Think you can’t Afford Counseling? Low Cost Therapy is Available

From the maxed-out mom who finds comfort in a community support group to the recent retiree who needs help pinpointing the source of his blues, access to adequate, affordable treatment and support is essential for millions of American with mental health concerns. But with state budget cuts threatening local services and programs across the country, the people who need these services most could see their support systems disappear.

A recent report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that more than half of Americans with mental and emotional issues don’t get help – and that number is only expected to grow as states slash their mental health care budgets in response to growing deficits.

But if you need mental health attention and you can’t afford it, the last thing you should do is nothing.

If you are in the situation where you are financially unable to get treatment through large care providers, then there are some things to consider. The first is whether you have health insurance. Sometimes insurance can be more of a burden than a help since it will disqualify you from certain programs. Add in high deductibles, large co-pays, and large premiums and you may find yourself still not being able to afford treatment.

If you don’t have insurance and don’t qualify for a financial assistance program, your options diminish. There is a large group of people who fall into this category. Usually your income will fall in a range that disqualifies you for government assistance and other private assistance programs while also being unable to afford costly insurance payments. Worried? Don’t be.

You’re not out of options.

In this situation you will need to find private free clinics or mental health centers that offer a sliding scaleGo grassroots. Mental health organizations, such as NAMI and Mental Health America (MHA), have made it their mission to help every American find a mental health care solution. These grassroots advocacy organizations have local affiliates spanning all states — they’re generally small groups that can assist you in identifying local, low-cost, high quality care.

So if you can’t afford traditionally priced therapy, know that other options are available. Your mental health does matter and having the courage to reach out is hard enough without having to feel as though you can’t access the help you need. It takes a little digging sometimes, but it’s well worth it, because you can’t afford to do nothing.

People House has a program that offers low cost therapy, it operates on a sliding fee scale with rates between $20-$40. It is a cost effective option, check out the counselors in our Affordable Counseling Program here 

Where to start?

NAMI and MHA are great resources. You can find information on your local state chapter online, as well as contact information and further resource lists. There are many therapists, social workers, and other mental health professionals offering slide scale and low-cost services. You can also look for support groups and process groups, many of which you can find offered for a low fee, on a donation basis, and even free.

Starting Therapy

If you’ve done your research and decided that you want to see a therapist, the next step is to contact the professionals you’re interested in working with to set up an initial appointment. If you found the therapist online, there is probably contact information listed.

Emailing or calling the therapist is normal and expected – that is how they get clients!

Making the first phone call can be the hardest part, but it will be well worth the benefit! Prepare what you want to say before making the call so that you can be clear about your needs, even if you’re nervous or anxious to talk about them. Some things to consider are: why you’re seeking counseling, what you want to work on with a therapist, what you can afford to pay, and what your availability is. You might also consider asking questions about the therapist’s practice and areas of focus.

You can decide whether you want to feel confident about your connection with a therapist before making a first appointment or if you want to wait and see how things go in person. Some therapists offer a free short consultation! They understand that the relationship between the therapist and client (you) is of the utmost importance, so it is important to them that you two are the right match. Don’t be afraid to ask the therapist if they offer a free (or discounted) consultation/initial meeting.

It’s important to remember that finding a therapist is a unique process and you should never feel like you have to work with the first person you reach. You get to advocate for yourself. If you don’t feel like it’s a good match, it’s okay to thank the therapist for their time and find someone else.

Some Tips for Surviving Your First Session:

  • Don’t schedule something for immediately after your appointment. You might want some time to decompress and think through what came up for you in your session.
  • Write down a list of what you’d like to tell the therapist. If, during the session, you get too anxious, you can give this list to the therapist to give her a starting point.
  • If you’re unsure where to start, tell your therapist that you need some help or guidance.
  • Only say what you’re comfortable with saying – you don’t have to go into everything in your first session.
  • If you can’t bring yourself to say something, ask the therapist if you can write it down. Many therapists have pen and paper for this exact purpose!
  • Remember that you are always in control of what and how much you say.
  • Bring a comfort object with you.
  • Find a comfortable sitting position. If you don’t like where the pillows are, move them!
  • Be gentle with yourself. You are making a huge step in your healing process.
  • Treat yourself to something special after your appointment. You deserve it.




People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth