- What to Do When You Can’t Afford Therapy
- 8 Ways to Get Free or Cheap Therapy When You Don’t Have Health Insurance
- 8 Ways to Find Free or Low-Cost Mental Health Services
- I think I’m severely depressed but I can’t afford therapy, any alternatives?
- Find a counseling service near you
- Finding Low-Cost Mental Health Care
- Can I get free therapy or counselling?
- What are psychological therapies?
- What can psychological therapies help with?
- Who can have psychological therapies on the NHS?
- What happens when you refer yourself
- 7 Tips for Dealing with Life if You Can’t Afford A Therapist
- How do I make an appointment?
- What’s it like to see a psychologist?
- How much does it cost?
- How To Find Affordable Therapy Or Counseling
- You have insurance, but you’re not sure what treatment it covers
- You don’t have insurance
- You need medication
- You need emotional support or someone to talk to
- You’re comfortable talking in a group setting
- You need to see someone as soon as possible
- You don’t have much free time for appointments
- You’re looking for someone who specializes in a certain treatment area
- Learn About Free Counseling and Affordable Therapy Options
- Insurance Parity and Affordable Counseling
- Crisis Care Hotlines
- Free Treatment for Mental Health Emergencies
- Sliding-Scale Affordable Therapy
- Find a Therapist
- College and University Counseling Centers
- Therapists and Counselors in Training
- Community Mental Health Centers
- Peer Support Groups
- Online or Phone Therapy
- Conclusion: Locating Quality Discounted Care
- Seek in-network first — if you don’t have healthcare, turn to Federally Qualified Health Centers
- Your brain on depression
- Private therapists will often work on a sliding scale — as low as $10/hour
- See if you’re eligible for Medicaid for free therapy
- Your local training institutes may provide free sessions for up to two years
- University hospitals are often eager to put students to work for a low fee — so are some non-profits
- Check out Open Path Psychotherapy Collective
- Don’t give up — the resources are out there, possibly on your smartphone
- If you’re really hurting, check into a clinic and/or call for help
- More Mental Health Help
- How to Go to Therapy When You’re Broke AF
- What To Do If You Can’t Afford Therapy, According To An Expert
What to Do When You Can’t Afford Therapy
One of the biggest reasons people don’t seek therapy is money. People look at a therapist’s hourly rates — which might range from $100 to $250 — and immediately assume they can’t afford professional help. So they stop there.
But you do have various helpful options. Below, clinicians share, in no particular order, what you can do if you can’t afford treatment.
1. Check with your insurance.
“If you have insurance, ask your insurance plan to give you a list of providers who are either in your geographic area or who specialize in the issue you are seeking help with,” said Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. You might only have to pay a small co-pay, he said.
However, even if your insurance doesn’t cover therapy, get the details on what they do cover, said Julie A. Fast, a coach and author of Get It Done When You’re Depressed. For instance, your policy might still include the words “social worker,” she said.
2. Try a training clinic.
Training clinics offer clients a sliding scale. They’re typically located in universities where graduate students prepare to become clinical or counseling psychologists, said Kevin L. Chapman, Ph.D, a psychologist and associate professor in clinical psychology at the University of Louisville. There, he said, students are “trained and supervised by licensed psychologists who typically have years of experience with specific mental health conditions.”
3. Try a community mental health center.
“Community mental health centers provide free or low-cost therapy options and services covered by Medicaid insurance,” said Julie Hanks, LCSW, a therapist and blogger at Psych Central. To find a center, search using Google or look at your state government website for the Department of Human Services, she said.
4. Read self-help books.
“Books are my first recommendation,” Fast said. Along with her book, Get It Done When You’re Depressed, she also suggested “the rather esoteric The Four Agreements for personal development The Idiot’s Guide to Controlling Anxiety.”
You also can contact a local therapist for book recommendations for your specific concern, Olivardia said. “It can help narrow down the options and allow you to focus on quality resources,” he said.
5. Attend support groups.
Support groups typically are free or at least more affordable than individual therapy. They may be run by mental health professionals or peers. Always ask a therapist if they also offer lower-cost group sessions, Fast said. (“Groups can be a lot less expensive if they accept cash,” she said.)
She suggested attending moderated support groups. “I always stress that groups that are run by the people in the group rarely work. It should be a structured system where a dispassionate person runs things. Otherwise it can just be a complaining session,” Fast said.
The great thing about groups is meeting other people who are struggling with similar issues, which can create “a safe, validating space,” Olivardia said.
Learn more about support groups in your area by visiting NAMI and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Also, consider organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Consider, too, online support groups, such as one of the 180+ mental health support groups here at Psych Central.
6. Ask about discounted rates.
“Cash is often more lucrative than going through the whole paperwork insurance thing,” Fast said. As such, some therapists might offer discounts. For instance, Fast’s therapist typically charges $200 an hour, but she worked with Fast for $50 an hour for a year.
Fast suggested asking clinicians the following questions: “If I don’t have insurance, do you have a cash policy?” Or, “I’m looking for a therapist but am on limited funds. Do you have any discount programs or a group available?” If they don’t, they might be able to refer you to a practitioner who does, she said.
7. Re-evaluate your expenses.
“There are some situations where ‘can’t afford’ is really about priorities,” Hanks said. Consider if you can reorganize your budget to accommodate therapy.
“I’ve worked with clients who ‘can’t afford’ my services but highly value therapy and choose to go without other things because they “can’t afford” not to be in therapy,” she said.
8. Check out podcasts and videos.
Fast also recommended self-help podcasts and videos, such as TED talks on YouTube. “They are very inspirational and have good advice,” she said. When searching for podcasts on iTunes, consider terms such as therapy or personal growth, she said. “I know this is not like seeing a therapist, but I believe that self growth requires personal time as well. It doesn’t all have to be about psychology either,” she said.
9. Visit websites for your particular concern.
“When an individual is privy to their mental health needs — ‘I’m having panic attacks’ or ‘I think I have OCD’ — landing on an association’s website can be ideal,” Chapman said.
For instance, he said, if you’re struggling with anxiety, you can find valuable resources at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the International OCD Foundation.
There is also a wealth of information at Psych Central about self-help techniques, treatments, and books to check out. You can start by looking-up your mental health condition here.
10. Consult your congregation.
“If you belong to a religious congregation, talk to your preacher, pastor, or priest about your need and see if your church offers therapy services or is willing to help pay for therapy,” Hanks said.
11. Consider body therapy.
“Don’t forget body therapy… including chiropractic and massage,” Fast said. Schools usually charge small fees for services given by their students, she said.
As Olivardia said, “Nothing is more important than your physical and mental health.” If self-help resources and groups aren’t working, consider the price of not seeking professional help – because that might be steeper.
“Consider that there are costs for not getting treatment such as lost wages for missing work, strain on family relationships, and quality and length of your life,” Hanks said.
What to Do When You Can’t Afford Therapy
8 Ways to Get Free or Cheap Therapy When You Don’t Have Health Insurance
When you have poor or no health insurance, you might prioritize other issues over mental health care. This could mean ignoring undiagnosed issues or skipping treatment you know you need.
Even if you don’t suffer from mental health issues, you might neglect your need for support through a major life event when you see the cost of therapy.
As with any physical ailment, not seeking mental health care could be detrimental to your health in the long term.
It always helps to have a little money in the bank. Get great ideas about how to build your savings delivered straight to your inbox in The Penny Hoarder Daily.
8 Ways to Find Free or Low-Cost Mental Health Services
Instead of forgoing care or winding up in debt over medical bills, try these options to find affordable or free counseling and other mental health care services.
1. Find a Training Clinic
Like other areas of health and medicine, practitioners need to practice working with the public before they become clinical or counseling psychologists.
That’s good news for any of us who want to save money on therapy.
Training clinics are usually located near or as part of universities. You’ll attend sessions with a graduate student supervised by a licensed psychologist. These clinics typically charge on a sliding scale (which could be as low as $0, if that’s where your scale slides…)
To find one near you, you can browse the Association of Psychology Training Clinics for member clinics. Or just search “ psychology training clinic.”
