The Ultimate Guide to Affordable Counseling
Are you struggling with a mental illness? You can get help no matter what your financial situation is. Read the article to find tips to find affordable counseling near you.
Introduction to Affordable Counseling
Finding a therapist is a big step in taking charge of your mental health and wellbeing.
Unlike the common cold and flu, mental health issues — such as depression and anxiety — can take a lot of time to heal.
In fact, studies have shown that most individuals in therapy require 5-10 session and they meet their counselors each week.
This means that therapy is a big commitment and it can be costly.
If left untreated, these issues can interfere with your relationships, school, work, etc. and quickly change your life — for the worse.
Mental illness when untreated for a prolonged period of time lowers your quality of life by influencing your psychological state.
However, not all mental health issues are your fault.
They’ll neither go away on their own nor can you come out of your it on your own.
Just like physical health issues, mental health issues require support.
Support can be in the form of medication, help from people close to you or therapy.
Therapists and counselors usually charge between $70-$175 per session.
In fact, the charges expensive cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Fransisco, are $200 per session.
Luckily, if you wish to book an appointment right away but don’t have the means to shell out the required amount of cash, these low-cost services are available.
To help you get started, here’s a list of affordable counseling options.
Phone or Online Therapy
A therapist will help you understand your behaviour and emotions and guide you to make healthy lifestyle changes.
You can seek the help of a therapist that provides a phone or an online session.
Your friends can help you feel less alone and offer you the support that you need.
Of course, they’re not the same as therapy but they can supplement what therapy has to offer.
If you believe you can’t discuss your issues with your friends, ask your counselor for a local support group that you can join.
For instance, Alcoholics Anonymous supports people recovering from addiction.
It’s a 12-step model of addiction recovery.
Similarly, Narcotics Anonymous supports people addicted to drugs along with their families.
If you’re a resident of America, you can find a support group near you according to your issue here.
Community mental health centers often receive funding from nonprofit organizations, taxes and advocacy groups.
This enables them to offer discounted mental health services based on the individual’s income.
The services vary from center to center but include services like assessments, counseling and medication management.
SAMHSA can help you with your search for a community mental health center near you.
Counselors and Therapists in Training
Counselors and therapists require a fixed number of therapy hours to qualify for a license to practice.
Such practitioners often offer a steep discount and sometimes even free sessions.
They work under the supervision of licensed counselors and therapists ensuring you get quality care.
Schools that train therapists generally offer discounted or free sessions to help their students fill licensing requirements.
If there’s a university or college near you that has a counseling program, ask them if they can pair you with a therapist.
You will either be assigned a fixed therapist for a few sessions or rotated between different practitioners.
Clarify these things in detail so that you know what kind of care will you receive and from whom.
Affordable counseling is counseling. You’re still a consumer buying a service. Therefore, don’t be afraid to clarify your doubts, ask as many questions as you want regarding insurance, sliding scales and pricing. Therapy is a personalized product, but if you’re a smart customer, you’ll do your research, get a lot of quotes and then decide.
The Association of Psychology Training Clinics is one such institution that can refer you to a discount clinic for practitioners in training.
University and College Counseling Centers
Are you a university or college student?
If yes, you’re eligible for therapy at your college’s counseling center.
Some universities also offer this service to the staff and their teachers.
The area of expertise of such therapists might be limited.
If so, they will refer you to another practitioner for free of charge or at a hefty discount.
Generally, they’ll be able to help you with (but not limited to):
- Family issues
- Personal growth
- Sexuality and gender
- Identity crisis
- Long-term illness
- Loss and grief
- Difficult life transitions
- Eating disorders
- Mood disorders
Most practitioners enter this field because they understand the importance of therapy.
They’re aware that not everyone can afford therapy and therefore, offer sliding-scale fees.
This means that you pay for their services according to your income.
To avail this, you need to provide documentation of your income and expenses.
Since these practitioners earn via providing therapy, they offer limited slots.
You need to inquire about the availability of these slots and the number of sessions you can get at these rates.
A quick Google search of ‘sliding scale therapy near me’ will help you find such practitioners in your area.
And if all of them have already taken patients (highly unlikely) they’ll refer you to someone else that’s offering therapy on sliding-scale rates.
Free Treatment for Emergencies
You’re eligible to seek treatment at the emergency room during a mental health emergency.
It’s better to go to a psychiatric hospital if possible.
