12 Ways to Get Therapy if You Can’t Afford It

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

Many people who have suicidal thoughts or other challenges need psychotherapy, but cannot afford it. There are options, though, for receiving therapy without giving up other necessities or going into debt. Here are a dozen:

1. Contact your health insurance company, if you have insurance.

Most health insurance companies in the U.S. are required to cover some degree of mental health treatment. Your insurance company can link you with a therapist whose services they cover. If you have Medicare or Medicaid, contact your local office for help. Be warned, though, that many therapists don’t accept insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, and those who do may have a wait time of several weeks or months.

2. Go to a community mental health center.

These non-profit agencies usually are funded by local government or by revenue from Medicaid and Medicare. To find one in your area, call 211 (or go to the online search tool for 211) or SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).

Photo by Oliver Kepka, from Pixabay

3. Go to a community health center.

Community health centers offer preventive and primary care at no charge to people who meet certain (low) income requirements. Many centers offer integrated care, where mental health and substance use professionals work with patients in primary care settings. To find a community health center near you, go to the HRSA Find a Center site.

4. Look for a therapist who works on a sliding scale.

Many therapists will reduce their fee according to clients’ ability to pay.Therapists who list their information on The Psychology Today Therapist Finder site indicate whether they offer a sliding scale. You can also can therapists individually and ask them if they adjust their fees for people who do not have insurance and cannot afford the full fee.

5. Search for “pro bono” or low-cost therapy in your area.

Photo by negativespace.co, from Pexel.

Many agencies and private therapists offer free or very low-cost therapy to people with low income. For example, some Mental Health America chapters (such as Mental Health Colorado) have a network of therapists who provide therapy at no cost to people who cannot afford it.

You can also contact the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill’s helpline, at 800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org, for names of places that offer free or low-cost therapy.

Or call 211 for referrals. (Not all places in the U.S. have 211 service, but most do.)

6. See if there’s a psychotherapy or psychiatry training clinic near you.

Universities and medical schools usually have training clinics that provide therapy at steeply discounted rates. If you have a university or medical school in town, contact the departments of clinical psychology, counseling psychology, professional psychology, psychiatry, social work, professional counseling, and marriage and family therapy. Even if they don’t have a training clinic, they might have referrals to low-cost services.

7. Check with social service agencies.

You might be surprised at the variety of agencies that provide psychotherapy, including agencies that serve people who are homeless, refugees, immigrants, older adults, gay and lesbian youth, and more. In various cities, some religious agencies, such as Jewish Family Services and Catholic Charities, also offer therapy.

8. Try a service that offers access to low-cost therapists.

OpenPath Collective, for example, lists therapists who charge $30-$60 session. The service charges $49 a year to join. Participating therapists agree to charge the lower rates for OpenPath members.

9. If you’re a student, contact your school or university to see what mental health services they provide.

Children and adolescents receive mental health services more from schools than anywhere else. Universities usually have counseling centers that offer a certain number of free sessions to students.  

10. See if your workplace has an EAP.

Short for “employee assistance program,” an EAP provides counseling and therapy to companies’ employees. Your company pays for the service, not you. These sessions are usually quite limited in number.

11. Use online therapy.

Online therapy services tend to be less expensive than private, face-to-face therapy, and often therapists are more available. Online companies to look into include TalkSpace and BetterHelp.

12. Try group therapy.

Typically offered by therapists in private practice or at agencies, group therapy sessions tend to last longer and cost less than individual therapy.

Do you have other suggestions to share? If so, please leave a comment below.

In addition to using my own ideas, I also drew from the following articles for this post:

Here’s What To Do If You Can’t Afford Therapy

What to Do When You Can’t Afford Therapy

What to Do If You Can’t Afford Therapy, According to an Expert

How to Go to Therapy When You’re Broke AF

Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW, is the author of “Helping the Suicidal Person: Tips and Techniques for Professionals,” a psychotherapist and consultant, and an associate professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work.
Copyright 2019 by Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW. Written for SpeakingOfSuicide.com. All Rights Reserved. 

Want to join the conversation?


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

19 Reader Comments

Trackback URL Comments RSS Feed

  1. Eliza says:

    These suggestions are great. I’ve passed a couple of them on to people.
    I wish there was also ‘finding the perfect therapist for you without spending another hundred hours online looking’.
    I’d love it if you posted more…
    Love, light and glitter

  2. Tyler Johnson says:

    That’s good to know that some therapists will take health insurance. I would think that your mental health should be covered in health insurance, so hopefully, mine would cover it. I should make sure to look up any therapists in my area that will take health insurance if I decide to start therapy.

