Sliding Scale Therapy Online: Benefits

Updated March 25, 2024by MyTherapist Editorial Team

Sliding scale therapy: Introduction

After talking about the benefits of client-centered therapy, let's move on to the benefits of financially-supportive sliding scale therapy. “What is sliding scale therapy?” you may ask, If you have heard someone say that they are getting reduced-cost therapy, low-cost therapy, or therapy that is based on their income, then they most likely are talking about sliding scale therapy. 

Once you understand that sliding scale therapy typically involves a discount on therapy services, the next question you are likely to ask is, “How does sliding scale therapy work?” In this article, we answer these questions and give you details about how sliding scale therapy works for today’s mental health professionals.

Sliding scale therapy explained

Online therapy can be more affordable than in-person therapy

Mental health therapy can be a helpful resource for people experiencing psychological challenges or obstacles that are keeping them from enjoying life. However, it also can be expensive, especially for those who either do not have health insurance or must pay a large deductible. Some therapists offer sliding scale fee therapy to help serve those unable to afford their services. This sliding scale fee structure takes a person’s income into account when determining their cost of therapy. For example, a person whose income falls on the lower end of the scale will pay less than someone whose income is at the higher end of the scale. 

How much does therapy cost?

If you are currently looking for a therapist you most likely are wondering how much does therapy cost. The average cost of getting in-office therapy in the United States ranges between $65.00 – $200.00 per session. This cost does not account for additional fees related to transportation, medication management, time off work, or childcare that are often associated costs. When clients use sliding scale therapy, it entitles them to receive the same quality of service as clients that pay full-price. The amount of the discount applied to sliding scale therapy is determined by the therapy provider, practice, therapy group, or counseling platform.

It may not answer the question, "Is there affordable counseling near me?", but it definitely tells you there is such a thing as affordable counseling.

Additional services that online mental health clients may need to supplement their online sessions are offline sessions with a psychiatrist or primary care physician to request and fill mental health-related prescriptions, offline group counseling extensions, and other recommended offline support options that help clients achieve their mental health goals faster.

Sliding scale therapy is traditional therapy provided at a discounted rate to people who meet or are beneath a certain income threshold. Factors that determine the amount that a client will pay when using a sliding fee scale are total net income after taxes, the number of household dependents, household expenses, and other important factors. Once your therapist determines the amount of discount, you are then entitled this rate for sessions based on the therapists sliding scale fee requirements. You will typically be notified of the amount and this will be the rate you pay for counseling.

Why sliding scale fees exist

Now that you understand what sliding fees are, you may wonder why they exist. Sliding fee scales are available in many healthcare industries that include mental and physical health. These low-cost therapies and medical fees are designed to level the playing field for mental health care and medical care-related services.

Mental health awareness programs are helping people understand the value of getting psychotherapy and mental health-related services. Mental health-related issues are having a larger impact on society as we realize how many people are managing mental health conditions. According to the CDC, more than 1 in 5 adults live with a mental illness, and 1 in 5 youth between the ages of 13 and 18 will have a debilitating illness at some point in their lives. These statistics reveal how prevalent mental illness is in our world and the need for effective and available mental health care resources. Especially when you consider how Improved mental health affects physical health and vice versa. 

With such a large amount of the population affected by mental health disorders and related conditions, this is not a public health concern that we can continue to ignore. As awareness of the impacts of mental health (or lack thereof) becomes more widely known, more programs and services are being created and made available to address this large-scale need. With the rise in mental health awareness, the associated stigma is decreasing as more people openly discuss their stories about living with a mental illness.

Counseling, mental health therapists, and strengthening mental health

According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), over 40 million Americans struggle with mental health issues in the US annually.

Now that you have a better idea of how many people are affected annually by mental health in the United States, let’s look at a few more related statistics and facts. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 60 million Americans are living with a mental illness – psychiatric conditions that vary in degree of severity that range from mild to severe. Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders are the most prevalent mental illnesses worldwide today. 

To address the sheer number of people needing high-quality therapeutic interventions, the United States government passed the Mental Health Parity Act to help cover associated costs in 2008. This act requires certain health insurance providers and employers to provide affordable mental health care services for their employees. For example, for employers who have over 50 employees are required to provide their clients with equivalent medical care and mental health coverage. This coverage can include insurance provided through the federal health insurance marketplace and state insurance programs like Medicaid.

