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When people sign up for counseling services in St. Louis, one of the most frequently asked questions on an initial phone call or email is, “What is this going to cost me?” In a day and age where managed care has trained us to think very little about our own care and to just trust them to sort things out, people are often surprised at rates for varying practices across the St. Louis area and don’t really have an accurate sense of what they “should” be paying.

When you are considering counseling, you need to consider what kind of clinician you want, with what experience, and at what cost. All too often, people select therapists without thinking these things through, and the net impact is that they spend lots of money and energy, while not improving at all.

Average Rates for Counseling in St. Louis

About 18 months prior to setting up shop in the St. Louis area, I surveyed over 100 different practices about their rates. I called around, emailed, and web surfed, simply inquiring about the cost of counseling services. Here’s what I found:

  • The high end for therapy services was in the neighborhood of $150 dollars (with very few going much higher). The most consistent factor about these price points wasn’t that the therapists were terribly more experienced or haled nationally as experts in their fields, but that they lived in the wealthier areas of the St. Louis Metropolitan area – Kirkwood, Ladue, Clayton, etc.
  • The low end for therapy servies was in the neighborhood of $50 (with virtually no one going any lower). Factors correlated with lower costs tended to center around three things:
    • Therapist experience – younger therapists starting out or provisionally licensed (i.e., in residency) tended to charge less
    • Therapist setting – therapists practicing in public mental health facilities or in poorer socioeconomic areas tended to charge less
    • Therapist modality – therapists practicing “in-home” therapy or other less traditional, non-outpatient models tended to charge less

So, the prices ran from $50-$150, and while some therapists on the lower end did have less experience, the therapists on the higher end didn’t necessarily have more. Instead, highest price points tended to be a function of what income people made in given area.

Some Comparisons 

If you took a happy medium between the high and low ends of average St. Louis therapy costs based on our evaluations, then you’d land right in the middle at $100 per hourly session.

To get an idea of whether that sounds like a lot or a little, let’s do some comparisons for the average per hour costs in other industries (NOTE: Some of these represent the average hourly wage earned (WE), and some represent the average hourly labor charge (LC), depending on what data was available and/or what made the most sense for the purposes of this discussion):

  • St. Louis Lawyer (Partner Status) —  $401/hour (LC) (source)
  • Midwest Region Lawyer (Less than 1 year experience) — $275/hour (source)
  • Neurologic Surgeon — $132/hour (WE) (source)
  • Radiation Oncologist — $126/hour (WE) (source)
  • Franchise Owned Mechanic — $125.97/hour (LC) (source)
  • HVAC Repair — $120/hour (LC) (source)
  • Plastic Surgeon — $114/hour (WE) (source)
  • Architect — $100/hour (LC) (source)
  • St. Louis Counseling — $100/hour (approx) (LC)
  • Privately Owned Mechanic — $93.30/hour (LC) (source)
  • Plumber — $60/hour (LC) (source)
  • Graphic Designer — $42.50/hour (WE) (source)
  • Carpenter — $19/hour (WE) (source)

Here’s what this looks like graphed (click chart to enlarge):

St. Louis Counseling Costs vs. Other Industries

So, as the above comparison and chart make clear, on average, St. Louis counseling rates are in the bottom 40% of all the categories listed, and are less than the rates charged by attorneys, medical doctors, mechanics, and HVAC repairmen.  It’s worth noting that therapists must have at least attended graduate school up to the point of Master’s degree completion, and worked in the field for about 4 years to have obtained licensure.  Graduate education in the US costs about $34,000 for public universities and $47,000 for private (source).

So…What should I be paying?  Counting the Cost…

If you can generally expect that it costs $275/hour to fix your legal woes, up to $130/hour to fix your medical woes, $120/hour to fix your air-conditioning woes, and $93/hour or more to fix your automotive woes, it might be reasonable to pay someone $100/hour to tinker with your head.

But, there’s really no way around it — what counseling “should” cost is really up to you, depending on how highly you value it and how motivated you are to see results in your life through therapy.

So, you tell me…what should therapy cost in St. Louis?

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