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

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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. 

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  1. Too Rich to Be Suicidal Apparently says:

    Useless fucking suggestions.

  2. Christal says:

    What I have found & find as a Counseling Prof ( I share this also as a Mental Health Prof.) is frustration on finding prof. who are open, & think “outside the box” much like yourself. Academics,Degrees,Training,etc..So Often evolve into a one size fits all script of responses to clients (or guests – I like that word better).Suicide, using the S word, sets off alarms for 90% of Counselors, & their immediate response in their presence is to advise one to call 911- go to the hospital etc. All generic, & not helpful, and the initial words before any conversations begin!!.Finding the right mental health prof. or health care providers is the challenge, A huge challenge !! The stigmas in mental health (& as a Prof,) are real….for 30 years I have Been on a TRD/PTSD trauma journey, I now am aware that unprocessed trauma, fully opened, discussed etc. could be, IS the beginning of what greatly contributes to TRD…& is most likely the root cause. I have found of late that when I study listen & read of Dr. Gabor Mate, I find within my soul gentle, albeit, temporary relief, if I apply the words “Compassionate Inquiry,” to myself. & I can only imagine what it may be like to locate a prof. who endorses that term & believes in its basic theory which is really an approach, unique, needed & so similar to ALL that is written on your site. Your style is Compassion (& compassionate inquiry) & is authentic & not from a textbook script. I have lost two loved ones ages 43 & 46, who Both died by suicide in the last 8 yrs. Both were males, In law enforcement & aviation & I have never seen two indiv. don’t do very hard to live. Both had support systems that I feel were judgemental & often shared, and in non supportive ways, that they needed to “fix themselves” as if this invisible brutal & torturing depression was really a result of negative thinking, and it was up to them to fix themselves, etc…that stigma that mainly reinforces these harmful replies. So !Many people may listen (but how many are skilled, & gifted to really hear, to hear, to be present, to not judge, nor pull out their “textbook script” reply? You are a gift that keeps on giving // where as you shared on this website that the word “suicide ” does not asap freak you out or jump into SOS mode. You listen & hear & hear listen, and are that rare mental health prof. who I believe when working with indiv. practices with compassion, & asks quests, utilizing compassionate inquiry. I now do not readily share in my journey, that I lost two loved ones who died by suicide!! as Each & Every time I have, I have heard, immediately, and before I even begin asking or speaking for help, I hear, “do you know you are now, at a high risk yourself” & …..Stigma has promoted silence & now still At 59, I continue on my journey to locate a counselor who does not practice with that textbook focus, nor asks the needed key ques. I have utilized almost all of the resources you have listed ,as well as Psychology Today. It is a needed site that lists Prof. yes, & their “specialties”, where trauma & grief etc. are almost on everyone’s list (& sadly a high percentage take no ins.) I would mortgage my home to locate a Professional that I feel I can trust & would be a good fit for me.!! I discovered your site today ( I am also a researcher ) & not by accident, per say, but by typing in some serious words such as ” suicide- why ? ” & other S words in desperation, still seeking a way, searching for how to resolve my burning in hell, torturous daily emotional pain… I lack a support system of any kind, so I stop when I read on Many sites reach out to a trusted friend, family member etc. I do not have that & watched 2 loved ones fall into that trap of reaching out, begging for a “soft place to fall” ,…I wished then, and still do, that if only their struggles were due to cancer, drug or alcohol abuses or something that would illustrate visible symptoms !! how diff their lives could of been, may of been.. Yes asking Is important, as is reaching out …but finding that right individual (individuals) is crucial. Today in utter desperation, drowning within, suffocating amidst my emotional inferno, I discovered You, & your site. Today, I live, because of what you have written & with courage & transparency have shared. Today I am afloat, because of your words, your journey & because of YOU. You care, you share, & made a diff. BY BEING THE DIFFERENCE. Thank you,Stacey.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      I’m very touched by your words. It saddens me that you’re in daily emotional pain, aren’t able to find good help, lack a support system, have lost two loved ones to suicide, and experience all the other challenges you mentioned. And it moves me that you’ve found something of value in what I’ve written here. I thank you immensely for letting me know. Your words really mean a lot to me.

      I hope that your own compassionate inquiry comes more easily and often, so that you can experience more relief. And I hope you are able to find the support you seek. And everything else you hope for, including appreciation for the beauty of a butterfly, which you mentioned in another comment, I hope for you, too.