2. Visit a Community Mental Health Center
Find a center through the Department of Human Services at your state’s government website.
You can also find services through private nonprofit organizations. YMCA offers low-cost/sliding scale behavior health and family services for kids and adults.
3. Attend a Support Group
While you miss out on the personalized care and complete anonymity of private sessions, support groups can be the perfect solution for free or low-cost therapy.
Organizations like the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) host free community support groups in person or online.
If you want to work with a particular therapist but can’t afford private sessions — because you lost insurance coverage, for example — ask if they offer group sessions. These should come at a lower rate you could potentially afford out of pocket.
4. Negotiate and Ask for Discounts
You might not realize it, but your medical bills are totally negotiable. By a lot.
Don’t be afraid to lowball here — this isn’t a business deal, so you don’t have to worry about making a bad impression.
When you receive a bill for services, contact the provider to simply let them know you can’t afford it. They may be willing to cut the cost by more than half if you can pay a chunk upfront.
If you don’t have the cash handy, ask for a payment plan. Get on it before the bill goes to collections, and ask for a monthly payment you can handle to avoid a hit to your credit for late payments.
5. See a Doctor Online
You may be skeptical, but telehealth (or telemedicine) is legitimate and could save you a ton of money on health care.
Through an app like Teladoc, you can meet with a healthcare professional (for physical or mental health issues) for a fraction of the cost of a trip to the clinic.
Telemedicine doctors can diagnose, recommend treatment and even prescribe medication if necessary.
You can even get your therapy via text message — any time you want — through Talkspace! Plans start at $65 a week. Talkspace even offers plans aimed at couples and teenagers.
Another option is BetterHelp, which provides its clients with unlimited access to a licensed therapist via phone, text or live chat. BetterHelp costs between $40 and $70 a week.
6. Lean on Your Spiritual Community and Leaders
If you’re involved with an organized religious group, you could find the help you need within that community.
Does your organization host free support groups or retreats where you can connect with others in your situation? Maybe your minister or other leaders in the community offer free individual or couples counseling.
If you’re worried about opening up about your struggles within a small community, remember: Everyone coming to group therapy is looking for help, just like you are.
1/22/20 @ 9:28 PMDo You Ever Pick up A Stray Penny?
2/7/19 @ 12:27 PMHow do you get great deals at Thrift Stores?
1/20/20 @ 9:58 AMgoing on a holiday
1/22/20 @ 11:02 AM
7. Use Services at Your School or College
College or university students (and faculty) likely have access to health care services through their schools. Your tuition and fees subsidize them, so you might as well take advantage!
Children enrolled in a K-12 school may have access to sessions with a school counselor, as well. Lean on these options when your family can’t afford private mental health services.
8. Consult the Internet
Going online to self-diagnose your ailments is no replacement for professional diagnosis and treatment.
But if you already know what you’re dealing with, consulting a relevant association’s website could help when you have questions and lack access to a doctor.
For example, if you suffer from anxiety, you can find reliable resources at these websites:
- Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- International OCD Foundation
Some people also find online forums like Reddit or Facebook groups useful for connecting with other people who understand your situation.
Just be careful to take advice from random individuals with a grain of salt, and never rely on them for a diagnosis.
If you prefer to speak with someone directly, you can call the NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to get answers about symptoms, treatments and resources. The Helpline itself doesn’t offer counseling, but it can help you connect with programs in your area.
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is the branded content editor at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more.
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I think I’m severely depressed but I can’t afford therapy, any alternatives?
I was in your shoes for 11 of the 12 months (feb to dec) of 2017. so I won’t offer you “hope you get betters” or “do music, art, and dance”… i’ll just tell you how i got out of that bullshit situation. firstly, the cruel harsh truth. no one will save you. let me repeat that. no one. will save. you. you must save yourself. you must be willing to save yourself. you can do it. i completely believe in you. if you want permission from someone to find success, i give you the green light to your biggest goals and dreams. go for it. your life is unique and important. don’t squander your time on this planet asking for handouts and help, you must find your own success, and you are completely capable of that.
next is that failures don’t mean that you are one. failures are simply lessons, and methods to learn how TO succeed next time. if you find something difficult, know that everyone learns differently. when you first started to walk, you didnt just start one day, you probably flopped around uselessly (as you will with any skill, starting off), before you started to crawl, holding things as you walked, and then succeeded. maybe now you can even jog and run. what i’m saying is that life doesn’t throw you curve balls or failures to become obstacles, just to show you what opportunities are. if you swing and miss, sure. if you swing and hit, sure, but if you want a home run, even from a curve ball, you’re not going to be babe ruth by day one of starting to swing. just not going to happen. see where you want to hit it, see where its coming from, and align the goals, you may just get it.
the words ‘i am’ are the strongest thing in the universe. what you say, is what you believe. if you associate yourself as poor, then the more poor you will attract. if you say you are weak, the more weakness you will receive. so stop thinking like this. you are human! you can adapt to anything! if you lack knowledge, you can learn! if you lack strength, you can exercise!, if you lack talent, you can practice and improve! it all comes down to what you want, and what you NEED. find your focus on where you need to be for your own personal success. this isn’t a million dollars, that’s far too far-fetched. there is no focus, its not a goal or a destination, just a figment of imagination… find out what you NEED to succeed. very few people see this as a career or money goal. it’s usually more along the lines of what defines happiness for you? what gets your blood flowing in the morning and energizes you? what gets you excited and what makes you feel good? SURROUND YOURSELF IN THIS…. anything that drains you, try to either remove it or mitigate it at least. get rid of the crap and simplify your life. at the end of each day, you are responsible for what is around you, no one else. if you have debt, that sucks, take steps to remove it strategically and quickly. if you eat poorly, then buy some dirt and seeds and start growing stuff you can eat regularly. whatever you lack, there are ways to improve it, you just have to be willing to work for them.
lastly, you mentioned affording help. if you need help, get it. if you need money, work for it. offer barter or services for money, mow someone’s lawn, paint someone’s house, clean up someone’s shed. work for money, you don’t need money to start making money, so don’t limit yourself right from the beginning. live cheaply, such as borrowing instead of buying. mark your budget, live below your means, instead of living check to check, start saving for bigger and better investments in yourself. save for success. some discomfort now using strategic planning is well worth the comfort and freedom and power and achievement you will feel. live as simple as possible. you dont need a new car, or a big house, or even high quality clothes. the poor stay poor because they try to ‘live like the rich’… but the rich stay rich, because they live like the poor. they live simply and smartly. dont just think of ways to save money, think of ways of making money, and you shall recieve.
and motivational videos on youtube might also help you empower your days, i suggest videos from mel robbins, tony robbins, evan carmichael, warren buffett, will smith, and many others. you will save yourself. because only you can. ready? get started. you can do it.
Find a counseling service near you
Psychologists are healthcare professionals who use scientific methods to understand the relationships between the brain, environment and behavior. Psychologists may focus on research — studying how the brain and various environments drive behaviors to better understand the issues that trouble patients and society as a whole — or they may focus on practice — interacting with people using therapeutic methods. The American Psychological Association shares some of the more prevalent types of psychologists:
- Clinical psychologists assess and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.
- Cognitive and perceptual psychologists study human perception, thinking and memory.
- Community psychologists work to strengthen the abilities of communities, settings, organizations and broader social systems to meet people’s needs — such as improving support for victims of natural disasters, or working to improve health policies.
- Counseling psychologists help people understand and take action on everyday issues, career and work problems, and serious adversity.
- Developmental psychologists study the psychological development of the human being throughout life.
- Educational psychologists concentrate on how effective teaching and learning take place.
- Engineering psychologists conduct research on how people work best with machines.
- Environmental psychologists study the dynamics of how people interact with their environments.
- Evolutionary psychologists study how evolutionary principles such as mutation, adaptation and selective fitness influence human thought, feeling and behavior.
