Getting mental health care when you need it should be very simple and straightforward, but in the U.S. sometimes it’s not so easy. From a numbers standpoint, there are just not enough therapists to handle the increased demand that awareness creates. Another issue is financial. Even with better access to health insurance for millions of people, sometimes even the co-pay is too much. Even if there is an affordable therapist available, the stigma of seeking mental health care is still strong in the U.S. and may be the final hurdle that many face. With these challenges there is still a great option for therapy: cheap or free therapy online that is available to everyone with an internet connection. There are many different options – here are eight cheap or free therapy online options.
4 free therapy online options
Blah Therapy is free therapy online with two options: free talking to a stranger, or a $25 pay-as-you-go 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 $25 fee may be the way to go. 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.
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.
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.”
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
4 options for cheap therapy online
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.
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.
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 $32/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.
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. She may also know of community-based resources.
- 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.
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.
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.
(Note: This post was originally published in July 2016. Due to interest, we’ve expanded this post to include more options in September 2017.)