Every hospital that receives taxpayer funding needs to provide treatment regardless of your ability to pay.
You may receive a bill later but if you’ve got insurance, your insurer will most likely cover it (or a portion of it).
According to the law, every tax-funded hospital needs to offer stabilizing treatment.
This includes monitoring the patient for 1-3 days including medication.
Please note that no therapy is offered in these emergency rooms.
As the name suggests, they only provide treatment for emergencies.
You should immediately go to an emergency room or call 911 if you believe you will hurt yourself or someone.
Crisis and Suicide Prevention Hotlines
Affordable counseling providers usually have a long waiting list.
Even if you’re lucky enough to get an appointment with a top-notch therapist, you’ll have to wait for a few days.
If you’re in crisis especially experiencing feelings of hopelessness, overwhelming depression or suicidal thoughts, domestic violence, sexual assault, you should immediately call a crisis hotline.
Some even offer online support.
They won’t offer any therapy but are free and might even help you locate an affordable or free therapy clinic near you.
Some local organizations, churches and communities offer their own hotlines.
Here are a few free national hotlines:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
The Steve Fund: Text “STEVE” to 741741
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN): 1-800-656-4673
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Most insurers are required to offer equal coverage for physical and mental health.
If you have insurance, your mental health treatment is already covered.
Contact your insurer to inquire about the mental health issues they cover, the number of sessions, etc.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Inquire with the HR representative to know if your organisation has an employee assistance program.
If yes, you’re eligible for a few counseling sessions.
If you’re worried about your colleagues knowing your issues, you should know that anything you discuss with your therapist will stay confidential.
Your employer wants you to practice self-care to be able to perform your job well.
Apart from this program, your organization might also have wellness classes or other resources.
A quick email to an excellent therapist requesting to take your case on pro-basis might change your life.
The ethical codes of practitioners suggest that they should take at least a few pro bono cases every year to serve the public.
If they decline, they’re most likely to refer you to a good clinic or another professional.
Clinics have the same rules as banks — they’re open from 9 to 5 Monday to Friday.
If you’re a working professional, your only option to see your therapist is to take a leave.
Like many students, new moms, healthcare and business professionals, you might want to try therapy apps.
You can talk to your therapist from anywhere and at whatever time that suits you.
These two are the best apps that are there today:
BetterHelp is affordable, convenient and effective.
Over 12,00,000 people have joined it and taken help of one of 13,000 accredited and licensed counselors.
Everything that you share with your counselor is confidential and they provide a safe and private online environment to discuss your issues.
Prices range from $40-$70 per week.
Talkspace’s HIPAA-compliant app is easy-to-use and allows you to match a therapist according to your area of issue.
You need to sign up, take a test, choose a therapist and pick the level of support to start therapy.
This app is best for you if you’re someone who’s awake until the wee hours of the morning as it allows you to schedule appointments late at night.
Prices range from $20-$75 per week.
Taking in all this information can be overwhelming.
If you’re anxious, the last thing you need is a long to-do list. Follow these tips to make your life easier:
- If you’re worried about the cost of therapy, don’t hesitate to ask upfront. Just because you can’t find the payment options you’re looking for on the website doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not there.
- Don’t feel shy to ask your health care provider to walk you through the treatment process more than once. It’s their job!
- Research, take recommendations and invest some time in finding a counslor or therapist. Believe us, it’s worth it.
- Your friends would love to support you in whoever way they can — take you to your first session, spend time after a stressful day, babysit your children — you wouldn’t know until you ask.
- Always remember prioritizing self-care isn’t selfish. You will be able to be a better parent, partner, friend or employee only if your mind and body are healthy.
- Disclosing your condition to your employer is your decision. Go through the policies again and check the notice period needed to apply for leaves for your therapy sessions. Your health is your business and not anyone else’s.
- Choose therapy (even if affordable counseling) after carefully evaluating all your available options.
Finding free or cheap mental health care services can be challenging, especially if you’re already feeling overwhelmed by depression or anxiety.
Seek help from loved ones.
Thoroughly evaluate the available options and resources.
Even if you receive discounted therapy, you have the right to quality care.
Getting financial assistance by no means translates into compromising with the kind of care you receive.
You deserve good mental care.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions about your treatment or asking for a different therapist.
What are your thoughts on affordable counseling? Let us know in the comments section below.
Shristi is an avid reader, recipe developer and wellness enthusiast. She’s probably making a mess in her kitchen right now.