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Co-Pays, Childcare Costs and Gas Prices Are Some of the Reasons People Cut Back on Therapy This Year, Survey Finds

More than a third of Americans who stopped going to therapy this year cited money — including secondary costs like childcare and transportation — and insurance coverage as the cause, according to a recent survey conducted by Verywell Mind. 

"For many people, it's the increased costs. The gas money to go to therapy is now higher," says Amy Morin, editor in chief of Verywell Mind and licensed psychotherapist, "People have to pay more for babysitters, so they can go see a therapist. And then of course, a lot of therapists are raising their rates given the rise in inflation, too."

Though inflation seems to be slowing down, according to the latest Consumer Price Index figures, overall, U.S. inflation is still high.

Some people are finding ways to lower out-of-pocket therapy costs by reducing the frequency of their sessions to once a month from three to four.

Others are turning to their loved ones for support, with 38% of the 1,000 survey participants reporting that they required financial assistance from someone else to pay for therapy.

What's more: even people whose therapy sessions are covered in part by insurance worry that they will struggle to afford it long-term. Over 60% of participants, including those with insurance, report that they pay out-of-pocket therapy costs, with a total average of $178 each month.

Here are the biggest reasons people in therapy are cutting back on treatment, according to the survey:

  • Insurance/Health benefits ran out/too expensive (37%)
  • Therapy was too expensive (22%)
  • Insurance coverage was changed (15%)

Additionally, many Americans have multiple therapy-related expenses each month that make paying for their sessions difficult. These are some of the secondary costs of therapy, and the percentages of participants in the survey who are paying them:

  • Gas to drive to therapy: $164 (48%)
  • Child/eldercare to attend sessions: $100 (31%)
  • Prescription medication: $40 (67%)
  • Supplements (vitamins, CBD, herbal remedies, etc.): $31 (73%)

At the same time, Americans' mental health is worsening. The Covid-19 pandemic caused a 25% increase in the prevalence of depression and anxiety worldwide in its first year alone, according to the World Health Organization. A new survey from CVS Health and Morning Consult found that 59% of U.S. adults reported having concerns about their own mental health or the mental health of friends or family.

"For people who aren't getting treatment right now, their symptoms may get worse," Morin says, "The longer we go without treating those things, sometimes the worse the symptoms get and the harder things are to treat."

Lack of mental health care may affect work productivity, relationships, family dynamics and could increase chronic health conditions, Morin tells CNBC Make It.

If it's becoming harder for you to afford mental health care, consider these options recommended by Morin:

  • Discuss payment options with your therapist
  • Try group therapy, which can often be cheaper
  • Do online therapy — some services require a monthly fee, rather than payment for each session
  • Read self-help books
  • Listen to podcasts by therapists
  • Join a support group
  • Call the national crisis lifeline at 988 if you urgently need someone to speak to

"For society as a whole, there's a cost in not treating people who have mental health issues," Morin says, "Prevention and early intervention can be key to helping people resolve their symptoms and feel their best."

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