- Experimental psychologists study cognitive processes, comparative psychology (cross-species comparisons), and learning and conditioning.
- Forensic psychologists apply psychological principles to legal issues.
- Health psychologists specialize in how biological, psychological and social factors affect health and illness.
- Industrial/organizational psychologists apply psychological principles and research methods to the workplace to improve productivity, health and the quality of work life.
- Neuropsychologists and behavioral neuropsychologists explore the relationships between brain systems and behavior.
- Quantitative and measurement psychologists focus on methods and techniques for designing experiments and analyzing psychological data.
- Rehabilitation psychologists work with stroke and accident victims, people with mental disabilities, and those with developmental disabilities caused by such conditions as cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism.
- School psychologists assess and counsel students, consult with parents and school staff, and conduct behavioral interventions when appropriate.
- Social psychologists study how a person’s mental life and behavior are shaped by interactions with other people.
- Sport psychologists help athletes refine their focus on competition goals, become more motivated, and learn to deal with anxiety and fear of failure around competition.
Finding Low-Cost Mental Health Care
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What should you do if you’re under a lot of stress or dealing with a mental health issue and you don’t have the money for treatment?
You’re not alone if you’re concerned about paying for mental health care. Lots of people need help and worry that they can’t afford it. Even though health insurance covers mental health issues, it can still be challenging. Some insurance companies don’t cover mental health services very much, and they often have expensive copays and deductibles.
Still, it is possible to find affordable — sometimes even free — mental health care or support.
Free or Low-Cost Counseling
When it comes to finding a counselor, start at school. School counselors and school psychologists can provide a good listening ear — for free! They can help you size up the situation you’re dealing with and, if needed, refer you to more support in your county or community.
If your school counselor can’t help, you’ll need to do a little more research to figure out how to get help. Some of the free or low-cost mental health care possibilities to explore include:
- Local mental health centers and clinics. These groups are funded by federal and state governments so they charge less than you might pay a private therapist. Search online for “mental health services” and the name of the county or city where you live. Or, go to the website for the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration also provides a list of federally funded clinics by state.
(Note: By clicking either of these links, you will be leaving the TeensHealth site.)
One thing to keep in mind: Not every mental health clinic will fit your needs. Some might not work with people your age (for example, a clinic might specialize in veterans or kids with developmental disabilities). It’s still worth a call, though. Even if a clinic can’t help you, the people who work there might recommend someone who can.
- Hospitals. Call your local hospitals and ask what kinds of mental health services they offer — and at what price. Teaching hospitals, where doctors are trained, often provide low- or no-cost services.
- Colleges and universities. If a college in your area offers graduate degrees in psychology or social work, the students might run free or low-cost clinics as part of their training.
- On-campus health services. If you’re in college or about to start, find out what kind of counseling and therapy your school offers and at what cost. Ask if they offer financial assistance for students.
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). These free programs provide professional therapists to evaluate people for mental health conditions and offer short-term counseling. Not everyone has access to this benefit: EAPs are run through workplaces, so you (or your parents) need to work for an employer that offers this type of program.
- Private therapists. Ask trusted friends and adults for recommendations, then call to see if they offer a “sliding fee scale” (this means they charge based on how much you can afford to pay). Some psychologists even offer certain services for free, if necessary. To find a therapist in your area, check the websites of your state’s mental health association or the American Psychological Association (APA).
(Note: By clicking either of these links, you will be leaving the TeensHealth site.)
To qualify for low-cost services, you may need to prove financial need. If you still live at home, that could mean getting parents or guardians involved in filling out paperwork. But your therapist will keep everything confidential.
If you’re under 26, your mental health care should still be covered under your parent’s insurance policy. It’s worth a call to the insurance company to find out what services the policy covers and how much of those services it pays for.
Programs like Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) offer free or reduced-fee medical insurance to teens who are not covered. To find out if you qualify for mental health assistance through these programs, call your doctor’s office or hospital and ask to speak to a financial counselor. Your school counselor also might be able to help you figure out what kind of public medical assistance you could qualify for and guide you through the process of applying.
People under age 18 who live at home will need a parent or guardian to sign off on the paperwork for these programs. After that, though, your care will be confidential. A therapist won’t tell parents what you’ve talked about — unless he or she thinks you may harm yourself or another person.
Getting Help in a Crisis
If you’re feeling suicidal, very hopeless or depressed, or like you might harm yourself or others in any way, call a suicide or crisis hotline. These offer free help right away.
- Suicide hotlines. Toll-free confidential lines like 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-999-9999 are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by trained professionals who can help you without ever knowing your name or seeing your face. They can often give you a referral to a mental health professional you can follow up with in your area.
- Crisis hotlines. These help survivors of rape, violence, and other traumas, Some may also provide short-term counseling. To find one, do an online search for your state and “crisis hotline.”
Other cost-effective ways to help you work through crisis situations are:
- Emergency rooms. Emergency rooms are required to evaluate and care for people who have emotional emergencies as well as physical ones. If you think you might hurt yourself or someone else, you can also call 911.
- Local crisis centers. Some states have walk-in crisis centers for people coping with mental health problems, abuse, or sexual assault. They’re a bit like ERs for people who are having an emotional crisis.
Each county and state does things differently. A few might not have crisis centers. Others may have mobile units that come to you in an emergency. Some crisis centers operate in hospitals, others are run by non-profits or county mental health services. To see if there’s a crisis center near you, search online for your city, county, or state and terms like “crisis center,” “crisis counseling center,” “psychiatric emergency services,” or “crisis intervention.”
If you need help finding any kind of services, contact your state’s mental health association or the APA to find out where you can get therapy and treatment near you. (Note: By clicking either of these links, you will be leaving the TeensHealth site.)
Paying for prescriptions can really drain your wallet. Here are some ways to be smart about the money you spend on medicines:
- Find out if you can take generic or non-brand medicines. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are over-the-counter versions of the same kinds of prescription medications.
- Find out about prescription assistance programs (also called “patient assistance programs”). The Partnership for Prescription Association gives free or low-cost prescriptions to people who qualify based on income. (Note: By clicking on this link, you will be leaving the TeensHealth site.)
- Compare prices at local pharmacies. Call each to ask what they’re charging for your prescriptions.
- Contact the pharmaceutical company that makes the medication. All the big pharmaceutical companies have prescription assistance numbers you can call for help.
- Beware of free prescription samples (or coupons and rebates). They sound appealing, but they are often for expensive, name-brand medications. That’s fine while the samples last. But since doctors don’t like to change a medication if it’s working, you could get stuck paying full price after the samples run out.
Before accepting a free sample, talk to your doctor about whether you can afford that medication in the long term. If it’s something you’ll only need for as long as the samples last, take advantage of the freebie!
If you’re already taking medication, there are two things to know:
- Never stop taking a prescribed medication or reduce your dosage because you can’t afford to fill the prescription. Some medications can cause side effects if they’re adjusted or stopped without a doctor’s advice.
- Never use someone else’s medicine. Even if the person has the same health condition you do, medications work differently for different people.
If you can’t afford to refill a prescription, call the prescribing doctor. Say you’re having a hard time affording your meds and need some advice. It’s not unusual these days for people to ask for this kind of help, and doctor’s offices often know how to get it or put you in touch with someone who can.
Parents and Other Adults
Navigating your way through the health care system can be confusing (even for adults). That’s why it’s a good idea to have a parent, relative, doctor, school counselor, or social worker help you connect with a mental health professional.
But what if you want to get counseling without a parent (or guardian) knowing? In many states, teens can be given mental health treatment without parental consent. When you call a clinic, hospital, or therapist, ask about your state’s rules on parental consent for mental health services. And, when you see a counselor, find out about the rules when it comes to filling a prescription. Even if you can get confidential care, your parents may need to give the OK to fill prescriptions.
