How to Get Mental Health Care When You’re Broke

affording mental healthcare

Written by Emily Rollins

As science progresses, we understand more and more that the brain and body are intimately connected. Unchecked stress and unresolved traumas can haunt us for years, undermining our health and our relationships. One in four people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. And as conditions like anxiety and depression are becoming more common, we need to be more proactive than ever about our mental health.

The problem is, if you are one of the 33 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, or if your insurance doesn’t cover mental health services, then you may not be able to afford therapy. Let’s be real here—therapy is expensive! Some therapists charge up to $300 per session and the people who can’t afford therapy are usually the ones who need help the most.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help close the gap between needing help and finding it:

If you rely on public health insurance:

Medicare: This insurance covers the elderly as well as some folks with disabilities. Medicare part B does cover mental health services like seeing a psychiatrist for medications or a clinical social worker for therapy.

Medicaid: This insurance covers low-income children and their families. Medicaid is more complex than Medicare, and it can vary according to individual need and situation, but according to the “Alternative Benefits Plan” portion of the program, mental health and substance abuse services are covered.

If you are uninsured, or if you have insurance with a high deductible, you may need to explore new options:

Don’t be afraid to bring up cost: It can feel uncomfortable to mention money (or a lack thereof) to a therapist, but many therapists and counselors regularly work with low-income clients. In fact, plenty of community mental health centers and individual counselors will offer a “sliding scale” based on your income and ability to pay. For example, if you have little to no income, you may only owe $10 per therapy session or the sessions may even be free.

Look for local resources: A quick Google search using the phrase “low-cost counseling” along with the name of your city may reveal options that you didn’t know existed. There are many government funded and non-profit community organizations that can direct you to affordable counseling.

Consider graduate students: If you live in or near a town with a university, you may be in luck! Students who are working on the last year of their master’s degree in psychology or clinical social work often need experience working with real-life clients. Many colleges have a counseling center that’s open to the public. The students get clinical hours and the clients get affordable mental health care; it’s a win-win!

Check out churches: Some people may find comfort in talking to a counselor who works through a church office. Often these types of counselors specialize in grief counseling as well as marital counseling. If you are looking for someone who will take your spiritual needs into account during therapy, then a church counselor may be the right fit.

Community senior centers, Veterans Associations, and youth centers may also be able to point you in the right direction.

Consider telehealth:
Telehealth, meaning medical care provided via phone or video chat or other technology, is a rising trend. Because telemental health visits don’t require a physical location, they are often much cheaper than in-person visits. Some options are:

Your mental health matters: so be brave, take charge, and find the care you need. You deserve it!

The number of telemental health visits grew on average 45.1 percent annually among rural Medicare beneficiaries, from 2004-2014.

Source: Health Affairs


Suicide Hotline:
Crisis Text Line:
Text “Help” to 741741

NAMI Helpline (for questions about mental illness):

“All healing is first a healing of the heart.” – Carl Townsend

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