If you’re ready to start taking care of your mental health, but don’t know how to afford therapy without insurance, I feel you. I’ve been there.
But you’re in luck! Because below is a list of creative avenues you can take to get the mental health treatment you’ve been searching for, even without insurance.
If you don’t have health insurance but want to start therapy:
Yes, therapy can be expensive, but that is because it is valuable. It is an investment you make in yourself. And the returns you gain can change your life.
At the same time, daily living can be expensive (especially if you’re in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the surrounding NYC area, which is where my practice is based). There may not be much money leftover to spend on yourself and your emotional wellbeing once you’ve paid your bills, your student loans, etc.
And look, I get it – sometimes the numbers just don’t add up, and it’s hard to justify spending money on yourself by talking about your feelings and your problems (although therapy is MUCH more than that!).
So, if you have found yourself in a rough financial situation, take a breath. It’s okay. There are still ways that you can find affordable therapy in NYC. Whether you have insurance benefits or not.
I encourage you to take some time exploring these options. Some of them may take a bit of legwork up front, but hopefully that initial time-investment will lead you to getting the help you’re looking for.
1. Sliding Scale
When trying to find a therapist, ask if they have a sliding scale. Many therapists do offer a certain number of reduced rate slots in their practice, and may be able to offer one to you. You may have to disclose your income, and why you need a reduced rate, but hey – having a space to talk about everything, including money, is what therapy is all about.
Check out my post on finding the right therapist for you if you need some help searching for a provider.
2. Open Path
Open Path, is a WONDERFUL therapy platform for anyone who is underinsured, in financial need, and unable to afford the going rates of therapy. Therapists who are part of the Open Path Collective agree to accept patients at a siding scale rate of $30-$75 per session.
There is an initial fee to join the platform (at the time of me writing this, it’s $60), and then you are guaranteed to find a therapist who will charge a lower rate or you will be refunded the initial cost.
I offer a limited number of Open Path slots in my practice (at the moment, those slots are full). But you can always reach out to see if there are openings, or ask to be added to my Open Path waitlist.
3. Psychotherapy Institutes
Many Psychotherapy Institutes need patients to participate in their programs so their trainees can learn, and will offer therapy at a reduced rate or sliding scale to individuals who are open to seeing a therapist-in-training.
And don’t let the word “training” fool you! Many therapists at these institutes have already graduated and have been working in the field for years. They are just continuing their education and getting more robust, specialized training.
And, they are being supervised by highly trained professionals, which means therapists who have been in the field for a long time will be indirectly involved in your healing process.
Here is a list of some in the NYC area:
Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis
Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy
Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies
4. Group Therapy
I know what you’re thinking: “It’s hard enough to open up to one person, but a whole group of people?! No way!” But before you skip over this option, hear me out.
Group therapy is one of the most transformative healing experiences one can have. Because you aren’t just getting support from one person. You can make connections with other people who get what you’re going through, and can share an array of experiences, perspectives, and ideas to help you navigate your struggles. You’ll begin to see that you actually aren’t as alone as you think you are in what you’re going through.
You can find a specific group for what you need – like body image issues, grief, or breakups. Or, you can join a skills-based group, like mindfulness training or stress-management.
And luckily, group therapy is almost always less expensive than individual therapy, and can be as low as $30-$40 a session.
Here are a few links to help you find a group:
Psychology Today Groups
5. Clinical Trials
One of the more creative approaches to finding free mental health treatment is to join a clinical trial.
You might have to do some research and check for website updates regularly, but hundreds, if not thousands of mental health studies are being done all over the world, that need participants.
Some of these trials might involve actual therapy and some may be studying how to treat mental health disorders through other various means. But it’s always worth exploring more and seeing if a study might fit what you’re looking for.
If you ever read an article about a study, do some googling and see if they are still accepting participants. But to start, here are some links to institutions that have ongoing clinical trials.
The National Institute of Mental Health
Columbia University Department of Psychiatry
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
6. Loveland Therapy Foundation
The Loveland Therapy Foundation is a nonprofit that provides financial assistance to black women and girls seeking healing through therapy.
I first discovered the Loveland Foundation during the George Floyd rallies back in 2020. And according to their annual report, in 2021, they were able to provide therapy vouchers for over 5,000 women.
This is their mission statement:
“Loveland Foundation is committed to showing up for communities of color in unique and powerful ways, with a particular focus on Black women and girls. Our resources and initiatives are collaborative and they prioritize opportunity, access, validation, and healing.“
This is a nonprofit that gives back to the community in a real, tangible way. If you’re a black woman or girl, I encourage you to apply to their therapy fund and get financial assistance for mental health services.
7. Peer Counseling
For example, in NYC, we have Identity House. This organization doesn’t provide actual therapy, but they do provide supportive peer counseling for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. They are donation-based, but ask for $25/session if you are able to pay. If you can’t, you will not be turned away.
They have a walk-in center or you can schedule a virtual appointment. They also organize support groups as well, which can be a very helpful way to feel less alone in what you’re going through.
All peer counselors are volunteers, and receive supervision from trained therapists regularly. They are all vetted, and passionate about supporting and encouraging members of the LGBTQ+ community.
It is a wonderful organization for anyone who is struggling with their sexual or gender identity and can’t afford therapy, but really needs support.
You may have to do some research, but there could be other free peer counseling organizations in your area that can help you find peer support. As a reminder, this isn’t therapy, but you can find other peers who may have gone through something similar to what you’re struggling with.
8. Crisis Intervention Hotlines
Again, because I’m in New York, I know about NYC Well, an online center that is available 24/7. If you’re in a state of crisis, you can be directly connected to a trained individual who can provide support and help you find the exact mental health services you might need.
But you can google “Crisis hotline” and your zip code to see what might be available in your area.
9. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
If you work at a company, it is likely that they have some kind of EAP program that provides mental health services in some shape or form. Contact your HR department to see what might be available. Typically, therapy in an EAP will last around 4-6 weeks, but there is often an option to extend if needed.
I know how tough it is to find good, affordable therapy. If taking care of your mental health is a priority, there are other options aside from on-on-one therapy. One of my favorites being: books!!!!
Yep, that’s right. BOOKS! There are so many books out there that can help you gain more personal insight, learn better coping skills, and start to heal from whatever it is you’re going through.
And, the best part about books is that they are free when you get them from the library.
If you know me, then you know that I am mildly obsessed with the NY Public Library. I’m not going to fangirl about it all over the place here, but check out this post if you want to learn more about the many splendid benefits of having a library membership, and how to take advantage of them.
Books aren’t the only other option. There are workshops, classes, community meetups, and resources out there that can have a positive impact on your mental health. A quick google search for what you need help with will do the trick.
In fact, I have a whole packet of self-reflection guides that you can download and share whatever you think might be helpful. It may not be one-on-one therapy, but taking some time for yourself to self-reflect can still be therapeutic.
If you are someone who is struggling financially and can’t afford therapy, I do hope the resources and information above will assist you in getting the support you need.
If you end up using any of these ideas, please let me know how it went!