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Valuing Therapy and How to Find an Affordable (or Free) Therapist or Counselor

These seven resources can make the search for affordable mental health care easier.

“How are you doing?” can be a loaded question in care work. Imagine, for instance, a care worker who has dealt with immigration issues, lost wages, and a battle with cancer.

This fictional care worker filed her immigration paperwork seven years ago, and after about a year of waiting, she received her authorization to work. But about three years in, her immigration nightmare started. Officials raised one issue after another, and when her lawyer couldn’t follow through with all the requirements, her case stalled. All the while, she worked paycheck to paycheck to cover tuition costs and provide for her young children’s living expenses in her country of origin. She had to take on additional shift work to afford her lawyers. When her work authorization couldn’t be renewed and she lost her income, the care worker learned that she was battling cancer.

Photo credit: Alex Green for Pexels

After a couple of lost, mentally stressful years, her immigration issues were resolved, and now she is cancer-free. But looking back, the care worker asked herself, at what point could a therapist or counseling have helped her the most?

While this care worker’s story is fictional, stories like this are not uncommon in the care working space. Without health insurance and a living wage, it’s difficult to cater to your own physical and mental health. In addition, many care workers come from socio-cultural backgrounds where it is generally taboo to trust or seek mental health therapy. Where can care workers find free or affordable therapy or other types of support to help them break barriers and value mental health care?

Often, the people who can benefit most from therapy are the ones who can accept, afford, or value it the least. You can probably come up with hundreds of excuses not to get mental health care; don’t let price be one of them. Even if you don’t have health insurance or extra money, you can access online and offline resources for mental health care. Here are seven places to look for free or affordable therapy or counseling:

  • A crisis line

  • The Therapy Aid Coalition

  • Publicly funded mental health care

  • A sliding-scale therapist

  • A warm line

  • Peer support groups

  • Clinicians in training

Call a crisis line

First of all, if you are currently experiencing a mental health crisis or contemplating suicide, please reach out to a crisis line ASAP. Here are two ways to get help right now:

  • Crisis Text Line: This free service immediately responds to people having a mental health crisis. Just text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States and Canada or via WhatsApp. Two automated responses will direct you to a secure online platform, where you speak with a trained counselor.

  • 988 Lifeline: Dial 988 or text 988 from any phone in the United States, and you’ll be connected with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Your free, confidential call or text will be directed to the nearest crisis center, which can help you with counseling and mental health referrals.

Tap into the Therapy Aid Coalition

The Therapy Aid Coalition is a network of volunteers that provides free or affordable therapy to healthcare workers, essential workers, and first responders. The platform works with therapists who offer their services for free or at very discounted rates.

To sign up, you fill out a form with your location and the amount you can pay, and the website returns a list of available therapists. Just make sure that you contact the clinician via the Therapy Aid Coalition website, to ensure you get the pro bono or reduced rate.

Access publicly funded mental health care

Open Counseling has an excellent guide to free mental-health resources available in each state. Just visit this directory of public mental health services, navigate to your state, and learn if you qualify. Open Counseling lists helplines and phone numbers in each area that you can call to find a professional.

Another place to look is Mental Health America, which is a national organization with local affiliates throughout the country. Check out MHA’s list of local affiliates to find the office closest to you, then contact your local MHA office to find mental health programs and services in your area.

Finally, you can locate free or low-fee clinics by contacting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine or by visiting

Find a sliding-scale therapist

Many mental-health professionals charge “sliding scale” rates, meaning the fee is determined based on your income. You only pay what you can afford to pay, though sometimes you have to provide proof of income.

To find a therapist who offers sliding scale rates, visit the Psychology Today therapist directory, enter your zip code, and navigate to the “Price” dropdown menu and select “Sliding Scale.” Another great resource is Inclusive Therapists, which lets you search only for sliding-scale therapists and helps you narrow your search by identity group or language spoken. Similarly, the Open Path Psychotherapy Collective offers a network of therapists — online or in-person — who offer individual counseling for sliding-scale rates ranging from $30 to $60.

Call a warm line

Like a crisis line, warm lines are free but designed for people who are in need but not in crisis. Staffed by trained volunteers (not clinicians), warm lines do not take the place of ongoing therapy. But this telephone-based treatment is ideal for anyone who wants to have a few conversations in a time of need. Click here to find a warmline in your state.

Join a peer support group

If you are coping with a specific issue — such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, or substance abuse — you may be able to find a peer support group. Peer support groups are typically free and bring you together with other people who are dealing with the same issues.

Like Alcoholics Anonymous, peer support groups meet both online and offline. Most support groups are led by a peer, while others are moderated by a mental health professional. Below are some resources to find support groups:

Find a clinician in training

Tapping into training clinics and universities is another way to access lower-cost mental health services. People who are studying to earn PhDs in psychology or degrees in mental health counseling often see patients as part of their training. These students charge reduced rates but also have the supervision of a licensed professional.

To find a training center near you, visit the website of the American Psychoanalytic Association, which has a list of locations offering this more affordable, professional care.

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