Getting mental health care when you need it should be very simple and straightforward, but it’s not always so easy. Many don’t have mental health coverage with their insurance. Or, if they do, sometimes the co-pay is too much. Even if there is an affordable therapist available, the stigma of seeking mental health care is still strong. It may be the final hurdle you face. With these challenges there is still a great option for therapy: cheap, affordable, or free therapy online that is available to everyone with an internet connection. There are many different options – here are cheap or free therapy online options you can try today.
6 free therapy online options
Let’s start with free options. These are a mix of apps, online communities, text or chat messages, and direct services. They all offer mental health services you can use right now.
Blah Therapy is free therapy online with two options: free talking to a stranger, or a paid option to talk with a trained therapist. Why choose one over the other?
For people who need to vent and get a sympathetic ear while maintaining anonymity, Blah is a great way to go. Clients can go online at any time and either vent in general or sign up for a chat, all for free. Wait times may vary for the chat, but there is nearly always someone available.
If affordable, trained therapy is what you need, Blah Therapy’s reasonable fee may be the way to go. Their therapy side is managed by better help. It may be less than many insurance co-pays for therapy and available as often as you need it, this option is also protected by confidentiality laws regarding therapy and can help you get specific help and advice.
iPrevail is free therapy online that follows a peer-to-peer model. Log on to chat with a trained “peer specialist” for support, or fill out a health questionnaire to get more tailored advice. Their peer-to-peer model is completely free.
One thing that sets this system apart from other free online therapy is the evidence. iPrevail conducted a clinical trial of their method and found that it removed barriers to care and provided therapy that was comparable in success rates to face-to-face therapy.
Huddle is a free iOS app that uses video sharing to connect with other people around the world in shared safe spaces. While it’s not direct therapy, many find that they can find their support system through this app, with dedicated groups for:
- LGBTQ+ groups
- Physical disability
- Many more
7 Cups is online therapy with many different options to choose from. Their therapy app is comprised of over 160,000 trained listeners and licensed therapists, who provide support across 189 countries in 140 languages. These listeners have profile reviews, as well as a list of areas they focus in (such as panic attacks or chronic pain). Downloading the app and talking to their listeners is completely free.
However, they also offer upgraded paid options. With a monthly subscription fee as low as $12.99 a month, subscribers can connect in private with a trained listener or an online counselor. 7 Cups notes that they have helped millions of people with a mix of online chats and message-based therapy.
Users can select a listener based on their life experience or specialty and then connect in a private chat room. 7 Cups also offers text-based therapy or therapy via email. Trained online therapists and counselors are also available around the clock. This flexibility and privacy is what brings many users to 7 Cups in the first place.
Declan B. urges those who have never considered online therapy to give 7 Cups a chance, saying:
“I can honestly say that the listeners are all incredibly kind and loving. If you in [any way want] to talk to someone who cares but aren’t sure about online therapy, this is a must have.”
Reachout is an iOS and Android enabled app that’s specifically designed for chronic illness patients. This free therapy option helps users spread empathy and compassion to their support networks, often those are dealing with similar conditions, like chronic pain or cancer. This crowd-sourced support app can’t take the place of traditional therapy, but it can create a lifeline to get support from other patients like you.
PsychCentral is one of the leading websites for connecting patients with therapists around the world. Further, they act as a hub for information about all things mental health. This amazing website also offers access to a great free therapy forum. Each of their forums are centered around a specific topic, such as addiction or anxiety, and are available 24/7/365. This can be a great option if you suffer from insomnia and need to reach out to someone in the middle of the night, or can’t leave the house.
Their forum also hosts:
- Weekly chats
- Social chats
- Forums for relationships and communication issues
- Areas for people to talk about school or work
- Virtual kudos and hugs for when you need it the most
Call your local resources, like “211”
When looking for free online counseling, it seems like it wouldn’t make sense to go local, but that’s often a great starting point to find a therapist who offers discounted or free options. Most municipal areas have a 211 service line that connects you with mental health resources in your area. As Life Hacker explains: “211 is free, and almost always staffed by real people who are willing to help you, but some of the services they have access to aren’t, so keep that in mind.”
24/7 hotlines and national resources
Other national websites or organizations that may be able to connect you with free therapy resources in your area include:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a leader in the mental health space, with their own crisis line at 800-950-6264 and resources to find therapy
- Mental Health America, an organization that hosts resources on finding a therapist, running self-assessments, and more
- Crisis Text Line, a text message therapy system with 24/7 crisis support (text 741741 with the words “Start” or “Help”)
- The Trevor Project for LGBTQ+ youth (their crisis line is 1-866-488-7386, and available 24/7)
- I’m Alive, an online counseling program with chat capabilities (to talk to someone at any time, go here)
- MentalHealth.gov, the division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services with resources to many support networks and their own 24/7 hotline
- The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255)
- The Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255, press 1)
- Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860
- The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7223
Unless noted, you can call these hotlines at any time of the day or week, and get help. In crisis situations, always call a crisis line and they’ll provide the immediate help you need. But, they’re also available in non-crisis situations and are always ready to help you find the resources and assistance you need. They’re a lifeline and always available if you need them.
