What to Do if You Can’t Afford Therapy

Published on: 08 Jul 2022
Clinically Reviewed by Karmen Smith LCSW, DD 
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With roughly 1 in 5 adults experiencing a mental health concern in 2020, it’s no surprise that the demand for therapy has drastically increased in recent years. Unfortunately, therapy is often cost-prohibitive for many people, sometimes even for those with health insurance. The high cost of treatment means too many people postpone (or never get at all) the help they need — simply because they believe they can’t afford therapy.

It’s estimated that at least 20% of people in the United States who have a diagnosed mental health condition don’t have insurance. Even for those who do have health insurance, if a mental health provider is out-of-network (meaning they’re not a contracted partner with an insurance provider), the costs to get services from them can be considerably more.

But don’t lose hope if you’re looking for affordable therapy. Thankfully, there are options available if you’re among the many who live with a mental health condition but can’t afford therapy or are seeking therapy without insurance. We will further discuss feasible ways to obtain the mental health resources you need to succeed. Read on to learn more about what to do if you can’t afford therapy.

Potential Options to Consider

If you’re worried you can’t afford therapy, there are many lower-cost options to consider. Therapy is integral to learning how to cope with anxiety, depression, addiction, or any other mental health conditions. If you’ve ever thought “I can’t afford therapy,” consider the following options.

Check your insurance coverage 

If you have health insurance, check your coverage. Your insurance plan should have a list of in-network behavioral health providers. In-network providers are usually less expensive than out-of-network. Health insurance providers should offer coverage for some or all of the following:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Support groups

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) that went into legislation in 2010 and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008 both work to ensure that insurance plans offer coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services. You definitely want to ask your insurance provider what mental health benefits you have through your plan. Additionally, see if you can use your HSA for therapy.

If you decide to see an out-of-network provider, you’ll be responsible for paying your therapist’s fees upfront. However, you might be able to submit an out-of-network claim to your insurance for at least partial reimbursement. Ask your therapist for a copy of your Superbill, which will include pertinent data such as contact information, diagnostic codes, and dates of service.

Most insurance companies have a process for submitting out-of-network claims online. If yours doesn’t, you might have to print out a form from your insurance company’s website and mail it along with the Superbill. 

*Submitting a Superbill is simple when you use Talkspace online therapy. Find out more about how to access and submit a Superbill today. 

Group therapy

Some mental health providers offer group therapy, which tends to be a more affordable option because you can share the cost with other patients. At first, joining a group of strangers to talk about mental health might seem scary, but group therapy has advantages that solo treatment does not. Group therapy helps you develop a support group guided by a mental health professional.

Many support groups are tailored to a specific issue, such as addiction, social anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or health. Other groups focus on strengthening social skills in general, assisting people with various concerns such as aggression, shyness, loneliness, and low self-esteem.

Sliding scale fee

It’s not uncommon for therapists to offer a sliding scale system for fees. This means they charge you based on your income or ability to pay. Sliding scales can benefit those in a lower income bracket or who don’t have insurance and will be self-paying. Regardless of your situation, don’t hesitate to ask your behavioral health provider if they offer a sliding scale system for their fees. It can be a great way to figure out how to afford therapy and get the help you need. 

“There are several options to consider when you can’t afford therapy. Asking a therapist for a sliding scale or pro bono services, applying for services at a local community center, checking if your employer offers an employee assistance program, and checking online services are some of the options.”

Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW

Health clinics at colleges 

If you’re a college student, you likely have a fantastic resource right on campus. While it may not be free, it’s probably more affordable than seeing a therapist in the community. In addition, college mental health providers also understand the challenges and pressures young students face. 

Online therapy 

Most companies that offer online therapy, like Talkspace, are much more affordable per session than traditional in-person sessions. They usually require you to pay a monthly subscription fee, but that typically includes a weekly therapy session as well as in-app messaging with your provider.

“Thanks to technology, online therapy is more affordable and sometimes even free. You can search online or ask a therapist about resources or referrals to find online services.”

Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW

Low or No-Cost Options for Mental Health

The concerns about how to afford therapy can feel overwhelming, but they don’t have to be. There are many low-cost (and even several no-cost) options for finding the support you need.

Community health centers 

Almost every county in the U.S. has a community health center for those in need of mental health services. However, sometimes finding these centers can be challenging. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a searchable database of local NAMI chapters across the country. Once you’ve found your local chapter, you can review a list of local mental health centers and community services in your area.

“Community clinics are some of the best options to find no-cost services. Some of them combine medical and mental health services in one place, giving you the opportunity to receive both services in one place.”

Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW

Employee assistance program 

Many employers offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs assist employees experiencing personal or work-related issues. A lot of times, behavioral health therapy is available for free either via telehealth or in-person.

Faith-based groups

Don’t hesitate to seek help through a faith-based group if you’re a church, synagogue, or mosque member. Many organizations offer free faith-based support groups to help you with anxiety, addiction, depression, and other mental health conditions.

Online support groups

There are numerous free online support groups for mental health, but sometimes it takes a little searching to find them. If you’re on social media, especially Facebook, a simple search for “mental health support groups” will show you a long list of applicable groups that are free to join.

In addition, the Mental Health Alliance offers a fantastic resource for finding online support groups.

Meditation apps or self-help books

The library can be a fantastic resource for finding useful self-help books. You can search for a self-help book  about a specific condition (including anxiety, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, etc.) and check out any that will address your needs. Most libraries also offer access to e-books and audiobooks, if you prefer those options.

There are hundreds of apps available today that aim to help people relieve anxiety and stress through guided meditation and other motivational techniques. Along that same route, you can also check out free podcasts with doctors and therapists about coping with various mental health conditions.

Finding Affordable Therapy 

While the cost of therapy can be daunting, it’s not impossible to find affordable mental health care to meet your needs. Options like online support groups, online therapy platforms like Talkspace, self-help podcasts, or employee assistance programs are all worth checking out.   Talkspace offers pricing tiers with billing cycle options, as well frequent promos for $100 off your first month subscription.

Don’t give up looking just because you think I can’t afford therapy. Affordable, accessible help is out there — it’s just about finding the right fit for your needs. 

Sources:

1. Mental Health By the Numbers | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nami.org. https://www.nami.org/mhstats. Published 2022. Accessed June 7, 2022.

2. About the Affordable Care Act. HHS.gov. https://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/about-the-aca/index.html. Published 2022. Accessed June 7, 2022. 

3. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) | CMS. Cms.gov. https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Programs-and-Initiatives/Other-Insurance-Protections/mhpaea_factsheet. Accessed June 7, 2022. 

4. Find Your Local NAMI | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nami.org. https://nami.org/findsupport. Accessed June 7, 2022.

5. Find Support Groups. Mental Health America. https://mhanational.org/find-support-groups. Accessed June 7, 2022.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

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