A Guide To Affordable Counseling
Updated January 19, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Kristen Hardin
Most people, at some point in their lives, are faced with an emotional problem, or a mental health problem that they will be better off not trying to face alone.
Unfortunately, it's not always easy or advisable to seek help from family and friends. Your family and friends are not trained professionals and because they are your family and friends, they are biased and will likely struggle to try to remain neutral. They might prefer to just tell you what to do, and it could be unhelpful. They also might "hang on" to what you tell them and bring it up later on, which can be hurtful and frustrating. Depending on the situation, you may also be putting a friend or family member in the middle of a complicated situation or putting a level of emotional baggage on them that they simply don’t know how to help even if they want to.
Generally, it really is better to seek out a professional with the training and experience to make a difference. A professional is trained to help you get a better sense of yourself, your values, and your goals, while also helping you learn better skills, such as problem-solving or communication.
However, they often don't come cheap. Mental health is not covered by all insurance plans, and even if it is, you might have to pay out of pocket until your deductible is met, which is high for many people. Also, some people do not have insurance or have difficulty finding a provider in their insurance network. So where can a person find affordable counseling?
Low-Cost Therapy Options
You might be surprised to learn that there are indeed a lot of organizations that aim to provide economical help. When the situation is urgent, a number of hotlines run by volunteers can be worth calling. These phone services are free, but usually focus on problems such that are urgent or related to addiction or suicide. Mentalhealth.gov has some good links to some of these resources. Many provide more than phone calls now too. Some of these services have a chat feature. The only major downside is this is not generally a long-term solution for treatment or counseling but can be invaluable in a time of crisis or high need.
If you are currently in crisis, here are some other websites and phone numbers that may be helpful:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
- Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 (and press 1) or text 838255.
- Trevor Lifeline (LGBTQ Lifeline): (866)488-7386
- SAMHSA National Helpline (Substance Use): (800)662-4357
- National Eating Disorder Association Helpline :1-800-931-2237
There are also online groups that serve to give people an outlet to talk and get support. However, these are generally not facilitated by a trained counselor.
And, of course, if your problem is not in one of these areas, this may not be the best option for you.
Many faith-based groups offer some form of outreach service for problems ranging from addiction to relationship issues. The counselors may not be licensed but typically undergo some kind of training and many of them will have the life experience to help them understand what you might be going through. Of course, the advice they provide will likely have a significant religious component, which may or may not suit you. If this is something that you would like to try, talk to someone at your place of worship to find out more. It can be a good place to start as you likely feel comfortable in that community already.
Professional Counseling On A Budget
If your tastes are more secular, there are clinics offering counseling services at a very reasonable price. Many of these facilities charge on a sliding scale depending on your income. Another benefit is a lot of these clinics offer group counseling as well as individual counseling, which can be really helpful for some people, and a group session will typically cost less than an individual session. The counseling may be provided by students in training who are overseen by a licensed professional. And there may be a waiting list, but often there is not. If you think this might work for you, the best thing to do is find come clinics in your area and call to get more information.
You could also call counselors in your area and see if they use a sliding scale if you do want to see an individual counselor in a private practice setting. It is not uncommon for a counselor in private practice to do this, but it might take some digging and several phone calls.
Affordable Counseling At A Professional Level
In exciting news, a new trend is to offer low-cost therapy through online counseling. These online platforms, such as BetterHelp, are able to offer a variety of counseling services for a monthly fee that is affordable for many.
BetterHelp's site is secure, HIPAA compliant, and has grade-A banking level encryption so you can feel confident with the privacy. Licensed, qualified therapists are available to talk with you regarding any issue you might be having trouble with. And this is a long-term solution so you can know that you have someone who can help guide you through a difficult time and that someone is available as your life changes and new challenges arise. It is essentially the same as meeting with a counselor in the office, except the office is your home or wherever you are! All you need to get started is an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
The counselors on BetterHelp have been vetted and verified so you can also feel confident that you are talking to a licensed mental health professional.
The reason this option is extra affordable is that you get far more for your money than you would with traditional therapy since you can message your counselor at any time and get feedback throughout the week without having to wait until your next session. You can switch back from sending messages, to live sessions, or do both at the same time.
BetterHelp offers multiple options for communication. They offer messaging, which is similar to email but accessible only on the platform; live chat sessions; and video and phone sessions. This route also gives you access to a wide variety of specialists covering everything from post-traumatic stress disorder to marriage counseling without having to pay extra or spend hours looking for a professional in your area who specializes in what you need. You also save time and money since you do not have to drive anywhere or take off from obligations like work to attend your counseling sessions. If you find that you do not mesh well with a counselor you are working with, you can change at any time.
You may be curious about how effective online therapy is. Research has already gone to work on trying to answer that question. For common types of therapy, when working on issues that aren’t severe, online therapy seems to be just as effective as in-person therapy. Online therapy’s efficacy has been studied for treating depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few.
We’ve summed up a lot of benefits of why BetterHelp might be preferable to in-person therapy: it’s affordable, accessible, and secure.
To give you a little more information, here are some recent reviews by BetterHelp users about working with their counselors.
“I was very skeptical about this online counseling. Having Annita as my counselor thus far has really changed that mentality! She is insightful and helpful and encouraging and seems to know exactly what to say to help meet my needs!” Read more on Annita Coburn.
“Joanne far exceeded my expectations for therapy. I was very hesitant to try online counseling and Joanne made this so easy, productive, and beneficial. She was everything I needed to help me work through my issues and make a plan for a successful future. I look forward to our sessions and am so grateful I chose her as my therapist. We all need a Joanne in our lives!” Read more on Joanne Shrock.
Although it may seem that finding counseling on a budget is no more than a pipe dream, doing a little digging will reveal that there are options for getting economical help. You might be able to get help from your place of worship, a mental health clinic, free resources if you find yourself in crisis, as well as online counseling, like with BetterHelp.
If you are in need of counseling, regardless of the reason, do not assume that you will not be able to afford it. You deserve to get the help that you need, and you don't have to spend a fortune to do so. BetterHelp is a great resource for affordable counseling and you get a lot for your money when you factor in all of the different ways to communicate and the increased access to your counselor.
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