Whatever happens, don’t let money hold you back from getting help. Affordable mental health care options are out there — it may just take some time and effort to find them. But don’t give up. Stress and mental health problems don’t usually get better on their own.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD Date reviewed: January 2015
Can I get free therapy or counselling?
If you prefer, talk to a GP and they can refer you.
Psychological therapies services are also known as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services.
What are psychological therapies?
Psychological therapies, sometimes called talking therapies, can help with common mental problems like stress, anxiety and depression.
Which therapy you’re offered depends on which one has been shown to be most helpful for your symptoms.
Here are a few examples:
CBT – this aims to improve your mental wellbeing by helping you understand how your thoughts can lead to unhelpful emotions and behaviours (see more about CBT)
guided self help – a therapist supports you as you work through a self-help course in your own time, either using a workbook or an online course
counselling for depression – a type of counselling developed specially for people with depression
Psychological therapies are offered in different ways, including:
- using a self-help workbook with the support of a therapist
- as an online course
- over the phone
- in a group
See more psychological therapies available on the NHS
What can psychological therapies help with?
You do not need to have a diagnosed mental health problem to refer yourself to an NHS psychological therapies service.
You may be:
- having panic attacks
- struggling with flashbacks and nightmares
- feeling low and hopeless
Perhaps you’re finding it hard to cope with work, life or relationships.
Other things that psychological therapies can help with include:
- constant worrying
- obsessive thoughts or behaviours
- fear of social situations
- constant worry about your health
If you have already been diagnosed with a mental health problem, you can still refer yourself to a psychological therapies service (or a GP can refer you).
Who can have psychological therapies on the NHS?
You need to be registered with a GP to get psychological therapies on the NHS, but you do not need a referral from a GP.
You can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service.
Find a psychological therapies service in your area
Depending on where you live, you’ll also need to be aged 16, 17, 18 or over. You need to check this with individual services.
Children and young people who are not eligible for psychological therapies can get support with mental and emotional problems from their local child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS).
What happens when you refer yourself
- Contact your local psychological therapies service.
- Someone from the service will get in touch, usually within a few weeks.
- They’ll ask for more details about the problems you’re having. This is known as an assessment.
- If the service thinks they can help you, they’ll recommend a therapy for you. This is based on your symptoms and how severe they are.
- Waiting times for the first session vary. The service will tell you what to expect.
7 Tips for Dealing with Life if You Can’t Afford A Therapist
Let’s face it. Therapy can be expensive. As a licensed marriage and family therapist myself, I admit that I sometimes wonder on my drive home from work what I could buy with the money my clients drop on just one session.
It’s a tough question to ask in a vacuum, because many individual therapy sessions aren’t particularly impactful in and of themselves. Therapy is a cumulative process, and we can’t predict when growth will come. Most people don’t weigh the benefits of therapy as a result of the ongoing process. Instead, they cling to the cost of a single session and wonder what new Lululemon pants they could have bought instead.
There are also many people out there who would greatly benefit from therapy, but can barely put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Whether you don’t want to pay for therapy or really can’t afford it, here are seven tips to deal with your life without seeing a therapist.
1. Live farther outside of yourself.
It may sound counterintuitive, but I believe many people are depressed because they live excessively in their own heads. And when you live a life centered in your mind, you are turned inward, likely listening to a constant inner dialogue of judgment and criticism: I’m not good enough, pretty enough, strong enough. I could have done better. I don’t deserve ________. A self-centered world like this is a small world.
Unless you come from a perfect family and have had nothing but flawless relationships, your head will play this broken record of judgment or criticism. Of course, the volume of the record varies depending on your story. It starts with a raw emotion, anger, hopelessness, loneliness, despair, sadness and anxiety. These raw emotions can become emotion-driven thoughts, which then can turn into false beliefs: The world would be better off without me. I’d be better off drinking again. No one understands me. No one loves me. I am worthless. I don’t deserve any better than this anyway.
The way you break this record is to get out of your own mind. Accept your feelings but not the judgmental thoughts behind them. Feel anger, but don’t label it. Don’t draw conclusions from your judgment, no matter how convincing it seems. It’s OK to feel lonely. It’s not OK to stamp yourself as unlovable.
2. Pull from your “Solid Self” instead of your “Pseudo-Self.”
People with weak transparency muscles live within a Pseudo-Self. In plain English, they live according to a false version of themselves, unable to be transparent about their authentic needs and desires. Rather, the Pseudo-Self seeks other people’s approval as a way of trying to stay in a place of (false) security.
However, in doing this, the Pseudo-Self eventually will strap a muzzle on your gifts, that which makes you different from any other person on the planet. In screenwriting, they say what’s most important is your “voice.” Everyone has a story to tell, but it’s your voice that makes your script stand out from the rest. For example, Quentin Tarantino has a very strong voice. It comes out in his dialogue and his nonlinear way of storytelling.
Being transparent allows you to find your voice. Your voice is your gift. Your voice is your Solid Self, the true you. What prevents people from exercising their transparency muscle is fear. This fear prevents growth. You must shatter fear or you’ll snap back every time you stretch.
3. Take off your bowling shoes.
Every Sunday morning, I sit down with my friend (spiritual mentor, brother) at a local breakfast joint in Silverlake to sip coffee, process life and inhale chocolate croissants. One morning, he gave me some great advice regarding the anxiety I had been experiencing in a new job: “Don’t own the anxiety.” I thought about this for a while. He was absolutely right. If I choose not to own my anxiety, it can’t own me.
The fight you had with your boyfriend, the date that went south, the transition of a new job — these events are not yours to own. They were a gift from God, the universe, whatever higher power you believe in. They are yours to borrow and learn from.
We tend to create anxiety because we clutch on to things in an effort to control them. We do this with our children, our relationships, our jobs, and certain aspects of ourselves. But if you believe you do not own the event, person or experience in question it won’t have power over you.
Note: this doesn’t mean don’t own your feelings. Your feelings are valid and you do own them because they are your truth. But the shit that’s happening in your life is separate from you. You are borrowing those experiences like a pair of bowling shoes. You get to use them as tools.
4. Have firm non-negotiables.
I believe we all negotiate too much. In our jobs, our relationships, our boundaries, our time, our passions, our health and our happiness. But consider this: without non-negotiables, you are flimsy. You don’t have a center of gravity. You do not know who you are. If you don’t know who you are, how will you know where you are going? You become a piece of drift wood floating in the ocean. You are lost and stagnant. You compromise your needs. You get into abusive relationships. You fall into depression. You begin to believe you are worthless.
So what are the things you are no longer willing to negotiate about yourself? Here are some examples: I will always be heard. I will always create a space to pursue my passions in some form.
5. Live inside out.
Most of us allow external objects to define us. Money. Career. Cars. Aesthetics. Other people’s opinions. With this mindset, it is nearly impossible to be an authentic version of ourselves. We will morph our truth to match things in the world around us, and lose our voice and authenticity in the process. Instead, the world will leave its mark on us. We will walk around weighed down by the word should, comparing ourselves with others, with a constant desire to chase what’s outside of ourselves. It’s impossible to live at our fullest potential when we live so fixated on the external.
Living inside out also means not holding feelings inside. Trapped feelings turn into anger and resentment. We end up carrying this weight. In order to move through life with a gorilla chest, with certainty and transparency, we must unload what we carry. The treasure is not outside: what makes us valuable is what’s within. So if we choose to live inside out, we will share our value with the world. This really is a choice.
6. Expand your bright spots.
Someone once told me, “Life is shit except for a few moments of joy.” Well, if that’s the case, we must stretch those moments like cookie dough.
Everyone has bright spots, though most are unaware of them. We are so busy obsessing about the future and dwelling on the past that we don’t notice them when they’re happening. They fly by like our adolescence.
So push back against this. Turn your dial from macro to micro and taste the nectar in your life, even the smallest things. The first sip of hot coffee in the morning. The few seconds after a brisk run. Consuming your favorite meal. The scent of your lover. A life changing conversation. Feeling beautiful in a dress. The moment you forget you’re on a motorcycle.
