How to find free or affordable therapy
Reviewed by Susan Radzilowski, MSW, LMSW, ACSW
Written byElise Burley
Last updated: 09/12/2023
More people are looking for therapy today than ever before.1 But for those who don’t have insurance, or whose insurance doesn’t cover mental health services, therapy can be very expensive. The average cost of a single session ranges from $60 to $200 per hour or more, depending on a therapist’s training, specialty, experience, and other factors.
To help make mental health services more accessible and affordable, some organizations offer free or low-cost therapy. Most of these services provide support for anxiety and depression—two of the most common mental health conditions—and some also address specific problems such as substance abuse, eating disorders, or domestic violence.
If you’d like to find an organization in your area that offers free or low-cost therapy, you can do an online search or contact one of the resources listed below to see if they can help. If you’re insured, look for a therapist who’s covered by your plan; if you have a primary care provider, you can ask them for a referral.
Finding therapy through your insurance
If you have insurance, your plan may cover in-person or online therapy. Here are some steps you can take:
- If you’re not sure whether your plan covers mental health services, call the customer service line and ask. Many insurance companies have a specific department that handles mental health coverage.
- If you’re covered, find a therapist who’s in your network. This means the therapist accepts your insurance plan and will bill your insurance company directly for sessions. It also means the therapist will accept a predetermined rate for the session, which is often lower than the rate they charge clients directly. You may have a copay for each session, and you may have to pay out of pocket for care until your annual deductible amount is reached. Contact customer service at your insurance company to ask what the cost will be.
- If you don’t know whether a therapist is in your insurance network, ask the therapist or check their website—our directory also includes this information for many clinicians. To get the most up-to-date information on coverage, though, it’s best to talk with your insurance company.
Given current demand for therapy, it can be challenging to find a mental health professional who’s in your network and accepting new patients. This can be especially true if you’re looking for a clinician of color—according to a 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics study, 77% of mental health counselors identify as White.2 See below for links to several organizations that help members of systemically excluded communities get low-cost or free culturally competent therapy.
If you choose a therapist who’s not in your network, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for sessions. Some insurance providers provide some out-of-network coverage, but it can still be relatively expensive.
Options for therapy without insurance
Some therapists offer sliding-scale sessions by reducing their standard fee based on a client’s income and ability to pay. This doesn’t always make therapy affordable, but it can help. Sliding-scale programs are also available at some nonprofit mental health organizations, community clinics, and health centers.
To find a sliding-scale therapist near you, go to our therapist directory and search by location. Select “Refine your search,” then “Insurance and payment,” then “Yes” under “Sliding scale.”
Employee assistance programs
Some employers offer employee assistance programs (EAPs). These come in different forms, but they generally include free services that help employees deal with personal or work-related problems. An EAP may offer support for stress management, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, relationship problems, and other concerns.
Note that EAP counseling is often limited to 10 sessions or fewer. Services provided by an EAP are confidential, so details aren’t given to the employer. To find out if your workplace offers an EAP, contact your employer’s human resources department.
Student wellness programs
Many colleges and universities are able to offer low-cost or free therapy, counseling, or psychiatric services to full-time and part-time students.
To learn what your school offers, contact your student services center or do an online search for “student mental health services” and the name of your college or university.
Organizations for systemically excluded groups
The following organizations help people of color and/or LGBTQIA+ people access and afford culturally competent mental health care.
- Lotus Therapy Fund (Asian Mental Health Collective) offers financial support to eligible Asian or Asian American applicants for eight therapy sessions.
- Loveland Therapy Fund (The Loveland Foundation) provides financial assistance to Black women and girls for therapy, with sign-ups reopening on a quarterly basis.
- BIPOC Therapy Fund (Inclusive Therapists) invites eligible people of color to apply for community-funded therapy services, then connects them with professionally licensed providers from the same community.
- National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network’s Mental Health Fund helps queer and trans people of color pay for sessions with participating therapists.
- The US Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service (IHS) seeks to improve the health of American Indian and Alaska Native people. In addition to information and resources, the IHS site maintains a nationwide map of tribal and urban Indian health facilities, including behavioral health programs.
In the United States, free or low-cost mental health resources are available through several nationwide nonprofits and government programs:
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a wide range of support services for people living with mental illness, as well as their families. NAMI’s services include in-person and online support groups, education programs, and referrals.
The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFCC) provides information on more than 1,400 clinics across the country that offer free or low-cost health care services (often including therapy options) to people in need, whether they’re insured or not.
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) helps people manage and overcome eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder through a variety of outreach initiatives. NEDA’s site provides links to free and low-cost support resources.
FindTreatment.gov, part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is a confidential resource that helps people find treatment programs for substance abuse disorders and other mental health concerns.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a wide range of mental health services to veterans and their families, including individual and group therapy, medication management, and peer support.
Nonprofit community-based clinics can offer a range of low-cost or free health services—including mental health services—to clients regardless of their ability to pay. Services vary by location but may include individual or group therapy, medication management, depression and anxiety screenings, support groups, and substance abuse treatment referrals.
To find an organization near you, do an online search for “free therapy” or “affordable therapy” plus the name of your city or town. You may also want to check with your state’s department of mental health or social services. Many states have directories of affordable mental health services on their websites.
Support groups are another way to get the help you need at minimal or no cost. These groups meet regularly online or in public places, such as churches or libraries, and are open to everyone. One example is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a free 12-step program for people who want to stop drinking. You can find a list of support group resources through Mental Health America.
Crisis lines and chat services
If you need help right away, call a crisis line or chat online with a trained professional. Crisis lines like the 988 Lifeline are available 24/7 and offer free, confidential support. Chat services are typically open during certain hours of the day, but they also offer immediate help and support. These services vary according to the type of help you need.
Depression, suicide, and emotional distress
LGBTQIA+ youth and adults
- LGBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4565
- Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
- The Trevor Project: Call 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678678
Domestic violence and abuse
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453
Substance abuse and addiction
For additional support services, visit our Helplines page.
While mental health apps aren’t a solution on their own, they may be an affordable way to support your emotional health while you look for therapy that fits your budget. Some apps offer exercises rooted in mindfulness, such as breathing and muscle relaxation; some offer AI-assisted chat features; and some offer paid chat access to a live coach.
No matter your income level, help is available now for your mental health. Don’t hesitate to reach out to any of these resources for support.
About the author
Elise Burley is a member of the therapist.com editorial team. She has more than a decade of professional experience writing and editing on a variety of health topics, including for several health-related e-commerce businesses, media publications, and licensed professionals. When she’s not working, she’s usually practicing yoga or off the grid somewhere on her latest canoe camping adventure.