Counseling On A Budget: Affordable Counseling Options Online

By Sarah Fader |Updated August 31, 2022
The idea of seeing a therapist or starting online therapy frightens a lot of people due to mental health stigma. Nobody wants to admit that they don't have it all together.

frequently asked questions about free therapy

Counseling Can Help Strengthen Your Mental Health.

Free & Affordable Therapy: What To Know And Ask

What's The Difference Between Counseling And Therapy?
First, however, it is important to understand the difference between counseling and therapy. While a counselor will generally listen, give advice and help the individual in question to reach a specific desired outcome, they aren't always trained specifically in Psychology. While many counselors do indeed have a license as well as educational backgrounds in the subject of Psychology, counselors can also be people such as clergy, life coaches, spiritual advisors, etc.
Psychotherapists and psychologists, on the other hand, are licensed professionals who hold a degree in the subject they advise on. Additionally, therapists tend to take a more psychological and behavioral approach to problems than do counselors. Because of this, counselors may be a bit less intimidating for people who are apprehensive about getting help in the first place, seeing as they can feel a bit more relatable - like simply talking with a new friend.
Keeping that in mind, if you have reached a place in your life where you feel at a loss for what to do next (whether that be because you're depressed, you feel your relationship with your significant another ending, you've recently lost someone close to you, you have issues coping with the stresses of each day, etc), therapy and/or counseling can be extremely beneficial. Talking with a therapist or counselor may provide new insights/perspectives as well as some tools to keep you moving forward.
Free Counseling
The main issue here, however, is therapy - as helpful as it can be - also tends to be pretty expensive. So even if you want to get help, there may be financial barriers. After all, very few of us have an extra $200 a week to drop for just an hour of help.
Luckily, there are affordable and even free sources of counseling out there. Now, counseling is not always an appropriate replacement for therapy, however, in many cases, it can be quite helpful. The tricks to finding affordable or free counseling services are a) you have to know where to look, and b) do your research on which option is right for you.
That said, below are several forms of free therapy which you may find to be helpful.

frequently asked questions about free therapy

Free Counseling Hotlines
This type of counseling involves calling a predetermined number for an unscheduled and free counseling chat over the phone at any time of day or night. Numbers vary depending on where you live as well as what specific type of service you are looking for, but can often be found via a quick Google search. Simply type in the words "counseling", "hotline" and/or "help" in addition to the type of help you are seeking and hit the search button. Furthermore, many schools, universities, and recreation centers have numbers for these lines posted on bulletin boards. Not to mention, the national suicide prevention hotline is the same number nationally (e.g. 1-800-273-8255).
Having said that, there are several different helplines available to those in need, including helplines for those contemplating taking their own lives (as mentioned just above), victims of domestic violence and abuse, victims of sexual assault, etc.
In short, this type of free counseling isn't long-term, but it can be extremely beneficial in cases of emergencies. Therefore, it is most often used by those people in need of immediate help. Because of this, if you feel yourself getting close to a crisis, it could be a good idea to take some preventative action and research some hotlines for yourself, that way you have them handy if necessary.
Support Groups
You have likely heard of supportive groups such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). What you might be less familiar with, however, is that this group is a type of free counseling, and reaches for further than simply acting as a helpful source to those who have a problem with addiction to alcohol. Similar groups include grief support groups, cancer survivor groups, codependency support groups, groups for children of alcoholics, binge eating support groups, and many many more.

If you can think of it, there is probably a counseling support group out there for it. Even still, while some of these groups are widely and well known (such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Sex Love Addicts Anonymous, Grief Share, etc) and are easy to find via a simple internet search for the next location and time, there are many additional support groups, likely all within your town that are more discrete and can be a bit more difficult to find. For more obscure groups, you might consider reaching out to local therapists who specialize in the area you are concerned about and asking for help finding the type of group you are looking for. Often, the therapists you reach out to will be more than willing to help you by giving you a list of references.

