Are you wondering how much eating disorder therapy really costs? I reviewed the directory profiles for over 150 therapists and here are the results!
Are you unsure about whether it’s worth seeing a therapist to help you recover from an eating disorder? Most people I work with spend years thinking about getting in touch with a therapist. Not knowing how much it will cost can add to the overwhelm and stop you from moving forward. We also know that people may not feel ready to recover, there are steps you can take to help you move forward.
I’ll break down the prices for eating disorder therapists and try to answer your questions. What’s the difference between someone charging £50 and someone charging £250? How many therapy sessions will you need? How much will you pay in total?
Once you know how much it will cost, you might also want to know where to start to find someone. I have written a post here to explain how to find a good eating disorder therapist in the UK.
The short answer
Eating disorder therapists charge between £40 and £250+ per session. Counsellors charge an average of £50 per session, psychotherapists £80 and practitioner psychologists £120. For binge-eating and bulimia, the NHS recommends 10-20 sessions, and for anorexia 20-40 sessions. For 20 sessions the total cost therefore varies between £1000 and £2400.
The geeky bit
This blog focuses only on private outpatient eating disorder therapy.
I have not reviewed private day patient or inpatient costs, but this will be significantly more. There are also several charitable organisations that may be able to provide support at a reduced costs, check the BEAT website for further information.
I love data, so I tried to take a systematic approach to finding out how much eating disorder therapists charge. This definitely isn’t a scientific study but hopefully it’s enough to give a good estimation of the cost.
According to the website Statista there are approximately 199,000 therapists in the UK. I couldn’t find out how many of these specialised in eating disorders, so instead I estimated about 5% (based on personal experience). That gives us about 9950 eating disorder therapists in the UK.
So how many profiles would I need to review to get an accurate snapshot? A sample size calculator gave me the number 370.
I decided to use Psychology Today to search for therapists. I chose Psychology Today because they introduced a “top 3” specialities section. There is nothing more confusing than therapists who list 25+ specialities. How are we supposed to know which area they are most skilled?
I tried to use Counselling Directory, but I found almost everyone I reviewed listed lots of specialities and I couldn’t figure out who was actually a specialist.
Eating disorders are a very specific field, and I only wanted to review people who would probably be specialists in this area.
I found 165 therapists on Psychology Today who advertised themselves as specialising in eating disorders, not quite the 370 I was looking for, but this should be enough to give an overview.
Of the 165 therapists, 144 of them displayed their price per session (87%). The average price was £80 per session. The lowest price was £40 and the highest was £250.
Since it varies so much, you probably want to know what price you’ll actually pay. I broken this down by:
1. Price by type of therapist
I used the categories provided by Psychology Today to compare counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists.
Counsellors are trained to help people solve problems they are facing in their life in the present. They tend to use broad counselling approaches such as person-centred therapy. They train for a minimum of 2 years (diploma) and some go on to train in additional therapy models (e.g., CBT) or do a counselling degree.
It’s important to note that unless your counsellor has had additional training, they will not be able to offer NICE recommended treatment for eating disorders.
Out of 53 counsellors, the lowest price was £40 per session and the highest was £100. The median (or mid-point) price was £50.
The category of psychotherapist on Psychology Today covers a wide range of qualifications. This group included psychoanalysts, family therapists, CBT therapists and more. They will all be trained to assess and treat mental health difficulties.
This group of people is more likely to have received the specific training needed to deliver NICE recommended treatment for eating disorders. It will be important to ask your therapist what approach they use as it can vary significantly. For example, psychoanalysts may focus on early childhood experiences whereas CBT therapists will be more focused on the present.
Out of the 58 psychotherapists, the lowest price was £40 and the highest price was £150. The median price was £80.
This group included clinical psychologists, counselling psychologists and health psychologists. These professionals will hold a doctoral level qualification (6-8 years of study) and are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). They are trained in several models of therapy so they can tailor the approach to the person to best meet their needs. They are also required to continue their training through CPD (continued professional development) to make sure they are up to date with the latest research and evidence.
They will usually use the title of Dr but are not psychiatrists and therefore will not be able to prescribe medication.
Out of the 33 psychologists, the lowest price was £60 and the highest price was £250. The median price was £120.
2. Price by location
This graph shows the average price per session by region of the UK. Wales and Scotland have been grouped together because I found so few therapists in these areas.
The numbers in white represent the total number of therapists I found in the area. The black line is the average price across all regions.
I found far more therapists in the south of the UK (including London). This is probably because I am based in the South East. Despite searching for therapists nationally, it looks like the Psychology Today algorithm has probably showed me more people local to me. Because of this it’s hard to draw any conclusions about price differences in different regions. Although I think it’s fair to say that therapists in London charge more than most other regions.
Areas where only a small number of therapists were found are skewed by type of therapist. For example, some areas had only psychologists (who charge more) and some only counsellors (who charge less).
3. Online price vs in person
Of the 144 therapists who stated their prices only 1 explicitly said they didn’t do online therapy and 16 didn’t say either way. It seems like almost all therapists have moved to be able to offer online therapy and the rates were generally the same for in person vs online therapy.
So how much will a full course of eating disorder therapy cost in total? We already know that this will vary depending on where you are in the UK and which type of therapist you chose to see.
It is also going to depend on the number of sessions you have. Different types of therapists will have different approaches to number of sessions. For example, it’s more common to see a psychoanalyst for a long period of time (perhaps years). Whereas a psychologist or CBT therapist is more likely to work in blocks of sessions with an idea of a possible end date ahead of time (although not always).
The number of sessions you have will also depend on the type of therapy you have but broadly speaking, the NICE guidelines recommend about 20 sessions for bulimia and binge eating disorder and 20-40 for anorexia. There are also newer therapy models that have been created to be 10-12 sessions (these are only suitable for people who are not underweight).
As you can imagine, the total cost is going to vary enormously. To simplify, I’ve taken an average of 20 sessions. 20 sessions with a counsellor will cost you about £1000, with a psychotherapist will cost about £1600 and with a qualified practitioner psychologist will cost about £2400.
We know that private therapy is financially out of reach for many. If you live in the UK, the NHS provides services free at the point of access. You can read more about how to access NHS support here. You might also find this list of eating disorder recovery books helpful.