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Mental Health

7 Affordable Therapy Options That Won’t Break The Bank

While therapy is becoming less stigmatized in our society, it unfortunately remains very, very expensive, and affordable therapy options are hard to come by. On average, a single session of psychotherapy in the United States costs between $100 to $200, according to a report conducted in 2019 by SimplePractice, a practice management system for mental health professionals. 

While some people may be able to afford paying $150 per week for therapy, college students may not be able to — whether they aren’t employed, don’t have their own insurance, or don’t have access to their parents’ insurance. And that’s the crux of the matter: we need more affordable therapy, period. With rising mental health issues among Gen Z largely due to the COVID pandemic, college students are seeking help now more than ever. According to a report conducted by Statista in 2018, over 40% of college students reached out to a counselor, therapist, or psychologist for mental health issues — and this number is likely even higher now. However, a huge deterrent of college students seeking help is the high price tag on therapy.

Here is a list of seven of the best affordable therapy options based on your unique needs, according to research and psychological experts.

sliding scale therapy

According to Healthline, sliding scale therapists are “psychotherapists, psychologists, and social workers who adjust their hourly fee to help make therapy more affordable for the client.” The way sliding scale therapists set up their rates varies, but many assign a specific fee to a set of particular incomes — then, during your consultation, they’ll ask you for your income and tell you the specific fee. Some may ask for proof of your income, while others may not.

Kurt Michael, MD, a licensed psychologist and professor at Appalachian State University, shares with Her Campus, “Sliding scales are usually based on household income. So for students who are on their own, they often qualify for much lower copays, if any.

Sliding scale therapy is the closest alternative to traditional therapy. Mental health directories like FindTreatment.gov and OpenCounseling are amazing resources that can help you find a sliding scale therapist that is a right fit for your needs. 

college counseling

Although college campuses need to be better about offering college students more adequate and accessible mental health resources, many universities offer affordable — and oftentimes free — counseling and therapy. “Most college counseling centers offer counseling to students without directly charging them, [since] the costs are typically covered by student fees,” Dr. Michael tells Her Campus. “Similarly, university counseling centers have had a long tradition of offering group therapy and supportive services that are usually free.

To learn more about your university’s mental health resources, check out their website.

local psychology training clinics and programs

Victor Schwartz, MD, CEO of Mind Strategies, shares that local psychology training clinics are another affordable option for college students. “Many hospital clinics or university departments of psychology that have graduate programs also have training clinics that offer low-cost and sliding scale therapy,” Dr. Schwartz tells Her Campus.

Local psychology training clinics are often located within or nearby universities, with graduate students typically conducting sessions under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.

hotlines and textlines

If you need immediate help, using a hotline or textline may be the best option for you. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a helpline available Monday through Friday from 10 am to 10 pm ET, and can be accessed by calling 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or emailing info@nami.org. If you’re in a crisis, text NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor and receive quick, free, and professional support. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides confidential, 24/7 support if you or someone you know is in distress, and can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255. There are also options for those who are Spanish speakers, Deaf and hard of hearing, and veterans.

The American Psychological Association (APA) also has a list of crisis hotlines on their website, including the National Grad Crisis Hotline, the National Sexual Assault Hotline, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline

therapy apps

Therapy apps like BetterHelp and Talkspace are great alternatives to traditional, in-person therapy, and are typically more affordable. 

BetterHelp has a variety of different licensed healthcare professionals to help you with your individual needs. To begin, BetterHelp will ask you to take a quick survey to match you up with the right therapist for you. BetterHelp typically costs $60 to $90 per week, but plans start at $40 per week with financial aid available. BetterHelp also has a variety of formats available including text, call, and video.

Similarly, Talkspace has you take a brief assessment, find your therapist, and begin therapy. Talkspace plans start at $65 per week, which includes weekly live sessions and on-going messaging support. According to Talkspace, on average, their carefully vetted therapists have around nine years of experience as professional mental health care providers.

There are other therapy apps besides BetterHelp and Talkspace, too, like Larkr, ReGain, and Pride Counseling. Fees vary based on the app and plan you choose, but if you do a little digging, you should be able to find the right fit for you.

mental health apps

Mental health apps are a bit different than therapy apps — rather than utilizing professional and licensed mental health counselors and therapists, mental health apps help provide emotional and mental support. Mental health apps like Calm, Headspace, and Finch teach meditation, breathing, yoga, and mindfulness exercises that can help reduce stress, anxiety, and even depression. “The benefits of yoga are also very well studied in the literature,” Dr. Michael tells Her Campus.

While most of these apps are free, some bonus features require payment.

Support groups

If you’re looking for a community of people who are going through similar struggles as you, a support group may be the best option for you. While joining a support group may seem intimidating or nerve-wracking, these groups are all about providing care and support in a comfortable, non-judgmental environment.

For most support groups, no invitation or fee is required. Some support groups have open meetings, where anyone can attend any time, while other support groups have closed meetings for members and prospective members only.

Although traditional therapy is expensive, there are other options if you’re on a budget that are most certainly worth trying out. Try some out and see what works best for you and your individual needs.

Zoë is a contributing editor at Her Campus, where she covers Gen Z pop culture and viral TikTok trends. She is also a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English. When she's not writing or editing, Zoë can be found reading, sipping coffee, and exploring Los Angeles.
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