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Finding a therapist is a huge step in taking charge of your mental health. But, unlike a cold or the flu, mental health conditions — like anxiety and depression — can take time to heal.
The American Psychological Association (APA) says there’s a big range of sessions needed. Some people find improvement after eight sessions, and others after 6 months. Sometimes, for more severe cases, a year or two may be needed.
What this means: Therapy is a commitment, and, depending on your health insurance coverage, it can be costly.
Unfortunately, having health insurance doesn’t guarantee you won’t need to pay upfront 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 to $30 insurance copay, many therapists may charge between $65 and $150 per session. In most areas, the cost of therapy is about $100 to $200.
In cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, however, therapy can cost as much as $200 per session or more.
Luckily, for people who want to book with a therapist — but don’t have the means to shell out a significant amount of cash — cost-effective services are available.
To help you get started, we’ve provided a list of affordable mental health care options.
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 to 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.
- Cost: free
- What it’s best for: finding treatment for addiction within your budget
Part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, FindTreatment.gov is a website that allows you to search for sliding scale therapists and addiction treatment options who practice in cities across the nation. Rates will be determined by your income. There’s also an option to search for free services.
You can also call them at 800-662-HELP (4357).
- Cost: $30 to $80, depending on the type of session
- What it’s best for: affordable in-person or online psychotherapy
This nationwide network of mental health professionals provides mental health assistance for $30 to $80 per session. Unlike more extensive mental health directories, this website only includes sliding scale therapists in the searchable database.
You can choose between seeing a counselor in person or online. When using the database, you can narrow your search down by filtering through:
- treatment orientation
- race or ethnicity
Best therapy apps
- Cost: ranges from $69 to $129 a week depending on your subscription plan
- What it’s best for: consistent teletherapy appointments
Talkspace is one of our top picks for online therapy apps, thanks to its array of subscription plans and payment plans. There are more than 3,000 counselors available with expertise in conditions and concerns like depression, anxiety, addiction, and more.
Prices range from $69 to $129 depending on what subscription you opt for. Plans include text, video, audio messaging, and live sessions. They also offer psychiatry, which costs $249 for an initial evaluation and $120 for follow-up sessions. However, some apps might also have hidden fees or additional subscription fees.
You can use code SPACE to get $100 off your first subscription.
- Cost: $60 to $90 a week, billed monthly
- What it’s best for: teletherapy appointments and financial aid
BetterHelp is an online teletherapy platform and app that offers 24/7 access to your mental health professional. You can have therapy appointments via texts, live chat, phone calls, and video calls. Insurance doesn’t cover BetterHelp costs, which can range anywhere from $60 to $90 a week depending on which plan you choose.
You can also apply for financial aid, which will adjust your pricing based on your income and economic situation. You’ll be asked to fill out a questionnaire to check your eligibility.
Best support group resource
- Cost: free
- What it’s best for: finding support through community
Mental Health America lists specialized support group resources on their webpage. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with a health condition, like cancer or diabetes, hospital social workers can also provide a list of support groups in the community.
Specialized support groups available on the Mental Health America website cover a wide range of conditions and illnesses, from caretakers to people with ADHD.
What else to know about mental health support groups
People experiencing eating disorders, postpartum depression, alcohol and substance use disorder, and grief or loss may benefit from attending a support group.
There are both local and online options depending on your needs. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, online support groups have risen in popularity to keep patients safe.
You can find groups for various conditions, including:
Different from individual therapy, support groups connect people with others who are going through a similar experience. While individual therapists often steer clear from giving direct advice, support groups allow people to ask for others’ opinions.
It can also be healing to hear other people share their stories because it reminds you that you’re not alone. This can be especially helpful if you’re coping with a disease, like cancer, or supporting a loved one with a chronic health condition or mental illness.
Similar to individual therapy, it’s important to find a group that meets your needs. Before joining a group, it can be helpful to ask the group leader about the group dynamic (i.e., how their participants engage with one another) and to find out about the structure of the group.
Open-ended groups, like new mom support circles, allow participants to share at any time during the session. Structured groups, especially those that teach participants a set of life skills like mindfulness, may follow a set curriculum each week.
Best online therapy platforms
- Cost: ranges from $39.95 to $79.95 a week, depending on which plan you choose
- What it’s best for: mental health professionals who practice cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
This online therapy platform bases its entire foundation on CBT, a form of talk therapy that can help people better identify negative thought patterns and behaviors. Not only can you meet with mental health professionals via teletherapy appointments, but you can also use the site’s array of resources, including worksheets, an online journal, and messaging with your therapist.
There are different subscriptions plans available, but prices range from $39.95 to $79.95 a week. New subscribers also receive 20% off their first month.
- Cost: $99 to $129 a session depending on the therapist
- What it’s best for: comprehensive mental health care
With Amwell, you can meet with a therapist for talk therapy and a psychiatrist. The site provides counseling for many different mental health concerns, including:
- PTSD or trauma
- life transitions
- couples therapy
Visits start at $99, and insurance may cover some of the costs.
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.
To find a clinic in your local area, contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine or go to MentalHealth.gov. Your primary care physician can also provide recommendations in your community.
Local colleges and universities
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 scales 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.
Find an in-network professional
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 (EAP)
Your employer may offer therapy services for free through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This voluntary program is set up by workplaces to provide a number of confidential services, like 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 things like:
- alcohol or substance use
- psychological disorders, like anxiety and depression
- other family issues
Services may be internal (offered onsite at your company) or external (referrals to 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 will 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 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.
How can I afford to see a therapist?
If you feel that you need to talk to 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 if they accept your health insurance. Some of these costs may be covered.
How much is therapy in the United States without insurance?
The average cost of therapy will largely depend on the counselor you’re seeing, how often and long your sessions are, and where you’re located. Generally speaking, an hour-long therapy session can cost anywhere from $65 to $250.
How often should you see a therapist?
The frequency of your therapy appointments will depend 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 to them about increasing or decreasing the regularity of your appointments.
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.
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