Anxiety, stress, substance abuse, affective disorders, or developmental or social adjustment problems are increasingly present in our society. In a world like the present one, many people need specialised psychological care and, as a professional activity, this care implies a retribution for those who practice it .

However, some of the people who need these services do not have sufficient resources to pay the fees of a private professional, which is why the demand for low-cost psychologists has emerged.

Low-cost psychologists: explaining the concept

As we know, psychology is a scientific discipline whose object of study is the human psyche. Psychologists dedicate their professional activity to working with diverse individuals, groups and organizations, having trained for years and polished their skills and competencies in order to offer the best possible service.

There are many professionals who exercise their activity within the public sphere, but the characteristics of the public environment mean that many professionals decide to establish themselves and create or enter private psychological practices and institutes.

Going to a private psychology centre usually implies a more personal treatment , differentiated and with a more continuous availability, in addition to being able to find more frequently other approaches that move away from the most common methodologies. However, this type of consultation tends to have a moderate cost (it must be taken into account that the professional must face multiple expenses in the management and maintenance of the consultation) that in the long run may be difficult to assume for many.

Thus, many people who would require more continuous and specific psychological care than in the public sector (if such public health care exists in the territory in question) may not be able to afford the costs involved. The knowledge of this fact has led to the birth of some associations and professionals who offer psychological intervention at low cost . They are known as “low cost psychologists”.

Psychology within reach of every pocket

This type of low-cost psychology is intended to serve as a bridge between the benefits of therapy and patients who cannot afford it. Usually, these are associations, NGOs and professional groups that, when faced with the observation that many problems are left untreated due to a lack of resources, decide to make their services cheaper, adjusting this aspect to the economic capacity of the subject.

With regard to the legality and possibility of carrying out therapy at low cost, according to the code of ethics it should be taken into account that the remuneration demanded by the professional should not imply that the profession is devalued or that there is unfair competition. However, it is possible and legal to carry out a psychological intervention of these characteristics, and even exceptionally free of charge , if the clients need it and are unable to pay for it.

In order to use this type of association and low-cost psychologists, it is necessary to present documentation that demonstrates the socio-economic status of the above-mentioned person, so that remuneration can be set according to his/her possibilities while preventing the abusive use of this type of service.

The situation in Spain

Although in Spain it is not so frequent since there are psychology professionals within the Social Security, it is a growing trend in other South American countries. Despite this, due to the economic problems associated with the crisis and the difficulty in accessing public services because of the poor relationship between supply and demand (largely exceeding the demand for psychologists to the supply) its high level of demand has begun to rise similar associations on our borders .

Although the low price may make one think otherwise, the professionals who offer this type of therapy are still qualified psychologists, requiring sufficient accreditation to take care of the patients and clients who come to them or they would be acting in a fraudulent manner and punishable by law.

In Spain, in the case of clinical psychology, it is necessary to at least hold a degree and be accredited as a general health psychologist or specialist in clinical psychology, in addition to being a member of the Official College of Psychologists.

Advantages and disadvantages of offering low cost therapy

As in almost everything, in low-cost psychology there are lights and shadows.

The good thing about this collection policy

The main advantage of this type of intervention is obvious: low-cost psychology allows to provide counselling and therapy to those who cannot afford other types of services . This can bring relief to a large number of people who would otherwise not be able to receive specialised care.

The low cost may also lead to a reduction in the level of dropouts, which is sometimes due to reductions in the purchasing power of clients (e.g. layoffs).

Similarly, greater accessibility by a large number of people helps to ensure that seeing a psychologist is no longer a socially stigmatised issue, given that the idea that seeing a psychologist is only for people with serious mental disorders is still prevalent among part of the population.

The downside of low-cost psychology

But while going to a low-cost centre can be a great help and benefit to the person who goes there, it is necessary to take into account that it may involve some risks and/or disadvantages with respect to other types of professionals.

One of the main risks is that the centre or association in question is real. Although there are low-cost centres and institutions of psychologists of proven effectiveness, in the era of the Internet it is easy to find cases of supposed professionals who have neither the training nor the legal capacity to practice psychology , running the risk that under supposed offers that attract attention, situations of fraud may be hidden.

In this sense, it is necessary to document and gather information about the center and the professionals who offer therapy to verify that they are who they say they are. Psychology professionals must be accredited as such and licensed to practice.

The risk of denigrating the guild

Another risk comes from the fact that, although the performance of therapy at low cost is possible, it should only take place under the assumption that it does not denigrate the profession or incur in unfair competition with other professionals . It should be taken into account that too low a price may lead to a reduction in the training, effort, skill and dedication required to successfully carry out a treatment or therapy.

Thus, it is necessary to take into account that this type of low-cost therapies should be dedicated to situations in which clients who need an intervention do not have sufficient resources.

Finally, another disadvantage of this type of low-cost psychology is that even though the service is of good quality, certain treatment or evaluation modalities may not be carried out. This is due to the limitations inherent to the lack of budget, and is that the resources available to a centre greatly limit the type of services it can offer.