You make a couple calls. You speak to a couple therapists. Its not your only question, but its a big one.
“Hi yes…” You have a nice conversation. The counselor seems kind. “How much does therapy cost?” Going to therapy has just dropped in direct reaction to the answer of your question. Your next thought:
“I’m not sure I can afford it.” You come up with a list of additional justifications not to go.
Is this you? Does it describe someone you know? Its vital that we answer the question of affordability, because at the heart of it, therapy isn’t about how much money you pay but rather a question of investment in the quality of your life. Are you someone who can see therapy as an investment?
Its a pity to admit we often ask this question about cost because we have been raised in a consumer society which must deduce whether cost is worth the product we receive in return. We treat money as a prize possession which can only be released when we deem the value of something else greater than that of money. So naturally when we look at therapy, the expense and value ratio is applied almost immediately. Oftentimes the end result becomes we only seek therapy as a last desperate measure (If this is not you and you have made use of it more frequently then read on simply to understand how justifiable is your spending on therapy). This mindset has contributed to a certain stigma about therapy in our society: “if you are in therapy there must be something seriously wrong with you.” Many of us who have been in therapy get this impression from someone we share with. In truth, those who attend GOOD therapy have a very healthy reality about them. They are seeing themselves more clearly and they are understanding how they interact with the created world, including their daily relationships. The payout of therapy far outweighs the cost when you look at it through this lens of insight and growth. We often don’t realize that we lack these things until we taste life with them. I want to use a comparison in hopes of clarifying this idea.
College is becoming an essential for many careers. We willingly pay upwards between $4k-60k per year for a college education. We consider this expense value ratio to be worth it because of the long-term return we will get from the investment: we go to college so we can have a higher paying, higher quality job throughout our lifetime. So if we rack up debt in the double to triple digits for a good education we consider it worthwhile. Can not the same principle apply to therapy?
It is a different sort of education meant to increase the quality of or relationships and daily living—and in fact makes us more successful in our careers too. We spend 40 hours a week at our work, but the rest of our week is spent relating to family and friends. These hours involve self-care, spending time in our own bodies and heads, making decisions of what to do with that time and money that we have left after our work is done. Oftentimes trying to use the money we make to make ourselves happy in some form or another. We have spent countless hours and money on a classroom education so we can excel at our jobs. Why should we not spend time and money also to help us excel and fine-tune how we do relationships and making the most out of life? Insight is a priceless commodity which most of us want to pay nothing for because we don’t realize the power it has to shape who we are on a day to day basis. We fail to see the connection to happiness.
Consider if we replaced one year of college with a year of therapy meant to help us gain insight into ourselves. How would this change our lives? Well for one it would be cheaper than a year of college. Most importantly it would be educating us in how to live not only the 40 hours a week at work, but also the other 128 hours a week of living. Now I am not proposing we substitute a year of college for therapy, although it would be an interesting experiment, my point is we ought to classify therapy in the same cost comparison as college. The long term pay out is significantly greater too. It can save marriages, improve parenting, as well as any other relationship you might fill in the blank with. So next time you think: “I might need therapy, but what is it going to cost me?” Try answering with: “Its not about the cost, its about the quality of living.”