When someone begins the search for the right therapist, they can quickly become overwhelmed with the cost per session. Out of pocket therapy typically costs anywhere from $100 to $200, with costs on the higher end in urban areas. All that work may prematurely tempt you to end the hunt and find other ways to cope with life. But meeting with a mental health professional can be an invaluable resource, so don’t cancel the hunt before you take a closer look at what’s available in your community. You may find that there are affordable or even free therapy services in your neighborhood.

Let’s take at a couple of strategies for finding affordable therapy with the right therapist. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find the right therapist at your first appointment, as it typically takes a few attempts to find the right fit.

Check with Your Insurance

Before you pay out-of-pocket for therapy, always check with your insurance provider for local therapists that may take your insurance. You may have a very small co-pay and not know it, so it never hurts to confirm with your provider. If you have out of network benefits, many therapists can also provide you with paperwork that you can submit to your provider for reimbursement. Just make sure that the reimbursement rate is worth paying out of pocket.

Call Your Local University

If you live in a city or a college town, universities are often the best place to get low-cost (or even free) therapy. If you’re a student, you’re usually entitled to at least a few sessions with a campus psychologist or counselor. But almost any university will have a graduate training clinic where students are learning to be therapists or psychologists. These clinics are usually open to the public, and they offer sliding scales fees that can be as low as $1.

Don’t feel nervous about meeting with a graduate student who’s learning the ropes. They’re working under the supervision of experienced professionals, and they’re likely to dedicate more time to thinking about how to help you than a seasoned professional with a full caseload. If you feel more comfortable working with a counselor of a specific gender or race, most university clinics will make an effort to match you with your preference.

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Ask About Pro-Bono Services

You have nothing to lose by emailing a few expensive therapists and asking them if they offer a sliding scale fee based on income or do pro-bono work. The ethical codes of most mental health professionals strongly suggest that they take on at least one or two pro bono clients to serve the public. And even if they say no, they’re likely to have good referral information about community clinics and other low-cost options in your community.

Check with Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Do you know if your work has an employee assistance program? If so, you may qualify for a limited number of free counseling sessions. Many people are hesitant to ask about counseling at work, but your therapist will keep your information confidential. Employers want their employees to access services and practice good self-care, so never hesitate to talk with your human resources representative about EAP services. These services might also include additional wellness classes or other resources in addition to therapy. If you’re concerned that your counseling appointments might be recorded in your personnel file, ask your HR representative about confidentiality policies regarding EAP programs.

Use Your Community Resources

Even if you live in a small community, you might be surprised what mental health resources are available to you. Community centers, hospitals, schools, and places of worship sometimes offer free or low-cost counseling. Many community organizations also host peer-support groups (groups run by people facing the same issues) and recovery groups which can provide additional care. If you’re unsure where to get started, you can call 211 (a government-established hotline that connects people to community or government agencies) or a local clinic. Chances are someone will be able to connect you to the right resources. Also, if you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, you may qualify for psychiatric and behavioral health services from your state. Contact your state’s department of health to see if you qualify for these services.

Check Out Online Services

If there aren’t a lot of resources in your community, don’t hesitate to try out an online listening service. These services can help you flesh out thoughts and concerns you might have before seeking therapy, and many sites will match you with listeners who are a good fit for you. If you’re experiencing a crisis, never hesitate to call a hotline and share what’s going on with you. If you aren’t sure what hotline to call, you can always call 211.

When it comes to searching for a therapist, don’t be discouraged on day one. Having conversations with local resources, your employer, your insurance company, and online resources can help direct you towards the right therapist for you. You don’t have to jeopardize your bank account to prioritize your mental health and your future.

Last Updated: Apr 26, 2018