In a perfect world, people in need of professional counseling services would not be prevented from seeking those services by their cost. But this is not a perfect world. The fact is that a counselor’s time needs to be paid for. Some people can afford it while others cannot. That leads to an obvious question: how much should I expect to pay for counseling services?

If you have asked that question, you might already know that there isn’t a definitive answer. There are a variety of factors in play. Unlike the menu at your favorite fast-food restaurant, counseling fees vary considerably. While the 99-cent menu at your favorite burger chain is consistent from coast-to-coast, counseling fees are not.

Median Counselor Salary

The place to start is discussing the median salary for counselors in this country, which is just under $75,000 annually. That works out to about $36 per hour based on a 40-hour work week. At the lower end of the scale, you could pay as little as $25-$30 per hour for counseling. You could also pay $45 or more.

Expect to pay higher than the median rate to a counselor who runs their own clinic. That counselor’s hourly rate not only has to pay their salary, but it also needs to cover the costs of doing business. Undergoing counseling at a sizable clinic with multiple therapists could run you closer to $100 per session.

3 Determining Factors

As previously mentioned, there are a number of factors that play into counseling fees. Counseling and therapy services are no different from any other business in terms of financials. Counselors need to pay their bills and earn a decent income. Therefore, they need to set their rates high enough to accomplish both.

Although there are many factors counselors need to consider, Rye, NY’s Relationships & More suggests the following three are among the most important:

1. Education and Training

Counselors run the gamut from religious leaders with very little formal training to licensed therapists with master’s degrees. A counselor’s education and training partially determine fee schedules. For example, you should expect to pay more to be counseled by a therapist with a degree. You could expect to pay less for counseling from a religious leader. If you were to see your local priest or minister, you might not actually pay anything at all.

2. Geographic Location

Next, counseling fees are partially influenced by geographic location. Take a city like San Francisco, CA as compared to Lockport, NY. San Francisco is considered a major city on par with others like Chicago, Dallas, and New York. The cost of living is fairly high. As a result, the price you pay for just about everything in San Francisco is on the high end.

On the other hand, you have never even heard of Lockport, NY. Lockport is a rather small city in upstate New York. Life is less expensive there, so you would expect to pay less for counseling services.

3. Consumer Demand

Finally, we cannot ignore the realities of consumer demand. The more demanded services are, the higher the cost of those services. This is why counseling tends to cost more in big cities. The demand is much higher in major metropolitan regions as opposed to small towns.

Even though the median salary for counselors works out to about $36 per hour, you could pay more or less for counseling services. Only you can decide how much counseling is worth to you. If you need counseling, here’s hoping you find something you can afford.