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September 25, 2023

How Much Does Therapy Cost in San Francisco?

Katelyn McMahon
Registered Psychotherapist, VT #097.0134200
white person in yellow beanie talks to another person via video chat; how much does therapy cost in san francisco
September 25, 2023
13 min to read
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Whether you’re considering starting therapy for the first time or feel ready to dive back into your healing journey, it’s natural to be curious about what the financial investment looks like.

At the same time, keep in mind that there are plenty of costs to not getting the help you need.

In this post, I’ll explain the average cost of therapy in San Francisco and break down the factors behind the cost. Plus, I’ll cover your options for paying for therapy and give my insight as both a therapist and therapy-seeker as to why the price is worth it. 

Here’s the average cost of therapy in the Bay Area

Like other services, there’s no cut-and-dry figure for how much therapy costs in San Francisco (or elsewhere). Therapists each set their own rates, so the price can vary based on a ton of different factors that I’ll dive into later in this post.

At the same time, getting a rough estimate for the average cost of therapy in the Bay Area can help you manage your expectations and have a sense of what to expect.

Let’s look at some data to paint a clear(er) picture.

Here's what therapists in San Francisco actually charge. These are averages based on 25 local therapists in each specialty.

Type of Session Cost
Average cost of an anxiety therapy session in San Francisco $186
Average cost of an ADHD therapy session in San Francisco $190
Average cost of a couples therapy session in San Francisco $221*
Average cost of a depression therapy session in San Francisco $188
Average cost of a trauma therapy session in San Francisco $167

*Note that couples therapy is not typically covered by insurance.

Keep in mind that these are averages, so your therapist’s rate may be higher or lower. These averages also reflect rates for therapists who advertise that they accept insurance.

And remember, these are the rates that a therapist charges, not necessarily what they end up getting paid if they bill your insurance.

Many therapists are (understandably) fed up with getting paid less than they deserve. It can even be hard for therapists to earn a living wage when working with insurance companies. As a result, some therapists choose to accept out-of-pocket payment only. I’ll explain more about this later, including why you should consider this option if it’s financially feasible for you.

To see how private pay rates compare with insurance rates, here are some averages from 25 San Francisco therapists in each specialty who don’t accept insurance.

Type of Session Cost
Average cost of an anxiety therapy session in San Francisco $197
Average cost of an ADHD therapy session in San Francisco $206
Average cost of a couples therapy session in San Francisco $228
Average cost of a depression therapy session in San Francisco $192
Average cost of a trauma therapy session in San Francisco $197

Again, these are averages, not exact figures. It’s best to discuss cost with each therapist you’re interested in working with to get the most straightforward information about how much therapy costs in San Francisco.

It’s also important to note that therapists are required by law to provide a Good Faith Estimate to clients who don’t have or want to use insurance benefits. 

Your therapist must provide you with a cost estimate in writing at least 3 business days before your service, or whenever you request it. This was put into law in 2022 with the passage of the No Surprises Act, which protects people’s rights to get information about the cost of their care.

Read more about what a Good Faith Estimate is here.

Session fees for Best Therapists

At Best Therapists, our therapists must pass a rigorous vetting process to get listed on our site. Since they’re held to higher standards of care than therapists on other run-of-the-mill directories, their fees tend to be a bit higher than average too.

  • Average session fee on Best Therapists: $199*
  • Average session fee for Best Therapists in San Francisco: $293*

*as of September 25, 2023

We make sure that our therapists have active licenses, glowing peer reviews, high online ratings, and a commitment to providing trauma-informed care. We also screen for burnout to make sure that your therapist has the emotional capacity to be fully present for your sessions.

Oh, and did we mention that all our therapists have current openings? That’s right: no waitlists!

What can we say–you get what you pay for 😉

Why is it so expensive to see a therapist in San Francisco?

Therapy is an investment in your mental health. Do you really want the cheapest option when it comes to your well-being?

Understanding the factors that play into therapy rates might help you feel more comfortable taking the plunge.

  • Location. In areas with a high cost of living (like the Bay Area) therapists need to charge higher rates in order to support themselves, just like any other service provider. 
  • Credentials & experience. Therapists with a higher level of education, such as psychologists, may charge more for their services. Clinicians who’ve been in the field for longer may also charge more, especially compared to pre-licensed professionals or newly licensed therapists.
  • Type of therapy. Certain types of therapy, like EMDR or ketamine-assisted therapy, require specialized training. Therapists who provide these treatments might have higher fees.
  • Practice setting. Typically, private practice therapists charge more than those who work in agency settings like community mental health clinics or state-funded organizations. 