  3. Rene' R. Sharrock says:

    When my 28 yr old son died by suicide as a result of PTSD after returning from Afghanistan he was discharged with a “BCD (Bad Conduct Discharge) which left him with absolutely no V.A. benefits. Therefore we were at the mercy of local philanthropy. I found help through our local VRC “Veterans Resource Center” which had ways of getting him help even with his discharge status. My husband and I got help to learn ways to help my son through the VRC too. After years of red tape and paperwork I was finally able to get my son’s discharge upgraded to “Under Honorable Conditions” which allowed him to get the mental health (and medical) treatment he needed. The V.A. board of appeals unanimously agreed that his extensive prior mental health situations since a teenager were ignored by the army and he was allowed to enter the service. Point is: there IS help available, you just gotta go ask for it. Get past the stigma.

    • leej says:

      I am so sorry for your loss and what your son suffered through (and you and the rest of those involved as well)(I have understood that the designation BCD is often done so the VA does not have to pay for the medical care needed and saddened at the fight you had to endure to get him the help but glad that ultimately someone did listen

  4. carol levy says:

    even if you have good insurance medicare pays only 50% (but when I looked last week it appears now they only pay 20% and private insurance,supplemental, pays only 50% of the remaining 50 -80 % which makes having insurance essentially no benefit when you have a very fixed income. (or just have little resources or an income that does not allow for that kind of copay when most cost 100$ and more. Some MDs have told me they are not allowed to waive the copay, licensed counselors have told me they are not allowed to accept medicare, (that is probably a state by state thing). It is much harder to find affordable or pro bono then this article would imply

  5. Donna Burke says:

    In regards to your article of Sept. 12, 2019, I would just like to run it by those who might be interested about how important it is for us to look out for one another. I have been to more than a few councilors, psychiatrists, psychologists and only twice received treatment that proved to be beneficial. If these medical professionals who are known by other professionals to be lacking on there own personal care why isn’t there people mandating these things through standard procedures. Each and everyone of us are usually corrected when making attempts to go above and beyond standard procedures. Most all professionals should be exemplified but are being left behind. There seems to be a breach in protocol.

  6. Karla says:

    My daughter made a serious attempt and was taken to the ER was admitted and was in the hospital for a week. Now of course the bills are coming and she is overwhelmed with the bills. This of course is not helping her mental state. I am not in a position to take over her bills or I would. Are there any suggestions?

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      It’s terrible that financial stress from the hospital bills can lead to mental stress. Sometimes patients can successfully negotiate with hospitals to get their bills lowered, but it depends on many factors such as location, health insurance, the hospital’s status (non-profit vs. profit). It’s worth a try!

  7. Grace says:

    Churches also have volunteer therapists to take care of the members for free.

  8. Tonya Taylor says:

    change the Laws and stop money for being the issue of peoples taking their lives, because they did not have the money to get help

  9. Ridley says:

    You’ve got great tips for seeing a therapist if you don’t have a ton of money. My sister is really struggling with some depression, but she can’t really afford a counselor. I’ll tell her to look for a non-profit agency, like you said. That’ll be good.

  10. Melody Thoren says:

    Support groups. Some hospitals host space for meetings-contact your local hospitals.

  11. Ben says:

    Do a background check on any therapist in training.

    My brother, a registered sex offender, found a university willing to accept him into their counseling program. They permitted him to practice in their clinic even knowing he just spent six years in prison for long-term aggravated sexual assault against his minor step-daughter. The APA and the state licensing board refused to get involved, saying that all of this was the university’s responsibility, not theirs. No one would step in and stop him.

    Now, he has a doctorate in counseling. He is not licensed but he practices anyhow.

    My point: Be cautious. Check out any therapist prior to engaging in therapy. Be ESPECIALLY careful of unlicensed therapists in training.

    • rick says:

      Registered sex offenders aren’t allowed around minors. If you discovered he was around a minor take pictures or video taped him as evidence and turn it into the proper authorities.

      If any authority refuses to step in and take action get a lawyer and sue the authorities until they do their job.

      In this day of age too many get by with shit because people who’s job it is to stop that from happening don’t want to do their job and therefore don’t need their job.

      Who’s worse the bad people or the people who let the bad people do what they want….

      And they wonder why vigilantes exist.

  12. sandra s says:

    I am not sure what my plan is right now. Half of my life has been with this man (35 yrs.) And he is still fighting for his life. When the time is right, it will happen. I will search, for what I need. I so much love this site and have it saved, for daily reading, should I need it. Bless this entire program.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.