12 Ways To Find Affordable Or Free Therapy
In the US healthcare system, having no insurance is one of the worst situations one can find themselves in – especially if you need to seek treatment for your mental health.
Of all practicing medical professionals, psychiatrists are the least likely to accept insurance. That’s a problem because 1 in 5 Americans will experience some form of mental health disorder in a given year but more than half of them will receive no help.
The average cost of therapy ranges between $60 and $120 per hour, but some therapists charge much more than that. Insurance can offset some of those costs, but millions of people don’t have health insurance.
The system is broken and inaccessible for many Americans who truly need treatment from a psychologist or psychiatrist, but – thankfully – there are other ways. Cheap therapy and even no-cost therapy are out there!
If you want to explore seeking mental health treatment, we’ve put together a list of some high-quality options for both affordable and free therapy services.
From online therapy sessions through video chat to group counseling, there are a ton of affordable options at your disposal.
Don’t let money stop you from improving the way you feel!
Ways to Find Cheap Or Free Therapy
Before you start Googling therapists in your area and cold calling their offices to ask about pricing, try these resources to find free or cheap therapy.
1. Contact Your Insurance Company
If you have health insurance, you’ll want to try to find a therapist that is in your insurance provider’s network before you do anything else. In-network care is less expensive than going to an out-of-network doctor. You can consult your insurance company’s site for a list of in-network psychologists and psychiatrists.
If you can’t find an in-network provider, you may still be able to use your insurance to offset some of the cost of your treatment. Some providers will provide you with a claim form to submit to your insurance, and some even send it on your behalf.
The point is that you should use the insurance policy you already have to get access to (relatively) cheap therapy before seeking out options for free therapy.
2. Student Health Center
If you’re a college student, your campus student health center may offer affordable or free therapy. A quick online search will tell you whether they do or not, or simply pop into your student health center and ask the information desk.
Your college or university may offer other freebies that can improve your mental health, beyond just counseling services. Don’t miss out on all the free stuff you can get before graduation passes you by!
3. Federally Qualified Health Center
Also known as community-based healthcare centers, these are organizations that provide various programs – including mental health care services – in local communities thanks to government funding. These facilities provide cheap therapy on a sliding fee scale based on a patient’s ability to pay.
You can find a health center near you here.
4. Local Training Institutes
This option is a bit of a quid pro quo, but if you need and can commit to a schedule of long-term therapy, it might be the perfect free therapy option for you. Some local Psychoanalytical Training Institutes offer no-cost therapy for patients willing to attend 3 to 5 times per week for a period of at least 1 to 2 years.
Patients will see the same qualified doctor who is being supervised while they receive advanced training to provide intensive long-term psychological treatment.
You can find a list of low fee clinics here.
5. Teaching Hospitals
If you live near a teaching hospital, it may offer training programs for its interns and residents in their psychiatry and outpatient psychology departments. The programs sometimes offer affordable therapy on a sliding scale basis.
6. VA Mental Health Services
Veterans don’t have to be enrolled in VA health care in order to access some of the mental health programs that are offered. Those already using VA medical services can ask their primary care doctor to help them schedule an appointment with a VA mental health provider.
If you’re not enrolled in VA health services, contact your local VA medical center and they will help you find treatment.
7. Open Path Psychology Collective
Open Path is a non-profit, nationwide network of mental health professionals that offer treatment to individual patients, couples, children, and families at very reduced rates. The practitioners are in private practices, but work with Open Path to make mental health care accessible to low-income patients.
There are hundreds of participating providers all across the country offering options for cheap therapy. You can find a provider near you here.
8. Find a Support Group
Some prospective patients may be put off by the idea of attending group therapy sessions because the care is not as personalized as it is when meeting with a provider one-on-one, and because there’s a diminished level of privacy.
If those things aren’t an issue for you, group therapy can be a great option for low-cost or free therapy. Organizations like the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) offer these support group meetings. And don’t forget the various free 12-Step programs if you’re suffering with an addiction.
If you have a need for a more specialized support group, you can find information at Mental Health America. The site lists specialized support group resources.
9. Mental Health America
Mental Health America (MHA) is the leading community-based nonprofit organization in America dedicated to helping those with mental illness and promoting mental health for everyone. Your local MHA affiliate can provide you with information about programs in your local communityproviding affordable mental health services, including outpatient, inpatient, and residential treatment.
10. Ask Around
Not everyone will like the first therapist they see, and because most practitioners charge more for first appointments (which are typically longer and more in-depth than follow up appointments), finding the right therapist for you can get expensive.
Ask around for a therapist recommendation, and how much they charge for first and follow up appointments. If you’re not comfortable asking people you know in “real life” for cheap therapy services, ask online. A local Facebook group, Nextdoor neighborhood page, or your city’s Subreddit (if it has one), can be good resources for finding affordable therapy. If you’re on one of these sites with your real name, create another, anonymous account and post your question from there.
11. Online Therapy
It’s difficult to find free online therapy. Some sites offer peer-to-peer counseling, but it’s more like getting advice from a non-professional person who wants to help. A true, licensed therapy session won’t be totally free online, unfortunately.
You can, however, find affordable online therapy through sites like Talkspace and Betterhelp. Members will complete a mental health questionnaire and, based on the answers, be matched with a licensed therapist. Fees can vary, but Talkspace fees start at $65 per week and Betterhelp fees start at $40 per week.
You can message your Talkspace therapist or schedule a video chat, and you will always have the same dedicated therapist. Talkspace clients have four options for communicating with their therapist: text messaging, live chats, phone appointments, and video chats.
Online therapy is a much more convenient option, as well, with flexible hours for patients who maybe don’t have conventional work schedules. Plus, there’s no time wasted traveling to and from the office or sitting in the waiting room!
Thervo connects potential patients to various types of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors. The site will ask you a few basic questions, including what issue you want to address, whether or not you have insurance, the days and hours you’re available for appointments, and how far you’re willing to travel to appointments (if you’re willing or able to travel at all).
>Within a few days, you will receive quotes from professionals in your area via email or text message.
Avoid the Emergency Room
Unless you are having an urgent mental health crisis, try to avoid the ER for mental health treatment – especially if you don’t have insurance. Not only will you probably have a long wait before you’re seen by a doctor, but you’ll likely end up with an enormous bill and you won’t have received much care for your money.
Emergency rooms are not meant to be a place to seek mental health treatment, unless you are in the midst of an urgent crisis and there’s no other option.
Help is Available
Needing help from a psychologist or psychiatrist is simply a fact of many of our lives – not something reserved for the wealthy. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, grief, or any other mental health condition, don’t let limited financial resources stop you from getting the treatment you need.
From online therapy sessions to group counseling, there are numerous avenues you can take to find cheap or free therapy from a qualified professional. Just try one of the options for free or cheap therapy we’ve outlined above, and see if it makes you feel better!
What are you waiting for?