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You deserve support, even when your budget limits your options. These 7 services can make it easier to find the help you need at no cost to you.
- Best for depression support: Bliss
- Best for teens: 7 Cups
- Best for a crisis: Crisis Text Line
- Best for addiction: Alcoholics Anonymous
- Best for women of color: DRK Beauty Healing
- Best online therapy with a free trial: Rethink My Therapy
- Best for essential workers: Therapy Aid Coalition
Life can pose plenty of challenges, and moments of distress make up part of the human experience.
You may know trained therapists can offer help with managing mental health symptoms and other emotional distress. But what happens when you can’t afford therapy? What if the very concerns fueling your distress relate to your financial situation?
We’re here to help. While we do want to emphasize online therapy with a trained mental health professional is rarely free, our seven picks for free mental health services can make it easier to find the support you need.
Online therapy works in much the same way as face-to-face therapy. The main difference lies in the fact that sessions happen online, over secure video chat, instead of in a therapist’s office. In other words, you receive therapy at home, with no need to travel or rearrange your schedule.
Many experts consider online therapy an effective approach that increases access to care and helps decrease stigma associated with mental health treatment.
Most mental health professionals switched to online therapy for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The benefits of online care extend beyond physical distancing, though.
Teletherapy, or online mental healthcare, can be a great option if you:
- have a hard time finding child care
- lack reliable transportation
- live with mental or physical health symptoms that make it difficult to leave home
- have a busy schedule
- have difficulties affording face-to-face therapy
Since online therapy allows you to work with any professional licensed to practice in your state, it can also open up your options for care when you live in a small town or rural area.
Best for depression support
This free program from the Canadian nonprofit Centre for Interactive Mental Health Solutions is based on principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The American Psychological Association supports CBT as an effective treatment for depression and other mental health concerns.
Though it was created by a Canadian organization, the program is available to everyone, anywhere.
In eight interactive sessions, you’ll learn new techniques to help track and manage changes in your mood and emotions, along with strategies to help create positive change. These lessons are self-guided, so you can work at your own pace, whenever you have time.
Best for teens
Venting your feelings can really make a difference, so sometimes, opening up about your struggles is enough to get some relief. At 7 Cups, you’ll find trained volunteers ready to provide a listening ear and offer confidential emotional support, no matter what you’re going through.
While people of all ages can find support and self-help resources at 7 Cups, the service offers free dedicated chat rooms and community support forums for teens between the ages of 13 and 17.
As a teen, you can connect with a trained volunteer, called a “listener.” Though these listeners don’t offer licensed therapy, talking with them could still prove beneficial.
If you’re over 18 years old, you can also use 7 Cups to get help from a licensed therapist for $150 per month.
Best for a crisis
An emotional or mental health crisis can look very different from person to person. You may think about self-harm, experience suicidal thoughts, or feel overwhelmed by painful emotions. These intense feelings often make it difficult to focus on anything else.
Texting the Crisis Text Line connects you with a trained counselor who will listen without judgment and help you explore strategies to cope with distress and stay safe. This service isn’t therapy, and crisis counselors won’t give advice, but they can offer resources to make your next steps easier.
If you need support right now, text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
Best for addiction
Research from 2020 suggests the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most effective treatment for alcohol use disorders. If you’re seeking support with addressing substance use, you might already have some familiarity with AA and related 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous.
What you may not know, though, is that you can access virtual meetings online. Meetings are always free, and they happen frequently throughout the day. If 12-step programs aren’t for you, SMART Recovery offers an alternative approach to free online support for addiction.
Best for women of color
If you’re a woman of color living in the United States, DRK Beauty Healing can help you connect with a licensed mental health professional in your state for five free therapy sessions. You can choose your own therapist by searching the directory, but providers may not be available in all states.
While your therapist may not strictly be an online therapist, all therapy sessions will take place online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Best online therapy with a free trial
While Rethink My Therapy costs $100 per month for unlimited phone or video appointments, you can try the service out with a 7-day trial period.
Therapists at Rethink My Therapy can treat a number of mental health concerns, including bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use, in addition to anxiety and depression. You can also get support for relationship and family issues.
Best for essential workers
This service connects essential workers and people affected by disasters and other crises with free or pay-what-you-can mental health support. You’ll also find links to other resources for affordable or free therapy on the website.
If you qualify for the service, you’ll receive up to four free or low cost sessions with a therapist of your choice. Therapists may offer telehealth or in-person therapy.
We’ve got a few more tips to help you find free online mental health support.
Check your insurance benefits
Some insurance plans cover online therapy or sessions with a therapist through virtual healthcare services like Teladoc or Amwell. If your insurance covers therapy in general, those benefits will extend to video sessions with a local mental health professional.
Explore community resources
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many community support groups or mental health centers have taken their services online. An online search for “free mental health support near me” can help you find resources in your area.
Many workplaces also offer mental health benefits through Employee Assistance Programs. Check with your human resources department to find out whether your employer offers counseling or resources for mental health support.
Local universities may also offer free counseling or support groups.
Visit trusted mental health organizations
Some therapists reserve a few sessions each week for clients who are unable to pay the full therapy fee. Even if they usually provide face-to-face therapy, most providers now offer online sessions for COVID-19 safety reasons.
To find a therapist in your area who may offer free or low cost mental healthcare, visit:
- American Psychological Association
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Open Path Psychotherapy Collective
- Ayana Therapy
- Therapy for Latinx
- National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network
- Inclusive Therapists
- Institute for Muslim Mental Health
- Asian, Pacific Islander, and South Asian American (APISAA) Therapist Directory
If you’re having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can access free support right away with these resources:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call the Lifeline at 800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text START to 678678, or chat online 24-7.
- Veterans Crisis Line. Call 800-273-8255, text 838255, or chat online 24-7.
- Befrienders Worldwide. This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.
There’s no denying that therapy can get expensive, especially when it comes to online therapy subscriptions not covered by insurance. You typically can’t use these online therapy services free of charge, but don’t let that discourage you.
Finding free or significantly discounted therapy may take time and effort, but you do have options for support.
Many therapists recognize that not everyone who needs help can afford it, so it’s always worth asking whether they can work with your budget or refer you to someone who can.