your specific condition. Getting a package of sessions will also affect the cost of the visits. 

How Much Does A Psychiatrist Cost With Insurance?

If you have health insurance, the price you will pay is often dependent on your policy. The cost, however, will be much lower than what you will pay for without insurance.

Depending on your insurance policy, your out-of-pocket cost in visiting a psychiatrist can range from $20 to $50. Other factors can still affect this cost so it is important to shop around to see which medical provider offers the best rate.

Going to an in-network medical provider will typically save you more money than going to a hospital or clinic that is out-of-network. An in-network provider means they have agreed with your insurance company to provide a discounted rate.

Will My Insurance Cover My Psychiatrist Visits?

Yes. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans should cover mental health.It is a requirement under this law that most small employer and individual insurance plans, including Health Insurance Marketplace plans provide coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services.

This legislation further extends the scope of coverage for behavioral health services. It also includes provisions for rehabilitative and habilitative services that may assist people with behavioral health issues.

The great thing about this law is that it has made mental health treatment more accessible and affordable.

What Factors Affect the Cost of Psychiatrist Visits?

The costs of going to a psychiatrist vary greatly. There are many factors that can affect the costs of psychiatrist visits. These include:

1. Your insurance plan

Your out-of-pocket cost when going for a psychiatric visit will depend on the type of insurance you have. While most insurance health plans are now required to cover mental health issues, your insurance plan may not be accepted by all medical providers.

In most cases, you will pay a lower fee by choosing a medical provider that is in-network. Check with your insurance provider which clinics and hospitals are within their coverage network.

If you do not have insurance, expect to pay a higher fee. The exact cost will depend on the other factors on this list.

2. Where you live

The psychiatrist's location will affect the cost of your visit. Usually, the cost of psychiatrist clinics in urban locations will be higher due to the higher cost of living in cities.

However, if there are many providers in the same area, the cost can also be more competitive and affordable because more are competing for patients, compared to having just one or two psychiatrists offering the same service.

That means it is not always automatic that psychiatrists in big cities charge higher than psychiatrists in rural areas. For example, if you live in a rural area and there is only one psychiatrist who accepts your insurance, then the charge may be higher because that will be your only option.

3. The medical provider

Another factor that can also affect the price of a psychiatrist visit is the medical provider you choose. Psychiatrists in major private hospitals for example would typically have a higher rate than those employed in a small mental health clinic.

Some psychiatrists with a private practice also charge higher. They may also not accept insurance so you may need to pay out-of-pocket.

4. The psychiatrist's experience and qualifications

The training and the specialization of the psychiatrist will also factor in when it comes to the price. Typically, a psychiatrist with more experience will charge you more for psychiatrist visits than a psychiatrist who is just starting out in the business.

For instance, expect to pay more if you are seeing a psychiatrist with specializations and better facilities compared to a psychiatrist who only has a few years of experience operating in a humble clinic.

5. Your mental health issue

Why are you seeing the psychiatrist? Are you anxious, depressed, or are you struggling with trauma? Maybe you are not yet sure what's wrong with you and you need the psychiatrist to provide a diagnosis.

Depending on your diagnosis, the number of sessions and the treatment plan will vary. For example, the treatment approach for anxiety disorder is different from PTSD treatments. The cost will also be different.

The psychiatrist may spot a more serious mental health issue like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. This can affect the cost of your psychiatrist visits because it will depend on what treatment plan you and your psychiatrist decide to go with.

6. Number of therapy sessions

Are you scheduled for weekly psychiatrist visits? If you will need therapy sessions more often than once a week, expect to pay more in total.

Some psychiatric issues require intense therapy that may include up to 3 or 4 psychiatrist visits in a given week. Other conditions like anxiety and depression may only need 2 psychiatrist sessions per month.

Again, the number of sessions is not set in stone. It will highly depend on the recommendation of the psychiatrist and your progress.

