Can’t afford therapy right now?
If you don’t work a job that includes full benefits, and sometimes even if you do, therapy can sound like an absolute impossibility, like something that keeps getting put on the backburner while you take care of your imminent needs. Like groceries and electricity. It’s hard to feel like your mental health is a necessity when you just manage to feed yourself and keep the lights on each month.
Using precious monetary resources for therapy only feels more selfish when you’re also providing for a family. If you’re in this tricky situation, though, then there are options available to you that you may not know about, ranging from cheap or free therapy choices to free electronic resources to good old-fashioned everyday habits that can help you take care of yourself.
First things first: make absolutely sure that you can’t get help paying for therapy through work.
If you don’t get any kind of insurance coverage at work at all, then you probably don’t need to investigate this a second time. But if you do, it’s worth a phone call to your insurance company just to check on the co-pay situation; recent legislation aimed at making mental health care as accessible through insurance as physical health care might give you more options than you think. Your insurance provider might be able to recommend in-network therapists that you can see for a reasonable co-pay, or might tell you that you can select a therapist and then get reimbursed for your some or most of the payments.
Also, ask an HR rep if your company has EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs). A lot of companies have these, and they’re designed to help employees going through troubles that are making it difficult for them to do their work. EAPs often involve access to counseling. This is usually a short-term solution – usually a fixed number of sessions – but could certainly be better than nothing if you’re really struggling.
If you’re sure that getting help paying for therapy through your work isn’t an option, though, then look into these free or cheap options:
Consider group therapy.
You might, understandably, not love the sound of sharing your issues with a group as opposed to one expert, but the reduction in cost might just bring you around on the idea. Licensed therapist Kimberly Morrow, for instance, writes that she offers group therapy sessions for just $15/session per participant. This isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be able to find the same rate with your dream therapist, but it’s at least worth looking into. Support groups (think AA style) are also an option that’s usually free or extremely cheap, and they have expanded into lots of mental health categories. Check out this list of groups from Wikipedia to see what I mean.
Try graduate schools and counselor training centers near where you live.
They usually offer very cheap (and sometimes even free!) sessions because the therapists are students who aren’t licensed yet. This doesn’t mean the therapy is garbage, though; these students are usually at the tail end of their programs, having received intensive training, and are always supervised by licensed therapists. And if you’re currently a student, then you’ll definitely want to take advantage of the therapy options that exist for you on campus – just check out your university’s counseling center or make a call and you’ll probably find either free or extremely cheap options.
Reach out to your place of worship.
You may never have heard of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, but it is a real organization that offers legitimate training to leaders of a variety of faiths and denominations, so find out if any of the leaders in your place of worship have this (or any other legitimate) accreditation. This therapy will almost definitely be free or extremely cheap, and it will be coming from someone who shares similar values and beliefs to your own.
Research for therapists in your area that may offer a sliding scale for payment.
Many therapists do this – it means that basically, you tell them what you think you can pay, talk about your income and other possible variables, and mutually work toward a fair price that you can manage. Not all therapists offer this, but you’re not going to offend a therapist by asking; they’re used to people coming to them with money questions.
Don’t just immediately decide to go to the first therapist that you can afford, though. Morrow recommends a set of “interview questions” to ask a therapist when you call them for information, including: “Do you feel like you can help me? How would you help me? What is the evidence-based treatment for my condition? Do you have training in this type of treatment? ” Ask these questions first and then, if it sounds like they can help you, ask them about the sliding scale.
Another good way to search for therapists that offer low-fee options is Open Path Collective. It may take some hunting to find a therapist who you can afford and who will be competent and expert in the area with which you’re seeking help, but wouldn’t you rather not waste your time with a therapist who’s not a good fit?
Lastly, realize that there are things you can do to help yourself if you can’t afford therapy.
These suggestions aren’t a replacement for therapy, but for some individuals, practicing these habits and using these resources might be enough to offer some relief.
Actively practice self-care. For a fuller explanation of what this looks like, see this previous post. The general idea, though, is actively pursuing and making time for your own health in every dimension – physical, mental, and emotional. This can include habits like healthy eating, exercise, practicing gratitude, practicing mindfulness, getting enough sleep, and having a morning routine. In fact, even reading blogs like this can be really helpful and supportive.
Use a free or inexpensive health care app. There are lots of health care apps out there, but this list from Psych Central and this list from the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) curate some of the best ones for you to try out.
Call the NAMI helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or 211 if your search for free or affordable mental health care isn’t going anywhere. According to Buzzfeed, both of these resources should be able to help you find what you’re looking for locally.
Lastly, if you’re in some sort of life-threatening emergency situation, then call a help hotline or go to your nearest emergency room. Womenshealth.gov has compiled this handy list of hotlines for when you really need to talk to someone and can’t wait, for your own safety/health or the safety/health of someone you love. (Even though this list is from Women’s Health, most of the hotlines are relevant for everyone.)
Have questions about any of these resources or wondering what resources might be available and best suited for you? You can call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult .