Finding a therapist is a huge step in managing your mental health. But, unlike a cold or the flu, mental health conditions — like anxiety and depression — can take time to heal.
This means that finding treatment via support groups or talk therapy can be a commitment. Depending on your budget and health insurance coverage, it can also be costly.
Even with health insurance, you may still need to pay up front for therapy. Plans with high deductibles won’t cover any medical costs until the deductible has been met. Until that time, you’ll need to pay out of pocket for your appointments.
Unlike a $10–$30 insurance copay, many therapists may charge between $65 and $150 per session. In most areas, the cost of therapy is $100–$200 per session.
Luckily, cost-effective mental health services are available.
To help you get started, we’ve provided a list of affordable mental health care options.
Mental health emergency
Some of the mental health care options listed below may not be suitable in an emergency. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency and is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
Call 911 or your local emergency number.
Stay with the person until help arrives.
Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.
To narrow down our list of the best affordable therapy options, we took a few factors into account:
Accessibility: Some affordable therapy platforms are available online, allowing users to talk with their counselor from the comfort of their home. However, this isn’t the most accessible option for everyone, so we made sure to include an array of directories, apps, support groups, and more.
Mental health expertise: Each platform, site, and app on our list is guided by folks who are well-versed and trained to offer mental health assistance.
Medical review: Our team of medical experts carefully vetted each option in our roundup, and a mental health professional from Healthline’s Medical Network reviewed this article to provide insights, offer advice, and verify that all information is correct.
You can find free or low cost therapy in a number of different places. The following list includes resources for one-on-one appointments, group therapy, online offerings, and more.
Sliding-scale therapists are psychotherapists, psychologists, and social workers who adjust their hourly fee to make therapy more affordable for the client.
Finding this type of therapist may be a good option if you need to pay out of pocket for counseling or if your insurance provider doesn’t offer referrals to specialists.
All mental health professionals are trained to treat general conditions — like anxiety, depression, and adjustment disorders — but not all specialize in treating other conditions, like postpartum depression, complicated grief, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
People seeking help for these types of conditions may benefit from finding a specialist who will slide their scale.
Free or low income mental health services
If you don’t have health insurance, and you can’t pay out of pocket for mental health care, low-fee or free community mental health clinics can provide the care you need.
These clinics are staffed by psychotherapists and psychologists but often use student psychologists, student mental health counselors, and student social workers who are supervised by licensed, experienced professionals. Services are often provided at no cost or at a remarkably reduced rate.
At the clinics, mental health professionals offer a variety of services, including individual and family counseling, medication management, and substance use disorder counseling. They’re also trained to treat a wide range of psychological conditions, like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Many colleges and universities with mental health practitioner programs may have clinicians-in-training that offer reduced rates. These clinics are usually open to the public, and they offer sliding-scale fees that can be as low as $1.
These graduate students are working under the supervision of experienced professionals, so there’s nothing to be wary of. Plus, because they have a limited caseload, they’re likely to spend more time thinking about how to help you.
Some colleges may even have licensed professionals with a master’s or doctoral degree who offer free, time-limited, short-term counseling.
If you have health insurance, call your insurance provider to find out whether they cover mental health services. If they do, ask for the contact information of local service providers who accept your insurance plan.
Many online therapy services take insurance, but it’s important to double-check and ask if everything is covered or if there are copay and deductible amounts.
If you need support for a specific condition, ask for professionals who treat that condition. Your insurance plan may allow you to work with a mental health expert who’s out of network, but at a higher cost.
Employee assistance programs
Your employer may offer therapy services for free through an employee assistance program (EAP). This voluntary program is set up by a workplace to provide a number of confidential services, such as assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and even follow-up help, for free or a reduced cost.
These services are intended to help with any issue that affects your mental or emotional health and, therefore, your work performance. This may include:
alcohol or substance use
psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression
other family issues
Services may be internal (offered onsite at your company) or external (referrals for help in the local community). To find out what services are available where you work, contact your human resources department.
Free therapy may also be available in your local community. Finding it may take a little digging. Places like community centers, hospitals, and schools may run free programs, like support groups. Local places of worship — churches, synagogues, temples, etc. — are resources where you might find these types of programs as well.
Contact these organizations directly for more information or look for flyers or online advertisements. You may even hear of these programs by word of mouth or through a healthcare professional.
Publicly funded state-run services may be another option for free or low cost therapy. If you qualify, you’ll have access to certain professionals that participate in your state’s program. Contact your state’s department of mental health for more information.
If these crises arise, hotlines can be called at any hour of the day. These hotlines are staffed by trained volunteers and professionals who provide emotional support and can connect you with assistance.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.
What are the different types of mental health resources?
There are many mental health resources available, including:
Online therapy apps and platforms: These tend to be subscriptions or memberships that are priced monthly or annually. You can meet with a mental health professional via video, audio, or messaging.
Directories: Directories can help you find a mental health professional who is in your budget or has preferred specialties like trauma, addiction, or depression. You won’t be able to see a therapist through a directory, but it will move you in the right direction.
Support groups and support group resources: Support groups can be in person or online. You can search for a group near you or for a group that focuses on a specific topic, like grief, health conditions, addiction, and more.
Crisis hotlines: Crisis hotlines, including talk and text options, are designed to help you get through mental health emergencies. These hotlines won’t always have mental health professionals on the other side of the call, but people are trained to deal with crises.
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If you have health insurance, there’s a chance your plan may cover some or all therapy costs.
To find out if your insurance covers therapy or mental health care, log into your plan’s website, which should contain information about your coverage. You can also call your insurance company or even chat with your company’s HR department.
If you find a therapist you want to talk with, you can also ask if they accept your insurance.
If you want or need to talk with a mental health professional but are worried about being able to afford it, you do have options.
Low cost therapy may be available through social services, nonprofits, and universities, while some platforms offer financial aid or sliding scales.
If you’ve found a therapist you’d like to start seeing, you can contact them to see whether they accept your health insurance. Some of these costs may be covered through your insurance.
How much is therapy in the United States without insurance?
The average cost of therapy largely depends on the counselor, how often and long your sessions are, and where you’re located.
Generally speaking, an hour-long therapy session can cost anywhere from $65–$250.
How often should you see a therapist?
The frequency of your therapy appointments depends on your goals, why you’re in counseling, and what your therapist thinks.
You may see your therapist once a week, biweekly, or even once a month, but you can always talk with them about increasing or decreasing the frequency of your appointments.
What are alternatives to therapy when you can’t afford it?
If you can’t afford traditional therapy, there are other low or zero-cost options available in many communities. For example:
Sliding scale therapists are psychotherapists, psychologists and social workers who change their hourly rate according to what their clients can afford.
Post-secondary institutions that offer mental health practitioner programs may offer reduced rates to the public to see their clinicians-in-training.
Community mental health clinics are often low cost or free.
Why does therapy cost so much?
Therapy can be expensive for many. The main reason for this is the fact that therapists must have a master’s or a PhD, which requires years of costly education and training. As well, the out-of-pocket costs that often go into running a practice add up quickly. For example:
professional association fees
administration and prep time
vacation, sick, and parental leave
Are online therapists cheaper than seeing one in person?
Most therapy will cost the same whether it’s in person or online. However, you might save money in other areas related to seeing a therapist in person, like costs for transportation or child care.
Finding low cost mental health professionals can be a challenge at first, but there are plenty of resources available. Remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and it shouldn’t have to take a toll on your finances.
If you need help right away, consider looking for a support group or calling your local university. If you have a digital device and an internet connection, telehealth services may also be available to you.
Choosing the right mental health professional doesn’t have to be expensive, and the benefits of having support will be well worth it in the long run.
Juli Fraga is a licensed psychologist based in San Francisco, California. She graduated with a PsyD from the University of Northern Colorado and attended a postdoctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley. Passionate about women’s health, she approaches all her sessions with warmth, honesty, and compassion. See what she’s up to on Twitter.
Last medically reviewed on August 2, 2023
How we reviewed this article:
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