The Mental Health Parity Act currently requires these providers to offer mental health care plans and services that offer comparable mental health services and benefits as medical health care plans for diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and awareness for mental health-related conditions. However, even with governmental requirements, many people still are unable to afford therapy and may not qualify for sliding scale therapy. Thus, alternative resources that make available affordable mental health care is imperative. 

Fortunately, these resources are available, Alternatives to getting sliding scale therapy are reduced-cost counseling options provided by subscription-based online mental health platforms. In the next section, we discuss the benefits of therapy and how to get low-cost and reduced-cost therapy online.

Benefits of low-cost online therapy


Many people are concerned about the therapy cost, especially when they think to pay out of pocket. 

Some of the benefits of group therapy includes the ability to talk to other people who bears the same struggles as you do. 

If you are new to therapy, you may be curious about what happens in sessions and how this work will benefit you. The first point to make about therapy is helping you understand that you do not have to be seriously mentally ill to get psychological support. Many times, the challenges of daily life can bring a fair amount of stress, including from work, family, and even what is going on a global level. In therapy, the expert uses different techniques to figure out the best line of treatment. Besides mental health conditions, therapy is great at helping people with relationships and providing support through hard times. You may simply want a counselor who can help you work through a personal challenge or find a strategy in balancing the different aspects of your life. No matter the reason, a therapist is there to use their expertise to guide you in resolving any issue you are managing while unraveling underlying obstacles keeping you from living your fullest life. 

When you decide that therapy is right for you and you are stopping yourself because of the financial cost, check in to see if the therapist offers sliding-scale fee reduction for sessions. Considering what you have learned about the need for mental health care, do not hesitate to reach for help. Remember, many therapists offer sliding-scale therapy to help those who need it. 

How to get started with therapy

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Online therapy can be more affordable than in-person therapy

For offline options near you, perform a Google search for free, low-cost, or reduced-cost therapy options near me.” Your search may direct you to therapy options that provide low-cost or sliding-fee scale therapy in your region. If you live in a rural area and don’t have any local providers – contact your local public health department or your local department of children and families for referrals and resources.

If none of these resources are giving you the results you need, contact your local United Way 211 service which can provide you with a listing of local resources for free and reduced-cost services in your region.

Whether you choose an online of the offline option for getting mental health services is completely up to you. However, we recommend that if managing a chronic mental health disorder with severe symptoms (like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or bipolar disorder) you get help as soon as possible.

Chat with a licensed therapist online by taking advantage of free consultations and trials offered by leading therapy sites like Getting started with online therapy is as easy as registering for an account, selecting a provider, and logging in to your sessions. 

Now, let’s move on and unlock your concern if “how much a therapist cost on average?” 

Limited finances should not keep you from getting the help you need. BetterHelp pricing and all that comes with it are comparable to or often cheaper than traditional in-person therapy. Sessions usually range from $65 to $90, including messaging and one live 30-minute or 45-minute session a week. The exact cost for you will depend on your location, therapist, and preferences. Financial aid is also available for select individuals who fit the low-income criteria.

Once you decide upon a therapist, know that you are on the way to developing the tools and skills you need to improve your well-being. Not only is the therapy affordable, but you also have the flexibility to get help in the comfort of your own home and at a tine most convenient for you. Moreover, research supports online therapy platforms as being just as effective as in-person. A recent meta-analysis published in Clinical Psychology Science and Practice reported that teletherapy resulted in marked symptom reduction in those who received therapy. If you are interested in exploring the benefits of online therapy, consider meeting with an online therapist who can work with you to address your concerns regarding various issues in your life.


Now that you have the answer to the question, “What is sliding scale therapy?” you can feel more confident when making your selection of an online therapy provider. With the national average for getting therapy in the United States costing as much as $200.00 per hour, knowing you have lower-priced therapy should be of great relief. Subscription-based therapy platforms are providing rural, low-income, and other mental health seekers with realistic options for getting affordable therapy online. 

If you are ready to get started with affordable subscription-based therapy with a licensed mental health professional in your area, contact a BetterHelp therapy expert online to get started.

For Additional Help & Support With Your ConcernsThis website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.