Given all of this, this type of free counseling is likely best for those who a) don't mind sharing their thoughts and feelings in larger group settings and b) aren't just looking for tools or new skills (although that will be part of it), but are also looking for support via peers going through the same things.
Counseling Can Help Strengthen Your Mental Health.
What Is Free Counseling Through Places Of Worship?
Free counseling through a place of worship is straightforward, no matter what religion you are. Although this form of counseling is not the same as therapy, it can be a source of support and assistance. If you have a place of worship you are already a regular member at, seeking counseling from the clergy may be as simple as setting an appointment to talk with whoever leads the congregation and services. In these cases, many feel a close connection with said clergy member already - as they already look to them as a spiritual leader - therefore, discussing personal issues is significantly easier than it may have been with a stranger.
On the other hand, if you have a specific religion or set of beliefs you hold dear and practice, however, you do not have a designated place of worship you call your own, do a bit of research to find one that might fit. Find some places you may feel comfortable visiting nearby, as well as make a few calls and even drop by for a few services to see how it feels.
For example, say you have decided this is the route you'd like to go. Your first step should be to search for local places of worship in your general area - specific to the type of belief you hold of course. Second, see if this specific place of worship has a number you can contact to get ahold of their leader. Then, if they have a number, go ahead and make a call. Explain your situation and that you are looking for some guidance and help, as well as ask if you can make an appointment to discuss your concerns. Lastly, go ahead and visit the building where you've decided to seek help, attend a service or two, and mingle with the congregation. This can be beneficial in that you may not only receive solace in the surroundings themselves, but you may be able to meet (in person), someone who can counsel and help you right away.
Free Counseling Through Your Place Of Employment
Many workplaces offer free counseling services to their employees, though not many employees know this. Luckily finding out if your employer offers this is a pretty straightforward process. All you need to do is contact your HR department to see if these services are available to you. Then, if they are, request information from HR about how to go about using them. There may be an in-house counselor, or there may be a list of therapists/counselors that your employer approves of. Regardless, if this is a benefit offered by your employer it can often be provided free of charge.
Furthermore, while not all employers offer counseling services to their employees, it can be helpful to note that most workplaces that involve extremely high levels of stress for their employees. Therefore, if you find yourself in a very stressful work environment, this could be a good route to consider.
Free Counseling Online
Online counseling in and of itself is on the rise. Usually entailing signing up for an account, getting paired with an online professional, then chatting via instant messaging, email, video phone (i.e. Skype, etc), or through a corresponding app, online counseling allows for a sense of anonymity (and therefore honesty), which may be more comfortable - depending on the person - than in a face-to-face setting. It should be noted, however, that online counseling is not usually free. While there are some free (and affordable) counseling sites out there, many are just as expensive as the face-to-face option. So how do you find affordable online therapy?
This may require that you do some research. Sure, there are well-known sites out there that offer free online therapy, but the best way to find a site that fits your specific needs is to dig in and do a search via the internet. There are options for online therapy that address specific mental health disorders and ones that can help with the general stresses and challenges of life.
Free Counseling Through Government Help And Programs
There are plenty of free counseling options the government offers to those who are unable to afford the services on their own, including free, face-to-face sessions. The trick here, however, is figuring out what these services are, if you qualify for them, and how to go about obtaining them.
Unfortunately, there isn't a simple, cut and dry answer when it comes to what services the government offers, as it varies from state to state and county to county. Generally speaking, however, if you dial the number "211" (no matter where you are located, at least with regards to the United States), you will likely be connected to the human and social services within your specific area.
You can then ask about obtaining information on programs and resources that may be available to you. Also, you can check out your state government's website, under the Department of Human Services section for information as well. Finally, if you are on Medicaid, there is a good chance you may be covered for at least one free thirty-minute counseling session a month, so be sure to check if that is an option as well.
Free Counseling Through Training Clinics And Universities
There are plenty of therapists and psychologists (i.e. more extensively trained psychotherapists, usually with a doctorate in psychology), in training out there who know a lot, but need a certain number of hours before they can meet the criteria for their licensing board. Just like you might go to a beauty school salon for a cheaper cut and color, so too can you go to a training clinic (most often located within a university), to get some free counseling sessions. It is important to know that any sessions completed with a pre-licensed professional will also be supervised by a more experienced psychotherapist for training and adequate care.