The more you are aware of your bright spots, the more you’re training your brain to appreciate the little things in life. If we stretch these moments and string them together, your days will feel happier, lighter, and you can flip the script and believe that … Life is joy except for a few moments of shit.
7. Share your story.
Sharing your story doesn’t mean verbally vomiting on those around you. It means being vulnerable and disclosing when appropriate. And remember, you have to define what appropriate means for you. For me, if my desire to share is driven by ego or coming from an attention-seeking place, the impulse is probably not appropriate. But if that desire is coming from a place where you think your story will help someone, it’s appropriate. An easy way to determine if sharing is appropriate is asking yourself if your disclosure is an act of giving in some way. By contrast, if sharing comes from a place of wanting validation, the impulse is a gesture of taking.
We learn more from other people’s stories than we do our own. If no one shared their stories, where would we be? What lessons would we learn? How alone would we feel?
We are all a million walking stories. Your story is what makes you you. Your Pseudo-Self will want you to close your book. Your Solid Self will want you to open it.
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How do I make an appointment?
The best place to start is with your GP, who can provide you with a Mental Health Treatment Plan and refer you to a psychologist. Your GP should know of some psychologists in your area, or may recommend that you ring a psychology clinic directly for more information about making an appointment. By getting a referral from your GP, at least some, if not all, of your costs should be covered by Medicare.
What’s it like to see a psychologist?
The first time you visit any psychologist they should always talk to you about confidentiality, which is your right to privacy, and basically means that anything you discuss with them will remain private between the two of you.
The next thing a psychologist will do is complete an assessment of your mental health, by asking you a series of questions about what’s happening in your life, as well as asking for details about your background, family life and personal history. The assessment is an important first step, as it will help your psychologist understand what’s troubling you and, more importantly, how to help you. They’ll discuss with you a plan for continuing, including how often they recommend you visit them, and for how long.
Normally, they will recommend that you visit them weekly or fortnightly for a period of time. The length of time for your treatment can vary from a few weeks to many months, depending on what you need. An appointment usually lasts about 50 minutes but can sometimes go for longer.
How much does it cost?
Some psychologists, like the ones at headspace and community mental health centres, have no fees because Medicare covers their bill. Others might charge you a ‘gap’ fee, depending on the amount that Medicare covers. If you’re seeing a psychologist as part of a Mental Health Treatment Plan (mentioned above), the psychologist will have to send a report to your doctor every few sessions. You can talk to the psychologist about what the report will say. It’s also important to know that a Mental Health Treatment Plan is restricted to ten sessions a year. If you’re unsure about the cost or think you might have difficulty in paying when Medicare runs out, ask your psychologist if they can recommend any other options for you.
How To Find Affordable Therapy Or Counseling
Your mental health is important. And with 350 million people in the world affected by some form of depression (not counting other psychiatric disorders), you shouldn’t feel alone if you need any type of mental health treatment. Chances are you even know others in the same boat.
Treatment may sound expensive. Even if you budget for health care, you probably don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on a therapist’s weekly co-pay. Fortunately, health care providers are waking up to the necessity of providing diverse low-cost options for psychiatric help.
You can find a provider that meets your needs—at a price you can afford. We’ve outlined some common situations below.
You have insurance, but you’re not sure what treatment it covers
Most insurance plans will cover some form of mental health treatment. Any plan purchased through Healthcare.gov, for instance, covers mental health and substance abuse—and can’t deny coverage based on a pre-existing condition. Medicaid and Medicare, in most cases, will offer mental health coverage.
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, passed in 2008, requires certain health plans to provide mental health care at a comparable level to physical health care. This includes financial requirements. For instance, you can’t have a higher co-pay for a psychiatrist visit than for a visit to your primary care physician.
Call the insurance company and ask for professionals who accept your plan. They may also have a list on their website. Therapy coverage in particular varies from plan to plan, so it helps to know the details. If your insurance doesn’t cover the service you want, learn what they do cover—a plan that doesn’t include a therapist, for example, might cover a social worker.
You don’t have insurance
Some free and sliding scale clinics cater specifically to the uninsured. To find a provider with a sliding scale fee—a fee based on your level of income—this list of free clinics is a good place to start.
Training clinics at universities, where graduate students study to become psychologists, usually have sliding scales. If you live near any research universities—and if you’re in a city or large metropolitan area, you probably do—see if they offer this service. The students train under licensed practitioners, and your care’s always supervised.
Community mental health centers are another option. Often, the services are free or at a nominal cost for those below a certain income level. You can use an online locator through SAMHSA or HRSA to find community centers in your area.
You’ll want to have income information on hand, such as pay stubs. Check to see what other info you’ll need to provide. Community health centers often have long wait times, whether the clinic’s walk-in or appointment-based, so plan accordingly.
You need medication
Look for a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner. Though primary care doctors don’t usually prescribe psychiatric meds, they can make a referral if you need one.
Many prescription assistance programs help people pay for medication. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance is one of them.
If your prescriber recommends an expensive name-brand medication, ask if there’s a generic version that will work just as well.
You need emotional support or someone to talk to
A free or low-cost clinic can connect you to a therapist. You can also check out Psychology Today’s directory to compare prices and see which therapists accept a sliding scale. Some therapists may give discounted rates if you pay in cash.
Find someone you’re willing to build a relationship with and whose method works for you. Ask plenty of questions. Know how many therapy visits your plan covers, since some plans may have limits during the calendar year, and how often your therapist would expect you to attend.
There are even new apps, like Talkspace, that provide confidential remote therapy sessions over your laptop or phone. A Talkspace subscription isn’t necessarily cheap, but it may cost less than weekly in-person appointments, especially if you don’t have insurance that covers behavioral health.
You’re comfortable talking in a group setting
Many practitioners offer group therapy at a lower cost than individual therapy. The National Alliance for Mental Health has group programs, and the American Group Psychotherapy Association can help you find a certified group psychoanalyst.
Online support groups like the forums at Psych Central provide a low-cost option you can access quickly. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has a directory of both in-person and online groups. And this comprehensive list includes support groups designed around specific needs, such as eating disorders, anxiety, and alcoholism. Online groups can come in handy if transportation is an obstacle, too. Look for a group that has an impartial professional moderator.
You need to see someone as soon as possible
Some online resources offer free chat sessions with psychologists. Online group therapy can help here as well. You may not be seeing someone in person, but you can speak to a professional who understands your concerns, and to others who are dealing with similar issues.
If the first in-person appointment you can schedule is months down the road, ask to be put on a waiting list for cancellations. Then check out other resources in case anyone can see you sooner.
Crisis hotlines are always available—and free—if you need to talk immediately.
You don’t have much free time for appointments
Mental health clinics sometimes operate under the same strange rules as banks—they’re open from nine to five Monday through Friday, when many of us are working and can’t get there. A clinic may have evening hours one night a week, or limited weekend hours. Going on your lunch break or right before/after work is a possibility, too.
Let providers know your availability, even if it conflicts with their hours. You may have options. If childcare’s an issue, let them know that too and find out what they recommend.
If the provider can’t accommodate you, and you’re not able to compromise, ask for referrals to similar low-cost providers. Psychiatric appointments often recur weekly or monthly, so it’s important to find a time commitment that works for you. You’re more likely to keep appointments, avoid cancellation fees, and have successful treatment.
You’re looking for someone who specializes in a certain treatment area
Ask insurance companies and clinics about the specific service you’re looking for within your price parameters. They can point you in the right direction.
Besides depression and anxiety, here are some specialties with low-cost options.
Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are free group settings. AllTreatment is a good place to look for residential facilities, and here’s a list of facilities at low cost.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Give an Hour provides free mental health treatment to veterans and their families. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Vets have free or low-cost resources. RAINN provides help for survivors of sexual assault.
ED Referral has a list of free and scholarship-funded options. Andrea’s Voice lists low-cost options and studies. The National Eating Disorders Association has a toll-free hotline.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
The International Obsessive Compulsive Disorders Association is a good starting point. Search for free or low-cost options.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Association has several grief counseling options (some, but not all, are faith-based). GriefShare offers group therapy.
