Therapy is an essential field that covers a vast range of treatments, such as mental health therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and marriage or family counseling. Therapists provide a mental health diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan for patients in various places such as hospitals, offices, treatment centers, and group homes. While they can’t recommend medication, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement if anyone wants to pursue a career in therapy or counseling. More often than not, this means having student loan debt.
But, do therapists in public health qualify for student loan forgiveness?
Yes! In fact, there are multiple student relief options for graduates who have decided to pursue a career in public health as a therapist or counselor. Here are some options you can consider:
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is a student loan forgiveness program offered by the federal government to therapists or counselors working in the public health sector. This means being employed full-time (minimum of 30 hours per week) as a mental health therapist or counselor in non-profit organizations or government agencies. To be eligible for PSLF, you must be working for one of the following organizations:
- Federal, state, local, or tribal government organizations
- Not-for-profit organizations that are exempt from taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
- Not-for-profit organizations that aren’t tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) but provide certain types of qualifying services
- AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps
The way PSLF works is that you must make 120 qualifying payments while employed in one of the above organizations, though these payments don’t need to be consecutive. After 10 years of service, PSLF provides complete student loan forgiveness for the remaining balance of your student loan debt. The amount forgiven is also tax-free!
Keep in mind that the PSLF only works for federal direct loans, so make sure you have eligible loans.
Qualifying Public Services for Non-Tax-Exempt Organizations
You may qualify for PSLF if your nonprofit employer offers specific public services but is not tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS. Confirm if your employer provides at least one of these public services:
- Emergency Management: Organizations that deal with the humanitarian aspects of emergencies such as flash floods, hurricanes, and wildfires.
- Military Service: Organizations that offer services on behalf of the U.S. armed forces or the National Guard.
- Public Safety: Organizations that provide ambulance, crime-fighting, firefighting, or similar assistance and services.
- Law Enforcement: Organizations that enforce criminal law for crime prevention, control, or reduction.
- Public Interest Law Services: Organizations offering legal services and are funded partially or fully by a local, state, federal, or tribal government.
- Early Childhood Education: Educational organizations that may offer services such as licensed or regulated child care, Head Start, and state-funded prekindergarten.
- Special Public Service: Organizations dedicated to assisting individuals with disabilities and the elderly.
- Public Health: Organizations that employ nurses, nurse practitioners, nurses in a clinical setting, and full-time professionals engaged in healthcare practitioner occupations, according to Gov. Other qualifying employees include counselors, social workers, and those in health support occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the terms associated with community and social service specialist occupations.
- Public Library Services: Organizations that offer library services where the general public can read books, access the internet, use study areas, consult reference materials, and print or photocopy documents without being a member.
- School-Based Services: Organizations that offer school-based services such as cafeteria or library services.
Exemptions and Limitations
Your primary employer can tell you about its tax status and if it is a nonprofit organization. Generally, eligible nonprofits include most private elementary and secondary schools, as well as private colleges and universities.
However, organizations that are labor unions or partisan political organizations are ineligible PSLF employers. In addition, you may have limits on your PSLF qualifications if your job nature involves religious activities.
Be sure to confirm your organization’s type and tax status to determine your PSLF eligibility. Or, you can use the Chipper's Organization Search tool to find information about your organization.
Income-Driven Repayment Forgiveness
If you're a therapist who works at a for-profit facility, an option for you would be to pay your loans while enrolled in an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. This approach takes longer than PSLF as it can extend to 20 years (25 for graduate loans) before the remaining loan balance can be forgiven. Since an IDR plan caps your monthly payments based on your discretionary income and family size, it's a good option for those who have a high debt amount relevant to their income.
There are five different IDR Plans to choose from:
- Revised Pay As You Earn
- Pay As You Earn
- Income-Based (2014)
- Income-Based (2009)
Get Track Now!
Regardless of which option is best for you, make sure to get on track as soon as possible as both programs are timely! Getting on track for PSLF or IDR forgiveness will save you a lot of time and money in the long run! Securely link your loans with Chipper to discover how much your forgiveness potential is + get on track for student loan forgiveness now! 🤗