You’re dedicated to taking care of your mental health, which is great. But although in an ideal world, everyone would have access to mental health therapy, we understand that this isn’t the case. Therapy can be expensive, and not everyone can afford it.
If you want therapy but don’t have the funds to pay for it, then there are lots of options for you. Don’t give up -- here are some routes you can take to be able to receive therapy (or some other type of mental health support).
Already seeing a therapist? Talk to them about your options
If you’re already seeing a therapist and can no longer afford your sessions, don’t feel ashamed. Therapists are there to give you a non-judgmental space to express yourself, including when money’s tight. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about if your financial situation has changed and you can no longer afford to pay for your sessions.
Talking to your therapist openly about finances may bring about some surprising solutions. You may be surprised with the outcome: some therapists may be willing to provide you with a payment plan or a sliding scale fee while you get back on your feet. You might also be able to arrange shorter or less frequent sessions so that the cost is more manageable. If your therapist isn’t able to budge on costs, they can refer you to other therapists who may be able to help you despite your financial circumstances.
If you don’t ask, then you don’t know the answer. So first things first: if you’re already seeing a therapist, talk to them instead of assuming that you’ll have to stop going to therapy because of finances.
Related Blog: "Ready to Break Up With Your Therapist? Here's How"
How to find free (or affordable) therapy
If you’re not yet seeing a therapist but know you could benefit from seeing one (or if you need to take a pause with your therapist), there are free and affordable options available out there. Here’s a list of resources you can access to make therapy as affordable as possible.
Check insurance directories
Often, the most affordable therapists are the ones whose services are covered by your insurance provider. Check your insurance directory first; most insurance companies have a concierge service that connects you to a live person who can help you navigate options. This limits the range of services that are available to you, but your insurance plan may cover most of the cost of therapy with an in-network therapist.
If you’re uninsured, then 211.org (or dialing 2-1-1 from your phone) is a great resource to help you with all sorts of community resources, including for mental health. The folks at 2-1-1 can help you locate affordable behavioral healthcare providers in your area, and help you work through immediate mental health crises if that’s what you need.
Find a therapist who can offer sliding-scale fees
Many therapists offer a few pro bono or sliding scale slots for the clients they see. There is no easy or quick way to find the therapists who do; you’ll have to call each therapist to ask what options they can offer you. Therapist directories often list whether or not a therapist you’re interested in seeing offers sliding scale fees. Directories may also list how much therapists charge for a session, so you can try looking for one that offers more affordable rates.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
If you are employed, then you may have access to an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, through your job. Often, this benefit is provided even to part-time employees. EAPs allow you to talk to a licensed counselor, for a limited number of sessions, for free. Some EAPs allow you a certain number of sessions per life problem, which might extend the total amount of sessions you get for free. All sessions are confidential, and the information won’t get back to your workplace. Ask your human resources department for more information.
School counseling centers
If you’re a student, look into your school’s counseling center. Most people associate “school counseling” with academic counseling, but that’s no longer the case. Almost all universities now have a counseling center on-campus that’s staffed with mental health therapists. Pay the counseling center a visit to ask about how you can sign up to receive free therapy through them.
Free and low-cost therapy for People of Color
If you’re Black, Indigenous, or another Person of Color, then there are some community resources that can help connect you to free or low-cost therapy. Some of these programs have a directory of inclusive therapists who can see you for free (or a reduced rate), and others have a process where you can apply for financial support so that you can see a therapist.
Here are some of these programs to start with:
- The Loveland Foundation (for Black girls and women)
- The National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network (for Queer and Trans POC)
- The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (Black people of all genders)
Free mental health support groups
Group therapy and support groups can be a wonderful resource when you don’t have money for individual therapy. There are many free support groups, both virtually and in-person, that you can join for all sorts of different mental health issues. Some great places to start looking are at Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Both of these organizations list their virtual and local support groups on their websites.
Apps and online therapy platforms
Lastly, there has been a huge boom in new mental health apps and online therapy platforms in the past few years. Many of these apps are either free or more affordable than seeing an in-person therapist. For example, the popular virtual therapy app BetterHelp costs less than $100 a week/session.
You might also consider trying out a self-help app or program. There are free self-guided programs for everything from health anxiety to depression. Of course, this isn’t the same as seeing an individual therapist, but it can be incredibly helpful to hold you over during times when money is tight.
If you need therapy and can’t afford it, there are options out there for you. Don’t give up on your mental health. If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis and can’t afford a therapist, call 911 or 1-800-273-8255.