All of this information might be overwhelming. If you’re already anxious, the last thing you want is a long to-do list. These tips should make life easier:
- If you’re anxious about cost, don’t be shy about asking up front. Just because payment options aren’t immediately available on a website doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
- Don’t be afraid to have health care providers walk you through the treatment process, repeatedly if necessary. That’s their job!
- Take the time to find a therapist you’re comfortable with. It’s worth it.
- Friends may be willing to help with some of the details—a ride to a clinic if you need one, a coffee date after a stressful appointment, or childcare in a pinch. You don’t know until you ask.
- Prioritizing self-care is not selfish. You’ll be a better employee, friend, partner, or parent if you’re healthy in mind and body.
- Disclosing your condition to an employer is totally up to you. Learn the company’s policy on sick days and personal days if you haven’t already, and provide proper advance notice for any appointments during work hours. Ultimately, your health is your business, not anyone else’s.
- Is Your Doctor Charging You Twice?
- FAQ: Finding Affordable Health Insurance
Learn About Free Counseling and Affordable Therapy Options
Mental health diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, and addiction can make life challenging. Left untreated, these concerns can interfere with your ability to work, go to school, make friends, or have healthy relationships. This can create a vicious cycle: mental health concerns can lower your quality of life, which in turn influences your psychological state.
Mental health concerns aren’t your fault. They won’t go away on their own, and you can’t will your way out of them. Like physical health issues, mental health concerns require comprehensive support. This may include therapy, medication, and help from loved ones.
Therapy can be life-changing. Unfortunately, the costs of treatment can put therapy out of reach for some people, particularly for people with complex issues that demand many therapy sessions. Most private practice therapists charge between $75-$150 per session depending on their services and location, but some may charge more.
Financial challenges shouldn’t be a barrier to a healthier life. Many organizations and individual therapists offer free or affordable counseling.
- Insurance Parity and Affordable Counseling
- Crisis Care Hotlines
- Free Treatment for Mental Health Emergencies
- Sliding-Scale Affordable Therapy
- College and University Counseling Centers
- Therapists and Counselors in Training
- Discount and Community Mental Health Centers
- Peer Support Groups
- Online or Phone Therapy
- Conclusion: Locating Quality Discounted Care
Insurance Parity and Affordable Counseling
A 2008 federal law, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, requires most insurers to offer equal coverage for mental and physical health. This means many people with insurance may already have coverage for mental health treatment. This law includes insurers such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, employer-sponsored insurance, and plans purchased through the Healthcare.gov exchange.
The law does not set specific rates for mental health care. However, it does require insurers to charge the same copays for similar physical and mental health services. For example, if a consultation with a primary care physician requires a $40 copay, an insurer cannot charge double that for a therapist consultation.
As with other services, insurers can limit the pool of providers customers can access. So you might have to choose from a list of therapists. You might also need a referral from a doctor or a diagnosis of a specific mental health condition before you can receive treatment. Contact your insurer for specific details on what they cover.
If your insurer does not follow the law or if you need help to understand the law, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight may be able to help.
Crisis Care Hotlines
Affordable counseling providers sometimes have waiting lists. Even if you can get a prompt appointment with an excellent therapist, you might have to wait a day or two. People in crisis—those experiencing suicidal thoughts, overwhelming depression, or intense feelings of hopelessness—may want to consider calling a crisis hotline. Some crisis hotlines also offer online support.
These hotlines don’t offer therapy, but they are free. They may also be able to help you locate free or affordable therapy resources nearby. Some communities, churches, and other local organizations offer their own hotlines. Some free national hotlines include:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN): 1-800-656-4673
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 24/7 Treatment Referral National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357
- The Steve Fund (support for young people of color): Text “STEVE” to 741741
- Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
- Lifeline Crisis Chat
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255; press 1
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Free Treatment for Mental Health Emergencies
In a mental health emergency, you can seek treatment at the emergency room. If there is a psychiatric hospital near you, you may consider going there instead. Hospitals that receive taxpayer funding (most hospitals do) must provide treatment regardless of a person’s ability to pay. You might receive a bill later, but if you have insurance, your insurer may cover a portion of treatment.
The law requires tax-funded emergency rooms to offer stabilizing treatment. This usually involves monitoring for 24-72 hours, and it may include medication. Emergency room physicians may also refer you to affordable mental health care resources nearby.
Note that emergency rooms do not offer therapy. They only provide treatment for emergencies. If you are concerned you might hurt yourself or someone else, call 911 or go to the emergency room now.
Sliding-Scale Affordable Therapy
Most therapists enter mental health because they understand the value of therapy. They know not everyone can afford their services, so many therapists offer sliding-scale fees. This means the amount you pay is based on how much you can afford. You might have to provide documentation of your income or expenses. Since therapists make a living providing therapy, they tend to offer a limited number of sliding-scale slots. It is important to ask when these slots are available and how many sessions you can get at a sliding-scale rate.
“Affordable therapy is important, since quality mental health care should be able to be accessed by all, says Lindsey Pratt, LMHC, NCC, a New York City therapist. “Many or most therapists provide a sliding fee scale for this reason. also make every attempt to refer a client to a financially appropriate therapist if they are unable to take the client on.”
Find a Therapist
If you search GoodTherapy.org’s therapist directory, you can find many therapists who offer discounted therapy and sliding-scale rates.
College and University Counseling Centers
If you’re a college or university student, you may be eligible for therapy at your school’s counseling center. Some schools also extend these services to teachers and staff. Each counseling center is different. Some provide comprehensive counseling for a range of diagnoses. Others can only treat particular issues, or they limit the number of sessions a student can have. A few refer students to outside therapists, often for free or at a steep discount.
Therapists and Counselors in Training
Therapists and counselors typically have to accrue a certain number of therapy hours before they can become licensed to practice in their state. Those seeking to fill this requirement typically offer discounted or free counseling sessions. These practitioners work under the close supervision of licensed therapists or counselors, ensuring people get quality care.
Some schools that train therapists offer discounted sessions to help therapists fill licensing requirements. If there is a college or university in your town with a counseling program, contact them to ask about therapist interns. Some schools can pair you with a therapist for many sessions. In other cases, you’ll rotate among several practitioners. Ask clear questions to gain an understanding of the type of care you can expect and from whom you will receive it.
Jimmy G. Owen, LPC, CWF, a therapist based in Dallas, Texas, urges consumers to be their own advocates when seeking affordable therapy:
“Remember, you are the consumer buying a service. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about pricing, sliding scales, and insurance. Although therapy is a highly personalized product, a smart consumer does their research and gets several quotes before acting,” says Owen.
The Association of Psychology Training Clinics can refer you to a discount clinic for therapists in training.
Community Mental Health Centers
Community mental health centers sometimes receive funding from advocacy groups, taxes, and nonprofit organizations. Funding enables them to offer discounted mental health services, usually based on a person’s income. The services offered can vary from center to center, but may include services like assessments, individual and family counseling, and medication management with a psychiatrist. SAMHSA can help you find a community mental health clinic near you. Follow for help in your search.
Peer Support Groups
Peer support can help people with mental health issues feel less alone. Support groups aren’t therapy, but they can supplement what therapy offers. Your doctor or counselor may be able to suggest a local support group.
For example, organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous have long supported people recovering from addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous pioneered the 12-step model of addiction recovery. You can find a support group here. Narcotics Anonymous offers support to people addicted to drugs and their families. It also uses a 12-step model. You can find a meeting here.
Mental Health America offers a comprehensive list of support groups for a wide range of issues, as well as details on finding a local group.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offers support groups across the United States.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides weekly support groups that connect people with mental health conditions to educational and advocacy resources. NAMI also facilitates family support groups for families with a loved one who has a mental health diagnosis.