4 options for cheap therapy online
Oftentimes with just a bit of money, you can get specialized online counseling and one-on-one sessions.
Breakthrough is not so much an online therapy platform as it is a way to connect therapists to clients. Clients register with Breakthrough and select their particular concern. Breakthrough has therapists specializing in everything from post-traumatic stress disorder to anxiety and men’s issues. They offer a free consultation so you can find the right therapist for you.
For folks looking for mental health services in typically underserved areas, Breakthrough is a great option. This site allows clients to identify therapists who take insurance and those who operate on a pay-as-you-go or sliding scale. Clients and therapists can use the phone or texting and email to conduct therapy at the convenience of both.
Lantern is an online therapy tool with a foundation in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). CBT looks at how your thoughts and feelings influence your behaviors. This method of therapy can be extremely helpful in a variety of situations, including reaching goals and coping with pain, depression, or anxiety.
The way Lantern works is simple. Users answer questions to be matched with a coach who will then create a customized plan of therapeutic action. There is a fee ($49 a month), but this fee includes daily exercises and the support of a coach to help you work through whatever the problem is and reach your therapy goals. You also answer a series of personal questions to help you find the therapist most matched to your temperament and preferred style.
Coaches at Lantern must have completed a degree in a therapeutic field and be certified in CBT. Many coaches are working as therapists in real life also.
Talkspace is on the higher end of price options, but it does provide great value for people who need consistent, at-home therapy. The service is easy to use:
- Get an assessment with a professional therapist
- Choose between payment plans, which start at $49/week
- Pick the best online therapist for you
- Work with your therapist through their chat service, text messages, or video chats
For individual people and couples alike, this service can provide the 24/7 access and support you need.
As of November 2017, Talkspace is also donating three months of free therapy to any domestic or sexual violence victims in their app.
Similar to Talkspace, BetterHelp is an app that connects you with virtual therapists at a fraction of the cost. You can reach out to your therapist as you need to in a dedicated virtual “room” to communicate. There, you create an ongoing one-on-one dialogue with someone who is trained to help you learn about issues that may be holding you back so you can make positive change in your life.
When it comes to price, they note:
“Many people avoid getting professional help because it can become extremely expensive. We want to make BetterHelp easy and accessible to everyone, so we’ve created a plan which is simple, predictable, risk-free, and very affordable. Plans range from as low as $35 per week. With any plan you choose, you will pay a fraction of the cost of traditional counseling. Last, if you accomplished your goals or if you found it to be no longer helpful for any reason, you can simply cancel the subscription. Canceling is easy and done online – there are no hoops to jump through.”
Tips for cheap or free therapy online
If you are looking for options either online or in person, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Talk to your doctor: If you have a regular healthcare provider, ask her for referrals within your insurance network. Many take sliding payment scales or offer pro bono work. She may also know of community-based resources, like religious centers, groups, or more affordable graduate school programs.
- Stay safe online: If you are not talking on a private site with a registered therapist, protect your private information. Don’t offer your physical address or offer other details that may compromise your safety. Although the majority of people online are safe, there are some who would take advantage of vulnerable people. Practice proper online safety to protect yourself.
- Think about credentials: With some of the above forums and discussion groups, participants are not registered or trained therapists. While having a supportive place to reach out is a great thing, keep in mind that some discussion groups may function better as support groups rather than therapy.
- Know the difference between online chat rooms and free online counseling: As Better Help explains, with chat rooms, “There is no group leader or therapist overseeing the chat rooms. They are a free for all type of setting where anyone can pretty much say and do whatever they want. That is a pro and con right there.” That doesn’t mean you should necessarily avoid these, but know exactly what to expect from them.
Availability, cost, and embarrassment should not prevent you from getting the help you need. People in pain, mentally or physically, can get compassionate help and care to help them develop the tools they need to cope with their pain and live a fulfilled life. If you are suffering and in pain, reach out today to get the help you need.
If you are experiencing deep despair and find yourself thinking suicidal thoughts or making plans, please reach out to a trusted friend or call the National Suicide Prevention hotline (1-800-273-8255) immediately. While these free therapy online options can help, they should not be used in a time of crisis.
Again, hotlines you can always call for help include:
- Youth Talkline at 1-800-246-PRIDE (800-246-7743)
- Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860
- The GLBT National Help Center at 1-888-THE-GLNH (888-843-4564)
- Crisis Call Center at 1-800-273-8255
- The Samaritan’s Crisis Hotline at 1-212-673-3000
- The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673
- National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7223
- The National Crime Victim Helpline at 1-800-394-2255
- The Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1)
Further, if you’re looking for support for chronic pain, check out our Facebook support group or other online chronic support groups. These online support groups can connect you with other pain patients who intimately understand and know what you’re going through. With the right support and access to therapy, you can live a better life with pain. Greatist also lists over 80 of the best apps with mental health adjacent services, like stress management and habit tracking.
Want to read even more about mental health resources? Check out:
Note: This post was originally published in July 2016. Due to interest, we’ve expanded this post to include more options in December 2017, with additional edits in May 2018. Do note that the given prices and subscription costs are always subject to change. Always find the most up-to-date information by visiting the provider’s website.