2021 Guide to Affordable Therapy Options

Updated December 2, 2022

Your financial situation should not prevent you from securing care for your mental health. Discover ways that you can find free and affordable therapy options.

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In 2019, 19.2% of adults in the United States received some form of mental health treatment, including therapy or medication, in the past 12 months. However, research in the last decade shows a decrease in the use of talk therapy services, plus a rise in the use of medication to treat mental and behavioral issues.

Finding a therapist and starting a mental health journey can prove challenging. With so many options and likely some worries about the cost of care, prospective patients may feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, the abundance of therapy types and formats has also made counseling much more accessible, including lower-cost options for patients of all backgrounds.

In 2019, 19.2% of adults in the United States received some form of mental health treatment, including therapy or medication, in the past 12 months.

In this guide, we discuss various options for funding counseling and psychotherapy. We also offer information on the different kinds of therapy available. Read on to learn about your options.

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How Much Does Therapy Cost?

The cost of therapy can vary widely, making it difficult to determine what the average patient pays. Therapists may charge different session fees depending on their region and practice. Where and how a client seeks therapy also factors into the cost. For instance, online therapy may charge different fees than in-person therapy offered in clinics or practices.

Insured patients may pay different rates than uninsured patients. However, different insurance policies may offer varying levels of coverage or none at all. Some providers may cap the number of covered visits or not accept insurance. Other providers may allow patients to pay over time, while some may require upfront payment at each session.

Keep reading to learn more about the cost of therapy and which therapy options may charge lower rates.

Typical Insurance Coverage

Many insurance plans offer some coverage options for mental health treatment, including therapy. However, patients may need to navigate some red tape to understand their exact coverage and what fees they will ultimately pay.

Typically, insurance policies require patients to meet a deductible limit and pay a monthly premium. Individuals may need to meet their deductible before their policy covers any therapy sessions. Often, policies that cover therapy require patients to pay a copay for each session. This fee varies based on the provider, the type of therapy, insurance coverage, and a variety of other factors.

Patients with insurance should reach out directly to their provider to learn about coverage for therapy and locate providers in their network.

Therapy Without Insurance

Fortunately, various options exist for patients without insurance coverage or whose insurance policies do not cover therapy. Some community mental health clinics offer sliding-scale payment options based on patients' income. These clinics provide low- or no-cost therapy for patients who may not afford it otherwise.

Many universities with graduate programs in counseling or psychology offer free or low-cost therapy options provided by graduate students under the supervision of a licensed therapist. However, some universities may offer these options only to students or the community.

Those interested in becoming therapists and learning more about university clinics can explore the links below.

Online Therapy and Counseling

Online therapy and counseling options have become more popular in recent years as more patients look to virtual platforms for flexible, accessible mental health services.

Some providers with brick-and-mortar practices may offer telehealth or video counseling options for patients, potentially at lower or discounted rates. Other options include monthly subscription services and apps like Talkspace, BetterHelp, and Cerebral. These apps offer video, phone, and text therapy options for a flat-rate monthly fee. Some also offer psychiatry services.

Although some online therapy providers take insurance, others may allow HSA payments to cover costs. However, others may require patients to pay out of pocket.

Group Therapy Options

For those comfortable talking in a group of other patients, therapists and clinics often provide group therapy and support group options for a low rate. These groups typically meet weekly or bi-weekly, focusing on coping skills development and mental health issues.

Community-based support groups geared toward specific issues like eating disorders, depression, alcoholism, and substance abuse may allow new group members to join and attend with little to no charge.

Online forums and group therapy discussions, like the ones offered through BetterHelp and Talkspace, allow patients to connect virtually with each other and a therapist who leads the group. These sessions often incur little to no cost.

Low-Cost Therapy Offerings

For patients without insurance or seeking an affordable option for mental health treatment, a variety of low-cost therapy offerings exist.

Websites and tools like NeedyMeds, Psychology Today, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Good Therapy offer lists and databases of available low-cost therapy options. Additionally, local governments and municipalities may provide online listings or contact information for community-based free and sliding-scale clinics.

While researching therapy options, prospective patients should consider both cost and therapy type. The list below outlines various types and formats of talk therapy and psychotherapy, including how patients may benefit from each.