Online or Phone Therapy
Therapy helps people understand their emotions and behavior while supporting them to make healthy lifestyle changes. Some therapists provide online mental health services or phone counseling. These options may be available at a discount. GoodTherapy.org’s directory can help you connect to a therapist offering discounted online therapy.
Conclusion: Locating Quality Discounted Care
Finding free or cheap mental health care can be challenging, particularly if you already feel overwhelmed by anxiety or depression. Don’t be afraid to ask a loved one for help in your search. There are almost always resources available, but finding them can require persistence.
When you receive discounted therapy, you still have a right to quality care. Don’t shy away from asking questions about treatment goals. You can ask for a different therapist if the one you have no longer serves your needs. Getting financial assistance should not mean you have to settle for substandard care. Everyone deserves good mental health.
As the number of people diagnosed with mental health issues such as depression rises to new highs, the need for medical services to treat them is growing too. Approximately 56 percent of American adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment. There’s also evidence of a dire lack of treatment among teens, with the CDC reporting that the suicide rate for teens is skyrocketing.
Why aren’t people getting the help they need? The answer is complicated. On one hand there’s the lingering stigma around mental illness that may hinder people from seeking care (a problem that campaigns like Mental Health Awareness Month aim to solve), but there’s also the fact that our health care system has yet to treat mental health as comprehensively as it does physical health. There’s no such thing as an insurance-covered annual mental health exam for instance, and therapists who do accept insurance are often working twice as hard just to get reimbursed by providers.
Having been through the ringer trying to not only find a therapist who accepts my insurance, but is also taking new clients, I’d just about given up on my personal quest for affordable services. Fortunately, after talking with a number of experts in the field, I’ve learned there a multiple ways to get the care I need without going broke in the process.
Seek in-network first — if you don’t have healthcare, turn to Federally Qualified Health Centers
“People with health insurance should begin their journey to wellness on their health plan’s website. Health plans may manage their mental health benefits internally, or outsource them to a vendor. The health plan or vendor will specify the mental healthcare providers that are covered, any associated costs, and any benefit limitations,” says Dr. Adam C. Powell, president of Payer+Provider Syndicate. “In many cases, health plans are required to offer comparable coverage for mental and physical healthcare coverage by the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). When MHPAEA applies, the financial requirements, quantitative treatment limitations, and non-quantitative treatment limitations applied to mental health benefits may not differ from those that are applied to physical health benefits.”
If insurance is not obtainable, Powell adds, you may seek help at a local social services agency, a student health center (if a student) or a Federally Qualified Health Center (aka, community-based healthcare centers that are government funded).
Sonya Veytsman, LCSW, suggests reaching out to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). “They have a helpline that offers free help 24/7. All you need to do is text NAMI to 741741.”
Avoid visiting the ER if possible, not only because you’ll likely get stuck with a huge bill, but because the ER, in Powell’s estimation, “is not designed to work with people to improve their mental health over time. Care should only be sought at an emergency department in the event of an urgent crisis.”
Your brain on depression
April 5, 201802:09
Private therapists will often work on a sliding scale — as low as $10/hour
Recently I found a few therapists who are taking new clients but not insurance. I was discouraged by their steep hourly rates and didn’t press, but I will now because often they’ll adjust their fee to match your financial resources.
“ just ask the patient how much they can afford, and try our best to make it work,” says Dr. Laura Chackes, founder of The Center for Mindfulness & CBT in St. Louis, Missouri. “Most of our therapists who do a sliding scale will slide down from $120 to about $60 per session. I am bringing on an intern this fall who will be able to see patients at an even lower rate ranging from $10-$50 per hour.”
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Kailee Place, an LPC with the private practice Shifting Tides Therapeutic Solutions adds that she doesn’t take insurance, but does “make room for lower cost sessions within my practice. I strongly believe people should get the care they want to get, so if I seem like the best fit for someone, I am 100 percent willing to work with them regarding their financial needs.”
See if you’re eligible for Medicaid for free therapy
If you don’t have insurance coverage, check to see if you qualify for Medicaid (your income is the determining factor).
“If a person does not have commercial insurance but has medical assistance (Medicaid), then they need to look for someone who is in their network,” says Dr. Jesse Matthews, a licensed psychologist.
“Most providers who take Medicaid work at clinics or community mental health centers. Sometimes these are affiliated with universities and are used as training sites for graduate students. If a person has Medicaid, they should be able to access mental health care free of charge.”
Your local training institutes may provide free sessions for up to two years
Dr. Fran Walfish, a psychotherapist, suggests contacting your local Psychoanalytic Training Institute.
“They generally require the patient to commit to three to five times a week psychoanalytic therapy sessions over a period of at least one to two years in duration in exchange for free therapy,” she tells NBC News BETTER. “The patient is assured to receive treatment from the same singular qualified M.D. who is getting supervision and advanced specific training in intensive long-term treatment.”
University hospitals are often eager to put students to work for a low fee — so are some non-profits
“Another alternative is to reach out to your closest teaching hospital that offers training programs to interns and residents,” adds Dr. Walfish. “Most qualified training hospitals have a department of psychiatry and outpatient psychology program that offers low-fee sliding scale psychotherapy. Finally, there are several private and state-funded non-profit agencies that offer very good quality psychotherapy on a sliding scale with fees set based on the individual’s prior income tax returns.”
Check out Open Path Psychotherapy Collective
Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is a nonprofit that matches middle- and lower-income people (and families) with affordable mental health services and education. Many therapists are working with them to help inform and provide for those in need, among them Vinodha Joly, LMFT.
Joly says she was happy to find a nonprofit that was aligned with her own personal values. “My experience with Open Path has been positive from the get-go as their mission is clearly to make mental health more affordable, without exploiting therapists who are willing to offer their services,” Joly explains. Open Path connects patients with mental health professionals with rates that range from $30 to $50 per hour.
Don’t give up — the resources are out there, possibly on your smartphone
Experts concur that it make take some time and effort to find a mental health provider, but your search will likely pay off. In the interim, you might want to turn to your smartphone.
“Tele-mental health in all forms has become a huge resource and there are great resources online offered by large health systems,” says Harry Nelson, managing partner of Nelson Hardiman, head of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers and co-author of “From ObamaCare To TrumpCare: Why You Should Care.” “The challenge there is that you need to be licensed in the state where the patient lives, but that said, we’ve seen a flourishing growth in treatment of all mental health by telemedicine and I expect it to grow exponentially.” Reach out to your local hospital system to ask if they offer these services.
If you’re really hurting, check into a clinic and/or call for help
If you’re desperately in need of immediate mental health services, visit a community mental health clinic. As Matthews points out, they “often offer low-cost treatment through use of interns or because they receive supplemental funding from places like the United Way.”
You should also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK if you’re in danger of self-harm. It’s free, open 24/7 and totally confidential.
More Mental Health Help
- How ‘defusing my thoughts’ helped me claw my way back from debilitating anxiety
- 7 steps for getting through a panic attack
- How to worry better
Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
How to Go to Therapy When You’re Broke AF
Photo: Pojcheewin Yaprasert Photography / Getty Images
Girlfriends are great for keeping your head on straight, but sometimes problems and situations need more professional guidance than unloading over wine can offer. But we all know good help doesn’t come cheap-or does it?
“People tend to only think of expensive, private therapy, but there are so many options of how to get help when you’re struggling with difficult situations and emotions,” says Theresa Nguyen, L.C.S.W., vice president of policy and programs at the nonprofit Mental Health America.
It’s true, seeing a psychologist can definitely create a black hole in your budget. But there are actually a heckuva lot of options for getting treatment at just $50, $25, even for free. “Money should never be the sole factor keeping someone from getting help,” Nguyen adds. (And if you’re not convinced you need one in the first place, read this: Why Everyone Should Try Therapy at Least Once)
We’ve rounded up nine ways you can afford to confide on the couch and talk to things through with someone more qualified than your girlfriends.
Call your insurance.
