What is a Sliding Scale? Therapy Payment Options Explained

When searching for a therapist, you might see the phrase “sliding scale” listed on their profile under payment options. But what does it mean? We’ve collected all of the information you need to know about the sliding scale payment type to make it easier for you to find a therapist that not only fits your needs but your budget as well!


What is sliding scale?

When a therapist offers a sliding scale, they’ve created a payment system that asks a client to pay based on their ability to do so - those who make less money pay less money for their therapy. So, as an example, if a therapist normally charges $150 for a session, a client who only barely meets the federal poverty income level could potentially pay 20% of the session fee, which is $30.

While it’s widespread for therapists to offer sliding scale payments, each therapist has different rates and thresholds for their clients.

How do I know if I qualify for a sliding scale payment system?

Therapists generally develop standardized rates of sliding scale payments for their practice and have a sliding scale chart available for clients to review. If you’re worried about paying for therapy and fitting the costs into your budget, ask your therapist (or prospective therapist!) if they have a sliding scale option. Because sliding scale is based on income, be ready to discuss how much money you make and your budgetary limitations with your therapist.

What are the benefits of paying on a sliding scale?

There are many benefits of using this payment system! Here are a few to consider:

What are the downsides of paying on a sliding scale?

Unfortunately, there are also some downsides to paying on a sliding scale. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Is sliding scale right for me?

To decide if paying on a sliding scale is best for you, consider the following:

If you think that paying on a sliding scale might be helpful for you, Zencare makes it easy to find a good fit!