This really is not a sraight-forward question. It very much depends who you ask.
Speak to a person who's life turned around after effective counselling and they will say that it was worth every penny and no amount was too much. Alternatively if you approach someone that doesn't believe in the effectiveness of counselling or a person that feels their sessions didn't really help and you are likely to get a very different answer.
Firstly, how much does it actually cost?
This can vary greatly depending on which type of therapy you're looking for and also even which part of the country you are.
If you are referred to your local health authority for counselling by your GP then it should be free but there is likely to be a long waiting list. Three to six months is not unusual, and when you reach the front of the list you'll almost certainly be restricted to 6 or 8 sessions as a maximum, at which point you would have to return to the waiting list if you needed more.
So if you want counselling on your terms, with who you want, when you want and as much as you want, it's obviously going to have to be paid for.
As a very general rule you can expect to pay from about £30 - £50 per session for a reliable, qualified counsellor. Sessions can range from 45 mins to an hour too so the 'hourly rate can vary there as well. But if somebody asked me outright what an hour of counselling will cost I would advise them to be prepared to pay £40 and they shouldn't be far wrong.
So now we've nailed down the cost, all that remains is the 'simple' question that was first posed. "Is it worth the money?"
I think if someone is already of the opinion that counselling, for whatever reason, is not worth it, then no cost would be acceptable.
So let's look at it from the viewpoint of somebody who feels they need some sort of help and for whom counselling is likely to be helpful.
I confess to being biased on this subject as I feel that having good counselling is part of a person's self care. How much does a holiday or luxury spa weekend cost and how long do the positive effects last? Have you ever come back from the annual family getaway abroad, been back to work for a few days and said to someone "it's like I haven't even been away". You're back into the daily grind and the time spent on the beach is a distant memory.
If you're struggling with life in general or certain things that are going on within it, does having somebody rub essential oils into you really solve your problems? I can appreciate it's an extremely relaxing way to forget about them for a while but those problems have not gone away. You've merely been distracted from them.
For a lot of people these activities only serve to temporarily regenerate the body to allow them to keep going until they reach that point in their life when they need to do it again. Unfortunately people tend to need that regeneration again long before it is feasible to get it. Most people cannot afford a two week holiday 6 times a year or spa breaks every other weekend.
So if these typical, and, let's face it, expensive, activities are only temporarily masking the real problems, what would it be worth to really address the underlying problems and hopefully remove them forever?
This is the important fact that people need to understand. Effective therapy can turn a person's life around forever. It can improve a person's self esteem, confidence and overall happiness. This improvement in the person's mental state translates into a difference in day to day life. Naturally you will treat people around you differently depending on whether you feel happy or sad. If you are a generally more content person then it follows that your life is also likely to be more content, less stressful and more enjoyable.
This is not exaggeration. It's a simple fact that effective therapy can be the catalyst for this change. This really could be what you're going to be paying for when you seek out a counsellor.
So now let me ask the question again. Is counselling worth the money?
Even if a person accepts all this and realises they are in need of some sort of life change that could be aided by counselling, you can't get around the fact that there is a financial consideration here. Just because you think it might be a good idea doesn't mean you can afford it and there is no easy answer to that. Some counsellors will offer a sliding scale of fees depending on the client's situation so it's always worth asking about that. Check out services that may offer reduced priced counselling that are not part of the local authority, such as charitable organisations. There are some that operate on a 'donation only' basis where you can agree a fee at the start that you're able to afford.
There may still be a waiting list but it could be weeks rather than months. If you desperately need to talk to somebody then always remember that calling 116123 will get you through to Samaritans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
But what if you technically could afford it? It now boils down to whether you think that you'd be getting value for money.
Returning to my biased point of view I would say that any money spent on personal counselling is investing in yourself and will always be worth it. If you found someone who claimed they could help you with the big personal problems you have, help you solve them and allow you to put them behind you and move on with your life, how much would you pay for that? Would that few hundred pounds you had set aside for material items or extravagant indulgence be better spent elsewhere? For some people, cutting back on smoking or having one less night out would literally pay for counselling sessions.
I tend to believe that a large number of people would fall into the category of "I suppose I could afford it if I really wanted to." To these people I would urge you not to ask "Is counselling worth the money?" but more "Am I worth the money?"