      Thanks for sharing here.

  3. Lynn says:

    My insurance won’t pay for a psychiatrist or regular therapy
    All I have is therapist through a stepping stones program
    And crisis center they all are having 27 clients at a time
    A PA writes my meds for my mental illness but is very unable to write the ones that would really help
    I’ve had chronic pain for a long time I’ve had 2 serious car accidents and now it’s so bad I just want to die will not do anything deliberately
    As I did twice last summer that place was horrible
    I have so little access to health care here in this county
    My pain is intensified
    Every hour every day and will only get worse
    I’m 68 and have serious health issues what to do
    My friends and family do not know how to handle it they’re all too far away don’t drive and I’m unable to do household maintenance and can’t find caregiver
    also will be living on 2nd floor and knees and back are shot
    my feet are really bad insurance won’t pay for my shoes is this too long
    Can you help in any way
    Clinics in this area are worthless and insurance will not pay for stuff that I need for my dental work so they’re rotting
    Where do I turn for help

    • lee says:

      In Pa there is a service called compass where you can find out what services are available to those who live on limited incomes. I saw someone posted from Doylestown (which is in Pa) but I am not sure where you are. I would call my state Probably dept social services and see if they have something comparable or someone who can help you to find out what services are available. I hope you can find some help.

      • Lori T says:

        I have tried on many occasions to kill myself the last one worst than the first lol everything from drug overdose to spitting my writs to trying to hang myself. The thought of being dead is 100% more meaningful than my heart hurting even one more second

  4. CJ says:

    basically, if you have no money, no need to be a burden on system & planet.
    So sad to read & feel all the pain, I get it.
    I don’t want to wake up tomorrow, BC I know I’ll feel just like I do today.
    I’m 45, odds are I don’t make 46-

  5. Anonymous says:

    The pandemic has overwhelmed the supply of mental health providers, just as it has with the burned out frontline covid healthcare warriors. I have health insurance and some discretionary money but cannot find anyone to help me. RIP to all good and worthy souls.

  6. Carey says:

    Good suggestions, but one huge exacerbating factor is a lack of funds.
    $30-60 per session is alot, for someone who’s living on SS, and much of the anxiety and suicidal thoughts come from the financial situation.
    Alone, 63, no partner, kids, grandkids, a 91 year old father, siblings who don’t care…
    Perhaps there really are people who are better off dead.
    I’d probably be dead a week, or more, before anyone realized it.
    I never dreamed my life would end up like this.

    • carol levy says:

      I an so sorry. I am in same situation (though no father so therefore no one) I can only hope that my 32 friends/nephew who live far away will call cops or someone if I dont email reply after a few days. It is a scry picture for you and I and others in our situation. I wish i had a solution but at least wanted to let you know you are not alone.

    • Anonymous says:

      i love you

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. None says:

    Thank you

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

    • Carey says:

      That is a fear, for me too.
      If you contact a hotline, you automatically go in for observation, and who can afford that?
      It’s such a horrible situation.
      I pray you can get help resolving your situation, and your daughter is doing better.

      • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

        Carey, calling a hotline doesn’t mean you automatically go in for observation. Counselors usually listen, assess your safety, help you problem-solve, guide you through making a safety plan, and other things that don’t require you to go anywhere, unless you reveal you’re at high risk of acting on suicidal thoughts.

    • Becky says:

      Absolutely. She needs to contact the financial services department at the hospital. They can help her apply for any programs that she qualifies for to reduce the bill. The hospital social worker may also know about other programs she qualifies for, so she should talk to the social worker too. She can’t ignore the bills. She should make a payment plan even if it’s just one dollar a month to avoid a negative impact on her credit report.

      Secondly, it’s really important to contact a medical billing advocacy company. Knowing that most hospital bills have at least one mistake on them, there are people who as their profession review our medical bills, point out the errors, and get the bills reduced. I recommend hiring one of them. She can do research them identify and correct the billing errors herself, of course, but it’s way easier to have someone else do it. When she gives them a call, she should have certain things. A paper and pencil to write things down . All of the bills and her explanation of benefits statements from her insurance company. They will talk to her and then give her a quote. I’m sorry she’s in this situation. I wish medical bills weren’t one of the leading causes of bankruptcy.

  14. Grace says:

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

  15. 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

  16. 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.

  17. Melody Thoren says:

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

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