With the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act, every insurance plan-including those under the ACA-includes mental health coverage, and it should be the same co-pay as your other doctor’s appointments, says Nguyen. The only problem: There are far fewer therapists in-network than out-of-network, meaning the professionals your insurance will cover are booked out for months. But it’s definitely worth calling the providers who only charge that co-pay. (Related: How to Find the Best Therapist for You)
If you want immediate help, look at out-of-network clinicians who accept your insurance. You’ll have to hit your deductible before your insurance company will start covering anything, and even then, you’re probably still fronting close to half the cost. But who knows-that might be enough of a discount to get your bank account on board. If not, keep reading.
Ask about cash rates.
If you want to see a bona fide therapist ASAP, you’re probably looking at a professional who’s out of network or who doesn’t take insurance at all (like some 30 percent of psychologists). It’s definitely worth it to highlight your limited income and ask if there are any alternative payments, Nguyen advises. A lot will discount if you pay in cash, though keep in mind psychologists set their own rates, Nguyen says. (So if he or she is in high demand, their cash rate isn’t necessarily the cheapest option out there.)
Ask about sliding scales.
Another option if you’re limited financially is to ask about a sliding scale. Not every therapist has one, but some will charge, say, $20 an hour and offset that with other clients who can pay more, Nguyen explains. You can typically filter for this option when searching for a therapist on a database. If you don’t want to or can’t put in the legwork of finding someone with a sliding scale on your own, consider joining Open Path Psychotherapy Collective. You pay a one-time subscription fee of $50 to be matched up with a therapist near you who will only charge between $30 and $50 per session.
Look at college services.
If you’re in undergrad or grad school, your university likely offers mental health services, and you’d be talking to someone who understands your community and your life, says Nguyen. And most of the time, it’s free.
Work with a pre-licensed professional.
Signing up with someone straight out of school rather than an official L.C.S.W. or Ph.D. may work to your financial advantage. Pre-licensed professional train under the supervision of a licensed psychologist and may charge less for clients. That doesn’t necessarily speak to the quality of their work, Nguyen adds. “Feeling like you can have rapport with a person is more important than their degree.” It’s definitely a good option, but do research on this person just like you would anywhere else, she adds.
Call a warm line.
“A warm line is a completely free, telephone-based way to have a chat with somebody if what you need is two or three conversations, but you don’t need regular therapy sessions,” says Nguyen. The lines are typically run by the local government and manned by people who aren’t licensed clinicians but who have had training in essentially how to listen compassionately to help provide clarity. Check out this database to find your local number.
Use a digital therapist.
“The nice thing about a telehealth app is you have much more control over finding someone you like. It can be scary to break up with a therapist face-to-face, but with the apps, you can try out different listeners and therapists and find one that gives you the support you need,” Nguyen adds. Plus, they’re typically a lot cheaper than in-person therapy. (Related: 11 Signs It’s Time to Break Up with Your Therapist)
Digital therapy apps run the gamut of who you’re connected with. Some, like Talkspace or BetterHelp, match you with a licensed counselor whom you can text or video chat with anytime, any day for a flat monthly rate. Others, like Happy, are “compassionate listening” services, connecting you with someone who has been trained to lend a sympathetic ear as you pay, typically, by the minute. (Related: The Best Therapy and Mental Health Apps)
Find a digital support group.
Whatever you’re struggling with, chances are someone else is going through the same thing-that’s the basis of support groups on Facebook and apps like Huddle, which is essentially modern chatrooms for people struggling with anxiety, body image issues, postpartum depression, and most anything else you can think of. “There’s a little bit of everything for everyone, and suddenly you’re connecting with people who really empathize and become a great support system,” says Nguyen. This probably isn’t the best option if you need someone to work through a really complex problem with you, but if you have questions you’re burning to know but don’t necessarily need answered immediately, digital support groups can be great. Plus, they’re free!
Opt for group therapy instead of private.
Private or public group therapy is like the mental health version of AA and is often free, Nguyen says. These are typically peer support groups hosted in a variety of ways-sometimes local mental health organizations will hold group talks that anyone can drop by, often themed based on issues like depression or sexual assault; some health care companies will host, say, stress management group talks at your office. Check out your local Mental Health America affiliate, who can direct you to support groups in your area.
- By Rachael Schultz @_RSchultz
What To Do If You Can’t Afford Therapy, According To An Expert
Before you start search for free or low-cost therapy options — which very much exist — make sure you have a budget in mind for what you can truly afford to spend, whether that’s $15 a week, $30 a month, or nothing. And if researching reduced-cost options feels like a burden unto itself, recruit a trusted friend to help you do some research. Reaching out to your support network can also be helpful — they may have found low-cost resources already who they can link you with, if you are comfortable asking.
Just because therapy doesn’t seem financially accessible right now doesn’t mean it can’t work. Free or low-cost therapy is available through a variety of different avenues, whether that’s a dedicated low-cost service, or negotiating a lower rate with a private counselor. Your mental health is always worth investing in, and there are always options that can work with your budget. Here are a few things to try if therapy seems financially out of reach right now.
Check Out Your EAP
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McBain tells Bustle that if you need to find free or cheap therapy, you should begin with your workplace. “Start with your EAP,” or employee assistance program, “as you might be able to get some free sessions starting this way,” she says. Not all companies offer this, but EAPs are designed to offer benefits and financial assistance to employees.Even if you’re in part-time work, you still may be eligible to access therapy services through your employer; ask your manager or your HR rep (you don’t need to give them any personal details) how to access it.
Ask A Local Therapist If They Can Negotiate
Many therapists are more flexible in their pricing than they seem, depending on their schedule, your needs, and how you arrange sessions. “Check with local therapists to see if they offer pro bono or low fee sessions,” McBain tells Bustle. This may seem intimidating or uncomfortable to ask, but therapists are often aware that their price points are high, and willing to have a discussion about how to make something work for you financially. Ask if you could negotiate shorter sessions, less often, for a slightly cheaper rate, or another configuration that lowers the lift on your potential therapist’s part. If a particular therapist isn’t able to budge on her cost, move on; you haven’t lost anything.
See What Your Insurance Can Do
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Unfortunately, people in the U.S. are far more likely to pay out-of-pocket costs for mental health therapy than they are to be covered by insurance, because therapists are often limited in the care they can provide if the service is paid for by insurance. Your health insurance may have a portal where you can figure out if mental health services are covered, and if so, what kind and how many sessions; then, you can contact therapists in your network to double check that they can indeed take your insurance. If not, look into whether you can pay into a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) with pre-tax dollars to help cover the cost of therapy a little more cheaply.
Investigate Programs That Connect Low-Cost Therapists To Patients
If you don’t have insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover mental healthcare, there are a few services that seek to make mental healthcare more financially accessible. McBain recommends Open Path, a psychotherapy collectivethat connects people in genuine financial need with private therapists who can lower their costs to $30 to $50 a session. Rather than paying per session, you sign up once and pay a lifetime membership fee of $49, which gives you access to the discounted rates on therapist sessions in the future.
Consider Going Online
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Online therapy is becoming more popular, from chats with actual therapists to free downloadable tools and worksheets. Some options, like BetterHelp or TalkSpace, charge a fee per week, which is often more affordable than traditional counseling but still over $100 a month. Others, like Psychology Tools, offer free downloads of cognitive behavioral therapy worksheets for you to work on on your own time. This is a helpful option if you’re had therapy before, know what techniques work for your particular issues, and just need step-by-step aid. If you need something more complex, personalized help will be more your speed. Ask your GP or your support network what options they recommend.
Find A Support Group
Free support groups are often offered in cities like New York for people who have disorders like depression, so that people can get together, share how their treatment is going, and experience peer support. If you want to know where your local support group might meet, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a list of organizations that can connect you with one. This option may not work for someone who needs one-to-one attention, but it might be helpful to pursue as an option.
Therapy is as critical a cost as the co-pay for your physical. Though it’s less financially accessible than it needs to be, there are, fortunately, options out there to help connect you with the mental health care that you need.