How Much Money Do Therapists Make?

Whether you’re a graduate student who is hoping to make some money some day or a fully licensed and experienced therapist, you may be wondering how much money do therapists make?  I provide some ideas on the type of therapy that are reimbursed. 

Ignore the horror stories from the guy on the street corner.  Before you switch careers and go into the fast food industry, here is the way to avoid becoming a fry cook. It all depends on who is paying for the therapy. Here are five common ways that you can be paid to do therapy.  

  1. Deep pockets
  2. Insurance companies
  3. Federal grants
  4. Community agencies
  5. Hospitals/psychiatric clinics
  1. Yes, someone pays out of pocket, out of a wallet, or out of a bank account. The hard part in “Deep pockets” is to make the ask. The major obstacle is the belief that you’re not worth whatever you’re charging. About ten years ago, I decided that I wouldn’t charge anything since I was a university professor.  However, the agency insisted that I get paid $30/hour.  I wanted to “give back” to the community.   I was earning enough as a professor and private clients to pay for my private therapy office (for my story, get my book “Growing Your Practice” at my website Here’s the funny part: the agency ran out of clients! I was on to #2
  2. Insurance companies are one of the five ways that you’re paid to do therapy.  To get paid insurance companies, you have to be placed on their insurance panels (i.e., lists of their therapy providers). Not always easy. In fact, think of a torturous process. My guess is that the insurance companies believe that you should be on their list of providers only if you can figure them out. But I never found a list of how much insurance pays starving therapists. It was solely by rumor or an absent-minded comment by an administrator.
  3. Federal grants can also get you off the street corner. In this scheme, someone submits a proposal for a federal grant, it gets funded, it requires that therapists provide some form of therapy that you can provide, you do the therapy, and you get paid. Hmm, this is not a good way to stay off the street corner.
  4. Community agencies are also one of the five ways that you’re paid to do therapy.  They can be a not-for-profit or profit-making organization. You get paid if the agency director can successfully get money from the United Way or other philanthropic organizations. In my experience, this means that the directors must be skilled in successful begging. OK, not quite that bad, but it is hard unrelenting work.  
  5. On the other hand, for-profit agencies are one of the five ways that you’re paid to do therapy.  They can be ethically dubious.  I’ve heard of agencies that demand more than forty clinical hours.  Not much time to write casenotes. . . .Hmm, I think that there are labor laws against those requirements.  I guess that employment at these agencies is preferable to street corners.  Not much but it beats putting your practice shingle on a sandwich board.
  6. Almost as bad are psychiatric clinics that are hierarchical (i.e., psychiatrists are demigods) and have minimal or no respect for the purpose and benefits of “behavioral health providers” (i.e., therapists).  There is the other issue that not all therapists at these clinics are licensed or well-supervised.  That means that your colleagues’ skill levels can sometimes be scary.  I know of a nearby psych clinic where the majority of the therapists are unlicensed!

So, are you still wondering how much money that therapists make?  I haven’t directly answered that question but I’ll try another method.  Have patience.  I’m looking at my bank statements to be able to answer the question.