7. Medication and other complementary treatments

If there is a need to prescribe medication, the psychiatrist will also charge for this prescription. You may also be required to undergo tests such as blood tests to see whether an underlying medical condition is causing your mental health issue. These tests will be a separate charge.

If other complementary therapies are recommended, you also have to pay for these separately. For example, if you are diagnosed with ADHD, the psychiatrist may recommend neurofeedback sessions. Each session costs an average of $125 and you may need around 10-20 sessions depending on your condition.  These costs will be on top of what the psychiatrist will charge you for your visit. 

8. In-person or Virtual Consultation

Typically, online psychiatric consultations cost less than meeting a psychiatrist in person. There are now many internet platforms like Doctor on Demand and Rethink My Therapy offering 24/7 psychiatric services online.

The payment method will depend on the platform you choose. Some platforms only accept patients with insurance plans, while some implement a subscription model that is affordable for patients without insurance.

The advantage of going for online psychiatrist sessions is that you can choose from a wide range of psychiatrists. You will not be limited by your geographic location. This can give you access to specialists and you can save money as you will not need to pay for travel expenses if they are located out of state.

How To Save Money on Psychiatrist Visits

Yes, it is possible to save money on psychiatrist visits with or without insurance. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind. 

1. If you have insurance, consult with in-network psychiatrists

To save money on psychiatrist visits, you can start by checking with your insurance provider to see which psychiatrists are in their network. As explained in the earlier section, an in-network psychiatrist means they have agreed with your insurance provider on a discounted rate. This means paying a lower out-of-pocket expense every visit.

2. Ask if the psychiatrist offers a sliding fee scale

You can also ask the psychiatrist if they have a sliding fee scale based on your income levels. A sliding fee scale means that the rate of the psychiatrist visits can be adjusted based on how much you earn.

For instance, instead of paying $200 per session without insurance, you may only be charged half that amount if you meet a certain income limit. You have to check this beforehand with the psychiatrist as how the sliding fee scale is implemented varies. 

3. Ask for available packages or cash discounts

Some clinics offer psychiatrist packages at discounted rates. This means you pay for psychiatrist visits in advance, which can save you money in the long run. If you don't have insurance, this can be a great way to save money.

You can also ask if they accept cash payments in exchange for a lower rate on psychiatrist services. Some clinics will agree to give a discount if you pay cash upfront.

4. Consider cheaper alternatives like online psychiatrist consultations

Generally, online psychiatrist sessions are cheaper than meeting the psychiatrist in their office. If you do not have insurance and you need long-term support, you may want to consider a subscription model where you pay a flat fee per month.

5. Check public mental health clinics and centers

Check with nearby public academic hospitals and community health care centers whether they have a psychiatrist on board. If you are a low-income individual and cannot afford treatment, you may be able to get financial assistance for mental health treatment at no cost.

If you are struggling with your mental health, you can also contact SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). The SAMHSA National Helpline, a free, confidential, 24/7 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service is for individuals and families dealing with mental or substance use issues.

If you do not have health insurance, SAMHSA will help connect you with your state office, which is in charge of state-funded treatment options. It may also direct you to healthcare providers who charge on a sliding fee scale or take Medicare or Medicaid.

If you have health insurance, you will be guided on how to contact your insurer to obtain a list of participating medical practitioners and hospitals.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

6. Try out alternative methods that can help your mental health

While alternative methods are in no way a replacement for proper mental health treatment, trying out activities that can boost or improve your mental health will not hurt.

These methods include:

  • Using mental health apps and monitoring your progress
  • Practicing mindfulness meditation and yoga
  • Speaking with people you trust like family, friends, or pastors
  • Practicing self-care activities like eating nutritious food, exercising, and sleeping adequately.

Take Care of Your Mental Health By Seeing a Psychiatrist

There are a lot of financial factors you have to consider when going to a psychiatrist. Hopefully, these tips will be useful for you and help you get the treatment you need. If you need urgent help, contact SAMHSA's helpline today.