A Guide To Affordable Therapy And Budget-Friendly Counseling

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated May 15, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Whether you’re living with a mental health condition or simply want to invest in your well-being and overall health, therapy can be a powerful form of self-care for people of all backgrounds. 

If you’re looking for something affordable, though, the costs of counseling — not to mention the hassle of getting to an office — might prevent you from seeking the help you deserve. For some people, a lack of adequate mental health benefits through insurance can lead to expensive out-of-pocket payments. Others may struggle to afford traditional counseling, even with mental health coverage. 

If you’d like to work with a mental health professional but you’re concerned about the cost, you have options for affordable counseling. In fact, in many cases, it’s possible to find free or discounted counseling. This article showcases affordable therapy options and budget-friendly counseling so that you can implement quality mental health care into your self-care routine. 

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Where to find affordable therapy

Even if your finances are limited, it may be possible for you to find a professional therapist through online therapy platforms or in-person therapy options while avoiding financial burden. If you’re searching for an affordable therapist, these five suggestions can get you started. Keep in mind that the process of finding a therapist can be individualized; you can adjust or skip these tips based on your personal preferences and circumstances.

1. Contact your insurance company

If you have health insurance, you may want to call your insurance provider to ask about mental health care coverage under your plan. They may be able to provide a list of in-network therapists who accept your insurance, so that you’re only responsible for a co-pay. People with co-pay plans may pay around $15 to $45 per session. 

2. Ask about sliding-scale therapy

For patients without insurance, sliding-scale providers can be an alternative. A sliding scale is a range of out-of-pocket fees that mental healthcare providers are willing to accept based on the patient’s ability to pay. In consideration of your financial circumstances, these providers may reduce the therapy cost.

You can search for low-cost and sliding-scale providers in your local area, or you may want to ask your current therapist or doctor about lower-cost counseling options. In many cases, they’re happy to connect you to organizations or individuals that can accommodate your budget.

3. Use school or workplace therapy benefits 

If you’re a student at a college or university or a salaried employee, you might have mental health benefits (in addition to physical health benefits) that will make it easier for you to afford counseling. Many school campuses and workplaces offer health care benefits through student health centers, including in-person or teletherapy options for their students and employees. 

Depending on where you work, you may have an employee assistance program. Employee assistance programs may provide certain free mental health services, including mental health assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and coaching services to employees. Your company’s HR department can typically let you know whether an employee assistance program is available.

4. Look for group therapy or support groups

In many cases, group sessions can be less expensive than individual therapy, and researchers have also found that group and individual therapies are similarly effective. Depending on your personality and goals, you might even prefer the unique benefits of group sessions, which might include a sense of community, the opportunity to listen to others, and reassurance that you’re not alone. 

If you’re currently working with a therapist, they might be able to direct you to an online or in-person support group based on your health history, personal beliefs, and treatment goals. In your local area, faith-based institutions and community centers may offer specialized support groups.

Some support groups may not technically qualify as “group therapy” since they’re not always led by a licensed therapist. Regardless of their technical definition, these groups can provide meaningful insight and social connection. 

5. Try online therapy 

Not everyone has the time or financial resources for traditional, in-person counseling. Additionally, many people struggle to afford traditional counseling. Affordable online platforms like Open Path Psychotherapy Collective and BetterHelp can connect you to thousands of mental health professionals who believe in the power of high-quality and available therapy. Online therapy services also allow you to work with your licensed mental health professional from home. 

Because the licensed therapists who work through these platforms don’t have to pay for office space or other forms of overhead, online therapy costs are often lower than they are with traditional counseling. It is important to note that medication management and diagnoses are not available through many online therapy services.

So, what does online therapy cost? In comparison to in-person therapy, which can cost anywhere from $100 to $200 per session, online platforms like BetterHelp typically cost $65 to $90 per week, billed every four weeks.&nbps;

Researchers have found that online therapy sessions can be just as effective as in-person sessions. In a recent analysis of online interventions, researchers reviewed details from 24 studies. They concluded that both video therapy sessions and telephone-delivered interventions could effectively treat various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and adjustment disorder. 


Other affordable options

Even after you settle into a routine with your therapist or support group, there may be other resources that can supplement your mental health care outside of regular therapy sessions. If you’re looking for educational information on different forms of mental illness, organizations like the National Institute of Mental Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration have several articles pertaining to various mental health conditions.

Additionally, the following organizations offer free mental health resources, including crisis text lines, and other general resources, such as blogs and self-care tool kits. These resources can offer both immediate advice for those experiencing a health crisis and long-term support:

When you call or text these organizations, you can speak to highly trained and compassionate individuals without the need for health insurance. Sometimes, they have personal experience with the concerns you’re facing and can guide you toward the next steps for treatment or support. However, it is important to note that these representatives are often unable to offer medical advice.

In our online era, these free or low-cost digital resources can be an invaluable asset to your recovery journey, and more resources emerge every day. Consider contacting your doctor, therapist, support group leader, or another trusted resource for personalized recommendations for mental health services. 

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Professional mental health services should be available, affordable, and convenient — and these therapy options and online resources are working to make this vision a reality. With BetterHelp and other online platforms like Open Path Collective, affordable counseling or therapy is within reach. 

As you begin your search to find a therapist, keep this guide handy. Regardless of your motivation for therapy, you deserve a compassionate, experienced professional who will honor your financial circumstances and mental health goals. 

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