Not only is online therapy far more accessible these days as more therapists turn to online platforms to continue their practice, but it has also proven to help people experiencing isolation, depression, anxiety, and even survivor guilt.
Online therapy is a great option for those who are unwilling or unable to leave the safety of home. It’s also a great solution for those juggling multiple responsibilities, such as parenting, teaching, and remote work.
Many health insurance companies now cover online therapy sessions, which can make talking with a professional low cost and even free.
Some employee assistance programs (EAPs) also offer free trials and sessions for different online therapy websites, which could help employees gain access to a professional.
Here are Healthline’s picks for the best free and affordable online therapy and counseling websites.
What to do in a mental health emergency
If you’re thinking about hurting yourself or somebody else, please find confidential support by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also call 911 or your local emergency services number or visit the nearest emergency room.
“Online therapy is an opportunity to meet with your therapist online, using a HIPAA-compliant platform,” says Dr. Tracy W. Lowenthal, a licensed clinical psychologist in California.
Also known as telemental healthcare, it’s often done over a messaging app, video chat, or even the phone.
Because online therapy is accessible through an internet connection and a device, Marilyn Denovish, a multidisciplinary therapist, says that “online therapy can be as effective, and sometimes even more effective than, traditional face-to-face services.”
This is because people might find it easier to open up to a therapist when they can talk with them from the comfort of their home.
How much does free online therapy cost?
You can find free or low cost therapy through social services, nonprofits, universities, financial assistance programs, and EAPs.
The average cost of a 1-hour therapy appointment can range from about $65 to $250, depending on your therapist’s training, experience, and location.
Can free online therapy help?
Various studies show that free online therapy can be just as good as (or even better than) traditional types of therapy. It all depends on how well your therapist and their treatment strategy suit your needs.
For example, in a 2022 study focused on goal-setting and finding solutions to problems, researchers found that in-person and online therapy reduced anxiety equally.
So, depending on the person and the circumstances, using an online therapy service such as 7 Cups or ReGain can be quite effective.
What can free online therapy help with?
Free online therapy can help with certain conditions and feelings, such as:
However, it’s important to keep in mind that these types of services are not ideal for emergencies or more serious situations, such as addiction or eating disorders. Additionally, some conditions may warrant medication, in-person discussions, or group therapy.
Finding free online therapists is typically not very easy. If you have insurance, a good first step is to call your benefits center. Or you can do a quick search online.
Here are a few places that might help you find free or affordable online therapy:
Your health insurance company: With the ongoing pandemic, most health insurance companies have started to cover the cost of some online therapy platforms. If you have insurance, check with your provider before opting for a pricey program.
EAPs: Most employers offer free counseling sessions with the platform of their choice. If you have one, don’t be afraid to send your benefits center or human resource official an email to ask if they offer any services.
Your local college or university: If you’re a student or professor, your campus most likely has a counseling center or social worker who can help you find resources for support. If the university has a psychology department, they may host free clinics where students can put their skills to the test and help the public.
If you prefer more intimacy or are dealing with serious issues that require exposure therapy or many in-depth discussions (such as those relating to addiction, eating disorders, or severe depression), you may want to think about seeing a therapist in person.
But everyone is different, and this will be a matter of personal preference. If you have quicker access to an online therapist, you might want to start that way and then switch to in-person if it suits you better overall.
Accessibility: Anyone with an internet connection can participate in online therapy.
Time efficiency: Online therapy and counseling eliminates travel time between appointments or support group meetings. You can also mold it to your schedule and don’t have to call out sick from work to make it to your appointment.
Cost-effectiveness: Online therapy can be cheaper than in-person visits, and most health insurances cover part of the cost.
Eliminates geographical barriers: If your ideal therapist resides in another state or country, you can still get treatment with them as long as they’re licensed in the state you live in.
Comfort: Some people might find it easier to open up to a therapist when they’re in the privacy and comfort of their home.
Safety: With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth eliminates the risk of potential exposure.
Can therapy really be free?
A number of online services offer free or reduced cost therapy. Some of these free services may be run by peer counselors or coaches and require payment to work directly with licensed mental health professionals. Additionally, certain online services may be covered by some insurance plans or EAPs.
Also, a number of mental health organizations, including SAMHSA and NAMI, can provide free peer counseling over their hotlines or connect you with a free or low cost online therapist.
Who might be a good candidate for online therapy?
Anyone who is willing to listen, focus, and commit to bettering their mental health may benefit from online therapy. However, online therapy is not useful for helping to manage all conditions.
However, someone with a mental health condition that needs more direct management, such as schizophrenia or psychosis, might need immediate, face-to-face intervention. Online therapy might not be helpful for people with schizophrenia, because it may worsen the feeling of being secretly watched.
Additionally, if you or someone you know is experiencing significant suicidal ideation, in-person therapy might be a better choice.
Managing your mental health doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive.
Various online therapy platforms can help you find support groups or licensed therapists, who can teach you how to manage anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health conditions for free or a very low cost.
Last medically reviewed on June 27, 2023
How we reviewed this article:
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