Cognitive Behavioral

Cognitive behavioral therapy addresses an individual's thinking process, helping them to identify and break down unhelpful and unhealthy ways of thinking and processing events and feelings.

This form of therapy rests on the belief that thought patterns directly relate to unhealthy behavior, coping mechanisms, and mental disorders like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and disordered eating.

Cognitive behavior therapy attempts to help patients relearn new, healthier, and more helpful ways of thinking by becoming more aware of their behaviors and thinking patterns.

Dialectical Behavioral

Dialectical behavioral therapy emphasizes four main components: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. This kind of therapy teaches clients new coping skills to help them manage their emotions and navigate conflict within their relationships.

Dialectical behavioral therapy helps patients stay in the moment and regulate their emotions and responses to difficult or triggering events.


Family therapy aims to help couples, families, and other familial groups navigate conflict and interpersonal issues in healthier, more constructive ways.

Often, multiple members of a family or group participate in this kind of therapy. This allows the therapist to serve as a facilitator for healthy and productive discussion, providing strategies for coping with any kind of conflict or stressor impacting the family.


Humanistic therapy approaches a patient as a whole person from various perspectives, rather than assigning a patient a category or identifier based on only the therapist's observations. This kind of therapy examines how patients feel in the present moment, whereas other therapy types focus on dissecting past experiences.

Humanistic therapists often work alongside the patient as an equal, guiding them through a process toward self-actualization.


Integrative or holistic approaches to therapy combine tools from various types of therapeutic approaches. This tailors the therapy methods to fit an individual patient.

Integrative therapists consider evidence-based treatment methods for each patient. They examine each patient's specific needs, issues, and goals, developing a therapeutic style that suits them. The adaptability of integrative therapy makes it a great option for all kinds of patients dealing with a variety of issues.


Interpersonal therapy, often following a short-term or time-limited format, attempts to help improve patients' interpersonal relationships and minimize their stress responses to social situations and conflict.

This therapy approach emphasizes skills and strategies to help patients address four key areas: interpersonal deficits, unresolved grief, challenging life transitions, and interpersonal issues and conflict. Interpersonal therapy addresses internal issues, specifically highlighting the impact of internal issues on external relationships.


Psychodynamic therapy uses methods from in-depth talk therapy to help patients improve their relationships with others and the world around them. This type of therapy allows patients to talk openly and freely.

Therapists help patients identify past issues that may impact their current struggles. They also provide guidance on behavior analysis and thinking processes. Through deep explorations of repressed and contradictory emotions and thoughts, psychodynamic therapy can help patients develop a stronger awareness of their own behaviors.

How to Get Therapy on Your Own

Professional therapy may not be an option for everyone due to cost, lack of transportation, or a general lack of access and resources. For those hoping to save money, self-care and at-home methods to improve mental health may offer some relief and support.

A variety of free resources exist, providing information on natural methods for improving mental health, meditation and relaxation techniques, self-improvement books, and dealing with depression. Keep in mind that these self-help methods may not provide sufficient support for certain psychological conditions.

Explore the links below to learn more about self-help resources.

Explore Self-Help Resources

Natural Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

Natural Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

Best Meditation and Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress

Best Meditation and Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress

30 Best Self-Improvement Books for Those With Depression

30 Best Self-Improvement Books for Those With Depression

10 Great Tips for Dealing With Depression in College

10 Great Tips for Dealing With Depression in College

3 Mental Health Tips for Women Over 40

3 Mental Health Tips for Women Over 40

Top 10 Podcasts Exploring Mental Health

Top 10 Podcasts Exploring Mental Health

Frequently Asked Questions

How expensive is therapy?

The cost of therapy varies widely based on format, location, therapy type, and insurance coverage. Those with insurance may pay less than those without, but this depends on the insurance plan.

Can you get therapy without insurance?

Yes. A variety of therapy options exist for those without insurance. Patients can pay for therapy costs out of pocket, use online therapy services with monthly subscription rates, and seek free or low-cost community clinics.

Is there free online counseling or therapy?

Yes. Many communities provide some form of low- or no-cost behavioral health clinics for low-income clients. Free online community groups and in-person support groups may also provide options.

How do you get a therapist?

Those looking to use their insurance may find a therapist through their insurance company to ensure coverage. Online resources like Psychology Today, Good Therapy, and NeedyMeds also offer lists and databases of providers.

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