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If you would prefer a face-to-face session, this is a great option for you to consider, seeing as it will likely be and include everything a "real" counseling session would have had you found outside the walls of a training clinic, minus the cost.
Moreover, finding sessions like these can be relatively simple. All you need to do is contact universities near you, (the website will likely be the best way to do this), then find their Psychology department webpage. The information you need will likely be located here, and if not, there should be a phone number you can call that will lead you directly to the Psychology department itself, where you can get the information you need.
Free Counseling
All in all, there are lots of free options out there if counseling is something you need but not something you can afford. Whether you are open to group sessions, looking for help online, need immediate support, or are looking for a low-cost face-to-face option, there are free mental health and counseling options for everyone.
Before you consider these free counseling options though, be sure to make sure and check with your current insurance to see what exactly it is they offer as far as mental health care goes. Many people don't realize that they are covered for some counseling and/or therapy appointments each year at no cost to them.
Finally, if you find yourself in a situation where none of these options end up working for you, don't write off counseling altogether. There are still plenty of affordable counseling options out there (both online and off), for you to consider. 
What You Should Know When Choosing Free Counseling
While there are affordable counseling options available, there are various free online therapy options to consider, but how do you choose? Please spend some time learning more information about free online therapy by learning which websites provide free treatment and how it is provided. Therapists and counselors providing free or affordable services may detail the kind of support that is available. For example, if you have concerns about anger or relationship issues, narrow your search to support options with this experience.
Ask people you know if they could recommend a professional counselor or if they would recommend counseling centers with good reviews. You may find reviews online for discounted or free mental health support, along with insight on potential options to fit your needs. If you find a therapy or counseling option that piques your interest, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Online support options often have a point of contact to refer to with questions or concerns.
As you learn about options available, get to know the format of the support provided. Free or reduced-cost treatment options vary since they may include email, phone conversation, or using an online platform offered by the service provider.
Learn the background experience of the therapists and counselors providing help. It may be suggested to work with a licensed professional counselor as part of a detailed treatment plan between your doctor and mental health specialist. Understanding their background is crucial to finding someone you’ll be comfortable talking to. Please review their terms of use to learn more about their services and how they are offered free or at a reduced rate.
What should you look for when seeking free online therapy? People wonder if therapy is free when considering the option on a limited budget. It is essential to get to know legitimate options when considering free online therapy or counseling support available online. The key to finding the right help is to find experienced counselors for personal-related issues. Counseling centers offer affordable counseling, but some offer individual and family counseling that is free or at a reduced rate depending on your situation.
Some therapists and counselors provide services through a referral. Assess types of therapy or counseling is provided and whether it is a fit for your needs. Depending on your situation, you could get a recommendation to work with a professional counselor for short- or long-term purposes.
FAQs About Free And Affordable Online And Office Therapy Options

Is there no-cost counseling?

If you are looking to find free therapy or counseling, be it for an individual, marriage counseling, or any other form, you may wonder how you can get it for free or low-cost, or if it's possible. Luckily, it is possible, and here's how:
  • Your insurance may be able to cover it. Alternatively, they may have a low co-pay, which means that you don't pay too much out of pocket. Look at your insurance and what it covers, then see if there is a counseling center that accepts your insurance.
  • If you're in a city or college town, your university or college may have counseling for a free or low cost. If you're a student, you're guaranteed to get it for free. If you're not, you may be able to get counseling at a low cost. College counseling is usually done by people in training, but they are supervised.
  • If you want free or low-cost counseling, seek help from your faith. Many pastors offer counseling for free, and they can give you advice that applies to anyone regardless of faith. Even if you aren't religious, you may be able to find some benefits to talking to one.
  • Your town may have some public options available that are free or low-cost. Do your research and see what they have. There may be a waiting period, but if you're patient or lucky, you can find something.
  • Some counselors and therapists offer pro-bono slots as a public service. This means that you pay nothing. They fill up fast, but you may get lucky and find a free slot, or a slot that will be free soon.
  • Some counselors do offer a sliding scale payment, meaning you pay based on income. If you don't make much, this can make counseling affordable for you.

Is there no-cost online counseling?

On the Internet, it's a huge world, and there's a good chance that you'll run into people who can talk to you about any situations you have, or at the very least, empathize and be someone to talk to. For example, if you're depressed, there are plenty of depression forums where you can connect to people who are suffering from depression as well. Going to marriage forums may be a good form of marriage counseling. Online community counseling can be quite beneficial, and most forums are free to use.
If you want to speak to a licensed therapist, this will cost you. Almost all online therapy services have some kind of fee, but usually, you can find it for cheap. Some online therapy services may offer a free trial for a week or so. One week is usually not enough, but you can cancel any time and see if the service is right for you.

Is there no-cost family counseling?

Just like free counseling, free or low-cost family counseling is available if you look hard enough. See the question, "Can you get free counseling?" for more information. These rules apply to the family as well. With that said, there are some unique ways to get free family or marriage counseling. For example, Regain, an online therapy resource, does have a free one-week trial. For many families, they'll need more than a week to sort their family problems, but it's a start. With family or marriage counseling, talking to other couples or families who have been there can benefit you as well.

Can I remain anonymous?

Therapy is anonymous by nature. Unless the words you say pose an immediate danger, everything is between you and the therapist. With online therapy, you can add even more anonymity. You can speak to a therapist without showing your face through text and voice chat. You don't have to leave your home, meaning you don't have to worry about someone you know seeing you enter or exit the therapist's office.

Below are additional commonly asked questions on this topic:

1. Is it possible for therapy to be free?
2. Is therapy in the UK free?
3. Is therapy free in USA?
4. Does it cost money to talk to a therapist?
5. How do I get therapy under 18 UK?
6. How do I know if I need therapy?
7. How do you get a therapist under 18?
8. Where can I talk to someone for free?
9. Why is therapy expensive?
10. Will CAMHS tell my parents?

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.