How to Find a Therapist – That you can afford

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Therapy can be really expensive, so let’s talk about how to find a good therapist that you can afford.

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How to Find Free Therapy Near You

Therapy can be really expensive. I’ve actually never been able to afford therapy until the last couple of years, and I know many people are in the same boat. So let’s talk about how to find a good therapist that you can afford. 

Now first, I know this video may not apply as well to other countries. In the UK or Canada, they have universal healthcare, so getting mental health services doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. But there may be long waitlists or difficulty finding a therapist that fits your needs. In other countries, there may not even be mental health providers in your area or financially they are just completely out of reach. 

In the US, some insurance covers some types of therapies, but even with insurance I know that most people end up paying a lot out of pocket, often in the realm of $100-150 a session, which adds up to $5,000 to $8,000 a year. My previous insurance when I was working for a mental health company had a $5,000 out-of-pocket deductible, and my current coverage, being self-employed, doesn’t cover mental health at all. And then there’s the people with no insurance. 

So it’s easy to see how mental health services seem out of reach for many. And that’s one of the reasons why I make these videos, to help people access mental health education for free or much cheaper than therapy, but there is no replacement for real, in-person, individualized therapy. So let’s talk about a few more ways you can find services that are less expensive or more accessible. 

Check Your Insurance Coverage

Overall, insurance coverage for mental health has improved some in the US, so if you have insurance, start by calling them to find out what they cover. And also find out if your work or insurance has an EAP program. Many offer three to five free sessions per year. It’s better than nothing!

Next, Check Your School-They Often Provide Free Counseling Services

If you’re a student, find out what resources your school provides. In the US, public schools are required by law to provide testing and accommodation for issues that interfere with academics, and that can include depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, and more. Some schools are more and some are less willing to help out. Some schools offer mentors, support groups, counseling, or other services. 

If your mental health issues are interfering with school work or behavior, you can get an IEP or 504 plan where the school outlines what services and accommodations they will provide you. 

If you’re at a university, check out their student services/counseling center. They often offer therapy services at a reduced rate. School services are often free or inexpensive, so they’re a great place to try first, but they may have long waits, limited services, or no services at all. 

If they don’t provide any counseling, check to see if they provide any psychological testing. This is often free and may save you a lot of time and energy later. Psych testing can help you get a good diagnosis or differentiate if there’s a learning difference like ADD or a math or processing disability or something going on that’s impacting functioning.  

University Counseling Services

Even if you’re not a student, you may be able to access discounted therapy services at a university, where students who are studying to become therapists do therapy under supervision of a licensed therapist. So when I was training to become a therapist, we worked at a little clinic near campus that offered therapy for $14 to $30 a session.

Community Mental Health Services Are Often Free or Affordable

City, county, or state services often have mental-health services providers who offer services to patients with Medicare, Disability, or on a sliding fee scale. which means that your fee depends on your income. 

The good thing is that they are often more affordable than private practice therapists, but the downside is that many of their therapists often have large caseloads and therefore less time to prepare for sessions and dedicate to each client.

In the US you can also call the NAMI helpline or 211. both of these services can help direct you to local services for all kinds of things, from free support groups to homeless shelters. SAMHSA is another nationwide directory for both substance abuse and mental health services. 

Private Practice Therapists: Ask for Discounts

Therapists in private practice: In my area, therapists typically charge between $95 to $150 and up for a 50-minute session. These therapists often specialize in a certain area of mental health and see fewer clients than their colleagues in county services, meaning that they hopefully have a little more time to devote to preparing for each case, study, billing, and training that all take time after work. 

Some of them take private pay, and others bill certain insurances. When you call to set up an appointment, make sure to ask about fees and insurance. 

You can also try asking if they or anyone they know is taking clients pro-bono. Many therapists will see a handful of clients who can’t pay. But to be honest, right now, when many therapists have full caseloads and long waitlists, it may be hard to find one with open slots.

You can also ask about a self-pay discount, and any other discounts that a therapist may provide. At my practice if someone is self-pay, they usually save 35% if they keep a credit card on file. 

If you’re having a hard time finding a therapist who will take your insurance (a common problem), you can try contacting your insurance provider and asking them for a list of their in-network therapists in the area. Or you can check psychologytoday.com and filter by insurance and price to find someone who can help you.

Ask Your Local Clergy, Friends, and Online Therapy Providers

In Utah, bishops are a great source for referrals. They have often worked with a few therapists who they know and trust to send their flock to. They can also sometimes help out with the costs.  Speak with your pastor, reverend, or other leader, and see how they can help you and your family out.

Ask for referrals from friends you feel comfortable with. You’ll be surprised how many people you know are in therapy.

Also I recently found out about Open Path. They are a psychotherapy collective that offers therapy services for $30 to $60 a session, which is obviously much less expensive than most therapy providers. 

Online therapy from a provider like BetterHelp, one of my sponsors, can be quite a bit less expensive, but there are some limitations to doing therapy online. But it’s still a good option if you can’t access therapy otherwise. 

Support Groups Are an Excellent Source for Affordable Counseling

Support groups are another great source of education, therapy, and support, and often they’re free. You can often find these groups by asking your community mental health provider what’s out there or checking with the local hospital or shelter. 

I’m talking about AA, Al Anon, grief support groups. In the US you can try NAMI; they have a lot of support groups for people experiencing mental illness and for their families as well. 

More FREE or Affordable Options

There are many free hotlines as well. Many of them have counselors on hand to text or talk with you. In my area, the National Suicide Prevention hotline is a good one, and SafeUT is a local one that connects people who are struggling with a crisis counselor for free. Check out what’s in your area. 

Lastly, if you can’t afford therapy or find a good therapist, there is still a lot you can do to improve your mental health. 

Seek education from high-quality sources, like the website verywellmind.com or Dr. Tracey Marks on YouTube. 

Look for books on the topics you’re interested in. I’ve got a list on kit.co if you want to know my favorites. 

There’s even some good apps that can help as well: Bloom, Fabulous, Headspace, Noom, Take2, mindDoc – there’s a ton of them. And your state may have an app with crisis support. Mine does – it’s called safeUT, and you can use it to chat with live crisis counselors. 

I’ll make some videos about my favorite apps and books, hopefully soon, but I do have some links in the description if you’d like to learn more. 

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