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Q: Statistics on therapy ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Statistics on therapy
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: qpet-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 25 Feb 2003 19:10 PST
Expires: 27 Mar 2003 19:10 PST
Question ID: 167186
How many licensed therapists are there in the US? What is the average
length of therapy(how many sessions)? What is the total $ amount spent
on therapy every year?
(These questions relate only to "traditional" talk therapy)
Subject: Re: Statistics on therapy
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 25 Feb 2003 20:38 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello, qpet! I hope your "quality of life" book is coming along well.

In addressing your questions, I am assuming that you want "just the
facts, ma'am," so I'm not embellishing things much here.

 How many licensed therapists are there in the US? 

There are approximately half a million licensed therapists in the US:

"To be a life coach, a person must have the ability to listen and to
know when and how to speak in private session. The people who already
have those skills are 467,000 licensed therapists in the U.S." [Date
not given]
Life Coach Central

"In the 1950s and the decades before World War II, there were few
therapists or counselors because the profession was just emerging. Now
[2002] there are well over 500,000 licensed therapists in the United

W. W. Norton & Company

 What is the average length of therapy (how many sessions)? 

The average length of therapy is fewer than 12 sessions:

"Epidemiological studies show that the majority of patients in
psychotherapy have a relatively small number of therapy sessions. The
average duration of a psychotherapy is put at between five and eight

International Psychoanalysis Newsletter 

"Research shows that the average length of psychotherapy treatment is
6-10 sessions."

Arizona Psychological Association 

"Even when psychiatric care is free, only 4.3% of the population uses
outpatient psychotherapy, and the average length of treatment is 11

American Psychoanalytical Association

 What is the total $ amount spent on therapy every year?

"Americans spend about $55 billion every year on psychotherapy and

ABC News


Search terms used (in varying combinations) to locate this

united states
in the US
average duration
average length
total amount
americans spend
each year
every year


I hope this is helpful. Please request clarification as needed; I'll
be glad to offer further assistance.

Best wishes,

Request for Answer Clarification by qpet-ga on 26 Feb 2003 07:35 PST
Almost complet, pinkfreud, I need to know the total $ of therapy only,
without the medication. (see if you can find more than one source- 2
or 3)

Clarification of Answer by pinkfreud-ga on 26 Feb 2003 09:38 PST
I'm working on finding the total dollars spent on therapy only. This
figure is surprisingly elusive! I'll post results for you as soon as
I've found something applicable.


Clarification of Answer by pinkfreud-ga on 26 Feb 2003 12:08 PST
This is the best I've found so far~

A lengthy publication, "National Estimates of Expenditures for Mental
Health and Substance Abuse Treatment, 1997," provides a breakdown of
mental healthcare dollars (see Table D.3(a) Nominal Dollars for Total
Estimated Expenditures of Mental Health (MH), Substance Abuse (SA),
and MH/SA, by Type of Provider, 1987 - 1997, on page 87 of the

From Table D.3(a), these are the estimated dollar amounts spent in
1997 in the US on mental health (including substance abuse treatment):

Independent Practitioners:  22,260,000,000 
Psychiatrists:               7,396,000,000 
Non-Psychiatric Physicians:  4,718,000,000 
Other Professionals:        10,147,000,000 

Total                       44,521,000,000 

So approximately $44.5 billion went to therapists, including medical

Mental Health


I've asked my Google Answers Researcher colleagues to help me in this
matter. The brilliant and gracious mathtalk-ga has found this material
that you may find useful:

"The panel examined the dramatic shift that has occurred over the past
decade with regard to national spending on mental healthcare. Ten
years ago, national health expenditures comprised about 11% of the
nation's gross domestic product, a percentage that has increased to
14%, or US$1.2 trillion in 1999. Of that total, however, spending on
mental healthcare has declined from 9% to about 7%, according to Dr.
Richard Frank of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.

"Even more dramatic has been the shift away from spending on
psychiatric care delivered in hospital settings to spending on drugs.
Among many private insurers, the per-member per-month spending for
psychotropic drugs is now equal to the spending for inpatient and
outpatient care, Dr. Frank noted. "Money has shifted away from
buildings to drugs," he said.

"Dr. Henry T. Harbin, of Magellan Health Services, the nation's
largest behavioral health organization, predicted that spending on
mental health will increase, especially for drugs and outpatient
services. Currently, about 50% the mental healthcare dollar goes for
spending on drugs, 20% goes to pay for hospital care (both inpatient
and outpatient settings), and the rest goes for partial
hospitalization services."


I am still looking for more sources for you, but the figures from
"National Estimates of Expenditures for Mental Health and Substance
Abuse Treatment, 1997" are the best I've seen.

Thank you for your patience.


Clarification of Answer by pinkfreud-ga on 27 Feb 2003 12:36 PST

Further research has yielded one other source of statistics on
expeditures for outpatient mental health therapy (excluding drugs). I
am very grateful to umiat-ga for locating this document on the site of
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

The same document in cached html form:

Here are two excerpts from the document linked above which you may
find useful:

"An estimated 9.6 million people or 4.3 percent of the civilian
noninstitutionalized population generated 79 million ambulatory mental
health visits in 1980. By profession, independent of organizational
setting, 35 percent of these visita were to psychiatrists, 35 percent
to psychologists, and 30 percent to other physician or nonphysician
providers. This is a rate of 353 mental health visits per 1,000
population and an average of 8.2 visits per person with a mental
health visit. The average charges per year per person with a mental
health visit were $253, a per capita cost of $11 for the U.S.

"74 percent of the estimated 79 million mental health visits (Table 1,
shaded) were reported as having been made because of a mental
disorder. The rest of the visits occurred in psychiatric settings, but
a mental disorder was not reported as a reason for the visit. health
visit. The average charges per year per person with a mental health
visit were $253, a per capita cost of $11 for the U.S. population. The
aggregate charges were $2.4 billion. This figure is close to the
estimate by Hodgson and Kopstein (1983) that professional services
equaled 10 percent of the total $20.3 billion spent on mental
disorders in 1980."

To sum up: In 1980, Americans spent approximately $2.4 billion on
professional psychotherapy services. By 1997, that figure had risen to
$44.5 billion ( see
), referenced in my clarification of 26 Feb 2003, 12:08 PST).

Even taking inflation into account, this is a significant increase in
the use of psychotherapy. I converted the 1980 figure, $2,400,000,000,
into 1997 dollars using this handy inflation calculator (based on
Gross Domestic Product):

$2.4 billion spent in 1980 would be equivalent to approximately $4.3
billion in 1997. The actual expenditure for psychotherapy in 1997 was
ten times that figure: $44.5 billion.

Many thanks to my friends and colleagues mathtalk-ga, umiat-ga,
bobbie7-ga, journalist-ga, voila-ga, and sublime1-ga, all of whom
offered me their assistance in the quest for this elusive data.

qpet-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Thank you for the extra effort.

Subject: Re: Statistics on therapy
From: pinkfreud-ga on 27 Feb 2003 16:32 PST
Thank you very much for the five-star rating and the generous tip!


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