Business expenses. Like any other business, a therapy practice costs money to run. Expenses like office space, licensing fees, and professional insurance are factored into a therapist’s rate.

These are just some of the components of a therapist’s session fee. Like any other business or industry, there are many other factors that can influence costs.

Paying for therapy

You have options when it comes to paying for your therapy sessions. Here are some of the main ways to fund your care.

Affordable therapy options

Some organizations offer free or low-cost therapy. This is a great option for people who want mental health care but face significant financial barriers. Check out Free Black Therapy or other affinity groups if this sounds like you.

Private practice therapists may also offer sliding scale rates based on your income. Not all therapists do, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if you need financial support.

Insurance benefits

Health insurance is another way of paying for counseling. While this is certainly an option, many people jump to using their health insurance benefits for therapy before considering the limitations. 

Like I pointed out earlier, therapists often struggle to earn a living wage when working with insurance companies. Being underpaid can lead to burnout, which lowers the quality of care you receive.

Note that you’ll also need a mental health diagnosis to use your benefits, and your therapist will need to share your sensitive mental health information with your insurance company to get reimbursement. 

You might also get pushback from your insurance provider on the frequency and length of your sessions. Plus, many people have high-deductible plans that mean they end up paying a lot out-of-pocket anyway.

Out-of-network benefits

Using your health insurance benefits also limits your options. Thankfully, most insurance plans come with out-of-network mental health benefits, meaning you can work with pretty much any therapist you want, even if they’re not paneled with your insurance company. 

Plus, you’ll still get reimbursed: sometimes as high as 80% of the cost of therapy. This option gives you tons of flexibility for choosing a therapist you truly connect with while also getting some financial help. 

You can also use your HSA or FSA to pay for therapy, whether or not your soulmate therapist is in network with your insurance provider.

Use our free benefits checker to see what your out-of-network benefits are

Private pay

You can also pay your therapist out of pocket. This is the most expensive option, but it also gives you the most freedom in choosing your therapist and creating your treatment plan. While it’s not feasible for everyone, it’s the most straightforward way to pay for therapy.

Is therapy worth the cost?

Yes, therapy is totally worth the investment. When I worked as a therapist, I saw firsthand how transformative it was for my clients. Plus, my own experience as a therapy client has been life-changing.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s what the research says about the benefits of therapy.

  • Therapy can reduce anxiety. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, anxiety is the most common mental health issue in the United States. Thankfully, therapy can help you feel more in control. This study shows how effective therapy can be in treating anxiety.
  • Therapy can improve physical well-being. Along with other mental health issues like depression and eating disorders, therapy can also improve physical health conditions. This study found that CBT can effectively treat fibromyalgia, IBS, and more.
  • Therapy can improve relationships. Research shows that couples therapy can significantly improve intimacy of all kinds in romantic relationships. Partner not interested in therapy? Studies show that individual therapy for relationships can help, too.
  • Therapy can help you heal trauma. Studies of EMDR therapy show how effective it can be in treating trauma–even when delivered virtually.
  • Therapy can treat co-occurring disorders. Mental health issues and substance abuse disorders can often go hand-in-hand. Research shows that ketamine-assisted psychotherapy can significantly reduce symptoms for these folks.

While the research speaks for itself, your own personal reasons for starting therapy are the most important. You might even reach goals that you don’t know you have right now!

Find your soulmate therapist today

Ready to make the investment into your mental health? Start your search on Best Therapists to find a top-rated therapist in San Francisco. Your soulmate therapist is just a few clicks away!

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Written by
Katelyn McMahon
Registered Psychotherapist, VT #097.0134200

Katelyn is a therapist-turned-writer with a passion for mental health. She has a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of England and is a Registered Psychotherapist in the state of Vermont. Katelyn has professional experience in aging care, addiction treatment, integrated health care, and private practice settings. She also has lived experience being on the client side of therapy. Currently, Katelyn is a content writer who’s passionate about spreading mental health awareness and helping other therapists and therapy-seekers Do The Work.

Reviewed by
Kristie Plantinga

Kristie Plantinga is the founder of Best Therapists. Along with being on the client-side of therapy, Kristie has had the honor of working directly with therapists in her marketing agency for therapists, TherapieSEO. While working alongside therapists, she learned about the inequities in our mental health system that therapists face on a daily basis, and she wanted to do something about it. That’s why Best Therapists is a platform designed to benefit not only therapy-seekers, but therapy providers. Kristie has a Masters degree in Written Communication and a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Music.

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