Billing & Insurance
May 26, 2020

How to Navigate Therapy Costs and Insurance

Written by
Camden Kent
Reviewed by
Updated on

So you’ve decided that you’re ready to seek therapy. That’s a powerful and courageous first step! You’ve taken meaningful action towards your mental health goals.

One of the first hurdles to get through on your journey is dealing with the reality of insurance. The unfortunate truth is that mental health care can be a significant cost, and the world of insurance is complex and at times, baffling. However, the important thing to keep in mind is that therapy is an investment in yourself. Therapy offers lasting and compounding benefits, and can lead to happier and healthier lives. And with a little insurance-know-how, you’ll be equipped to find a therapy plan that works for you and your budget.

Dealing with the Reality of Insurance

Let’s be real; seeing a therapist isn’t free, and navigating your insurance benefits can be challenging. One of the most important distinctions to make is between in-network and out-of-network providers.

In-network providers are healthcare professionals who have signed a contract with an insurance company to perform certain procedures for a set rate that the insurance company pays them. Take a look at our insurance partners and see if therapy with Two Chairs is an affordable, in-network option for you.

On your side of things, this means that, depending on your plan structure, you’ll likely pay a co-pay (a small fee) for each session upfront. The rest of the payment is then worked out between the insurer and the provider. In-network providers are the more affordable option, and if you don’t have out-of-network benefits it may be the only way insurance will cover your costs. However, this means that in-network therapists are often booked up months in advance, and can be difficult to find. That’s why we aim to take the hard work out of shopping for a therapist for you.

Out-of-network providers have no contract to work with insurance providers, and are thus a more expensive option. Some healthcare plans (such as PPOs) offer out-of-network benefits which offer some coverage for providers who are out of your insurance company’s network. Typically, the process involves you paying for the full cost of services upfront, and then being reimbursed for a certain percentage of the cost of care at a later date — with Two Chairs, you may be eligible to have 60-80% of your costs covered by out-of-network benefits, depending on your plan.

Navigating Insurance Plans

When starting therapy, there are a couple of key terms that you’ll want to have a grasp of in order to understand your insurance benefits.

If you’re looking for an in-network provider, then things are generally simpler. You’ll want to know two things:

1) Your in-network deductible.

The deductible is the amount of money that a member must pay out of pocket before their insurance company will begin making payments. Typically, you won’t receive any coverage from your plan until the deductible is met. Some plans may have no deductible at all, while high deductible plans can be several thousand dollars.

2) Your copay.

Once your deductible is met, the copay is a set fee that you pay for each session, directly to your therapist. Once you pay your copay, the therapist then submits a claim to be reimbursed for the rest of their services by the insurance company.

For out-of-network providers, the process is more involved. The most important thing to know upfront is if your plan even has out-of-network benefits. If it does, that means you will have to pay for the full cost of services upfront. However, you’ll be able to submit claims to the insurance company to get reimbursed. These are the most important factors to look for if you’re seeking an out-of-network provider:

1) Your out-of-network deductible.

This works the same way an in-network deductible does. However, most plans have separate deductibles for in-network and out-of-network services, and out-of-network deductibles tend to be higher.

2) Your co-insurance rate.

The co-insurance rate is a percentage that shows how much of the cost of care will be covered by your insurance company once your deductible is met. Co-insurance rates are typically between 10%-50%, and denote that percentage that you are seen as responsible for. For example, a 30% co-insurance rate typically means that the insurance company will reimburse you for 70% of the cost of care.

3) Your “allowed amount”.

The “allowed amount”, also referred to as, “eligible expense,” “negotiated rate,” or, “payment allowance,” is the maximum dollar amount your insurance company will recognize as the value of a given service. This number can vary by zip code, procedure code, and sometimes diagnosis. This number will not be displayed on the plan documents you receive from your employer or plan administrator. To find out what this number is for you, your best bet is to call your insurance company and provide the procedure code to identify the service type, and the zip code of either where you live or the clinic where you will attend your sessions, depending on if you do virtual or in-person therapy.

An important thing to note is that both your deductible and your co-insurance rate will be determined by the allowed amount. The allowed amount is the maximum amount of money per visit that can be applied to your deductible, and your co-insurance rate will be applied to the allowed amount once your deductible is met. This means if the cost of a service is greater than your allowed amount, you will be responsible for the difference out-of-pocket.

The numbers in this figure are for example only.

Managing Out-of-Network Costs

When using out-of-network services, you’ll have to pay for the full cost of sessions upfront. Once you’ve paid for your session, your you will receive a superbill. A superbill is a fancy term for an itemized receipt for the service your therapist rendered. Once you have your superbill, you’ll need to submit it for reimbursement. At Two Chairs our Care Coordination team is here to support you throughout the entire process, and we may even be able to submit claims on your behalf.

One strategy people have to manage the cost of therapy is adjusting the cadence of their care from weekly to biweekly. These kinds of decisions should always be discussed with your therapist, however. They can tell you if they think you’re in the right position to receive care less often, and they’ll have a better idea of the effectiveness of their own services with less frequent sessions.

You can also use any wellness benefits you receive through your employer. Two Chairs accepts FSA/HSA dollars as long as your FSA/HSA card is affiliated with a major credit card — and you can submit your superbills for reimbursement.

Starting Therapy at Two Chairs

If you’re looking for high-quality mental health care and are struggling with finding the right therapist, we’re here to help. We know from research that the client-therapist relationship is one of the best predictors of successful therapy, so we’ve invested in a matching process that takes the guesswork out of finding a therapist and matches you with the right therapist and care for you. You can learn more about that here.

In addition, our Care Coordination team is there to guide you through every step of the way. We can submit claims to your insurance company on your behalf, explain your insurance benefits to you, and help with any questions you might have along the way. With our Care Coordination team handling the paperwork, Two Chairs therapists are able to focus on providing excellent quality care, and you can focus on your mental health.

The world of insurance can be daunting at first glance. But don’t panic; it is surmountable. Once you’ve decided to seek mental health care, the insurance process is often the first hurdle. But with the information and advice laid out in this article, you’re equipped to navigate the complicated waters of paying for mental health care. You’re ready to create a therapy process that works for you.

Click here to book a consult at Two Chairs

If you or someone you know is seeking mental health care, you can reach out to our Care Coordination team at or by phone at (415) 202-5159.

If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency or crisis and needs immediate help, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Additional resources can be found here.

This post was updated in July 2023. Any numbers in this post do not necessarily reflect Two Chairs pricing.

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