Can't Afford Therapy? 4 Things to Do to Promote Better Mental Health (2023)

When you're facing depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions, it's worth going to therapy to figure out a treatment plan. But what are you supposed to do if you can't afford it? Even with sliding scale payments, it's expensive. Online therapy services like BetterHelp and Talkspace have made therapy more affordable, at around $60 to $90 per session. However, that's still not in the budget for many people.

Therapy will always be the gold standard for mental health treatment. Though circumstances can make it temporarily impossible. These four strategies improve your mental health without spending any money.

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Use mental health apps to track daily progress

Mental health apps offer resources to people who otherwise couldn't get them. While they're not a substitute for therapy and can't diagnose conditions, mental health apps like Moodfit and Sanvello are great tools to use on your mental wellness journey. The best mental health apps will help you relieve stress and anxiety and teach you how to manage symptoms in the future.

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There's a lot of variety in what these apps offer and the features that are built in. Many offer a great catalog of educational resources to help you learn about conditions and adapt coping strategies to manage them daily.

Mental health apps can also be a reminder to check in on yourself. Most send push notifications throughout the day, which can be used as an indicator to stop and assess how you're feeling.

Can't Afford Therapy? 4 Things to Do to Promote Better Mental Health (3)

Implement cognitive behavioral therapy strategies on your own

Cognitive behavioral therapy is commonly used to treat depression, anxiety and addiction. CBT strategies and tools are intended to be taken outside of therapy sessions and used in daily life.

It's called self-directed therapy. Again, it isn't a replacement for traditional therapy with a professional, but it can supplement your mental health efforts when you don't have access to talk therapy. This self-help strategy is best reserved for those with moderate symptoms that don't affect daily tasks.

A systematic review of 33 studies found that self-help treatments can decrease anxiety and depression. Self-directed therapy results were "moderate," according to the review. So people didn't feel 100% better, but they reported feeling less anxious or depressed. If you're interested in self-directed therapy strategies to improve your mental well-being, we recommend checking out the Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies list of books. The books on the list have received a "seal of merit."

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Common self-directed therapy techniques:

  • Journaling: Writing down your thoughts and feelings and reflecting on them can help you identify negative thoughts and behavior patterns. Once you're aware, you can take meaningful steps toward making changes.
  • Guided courses: With self-directed therapy, you have to start somewhere. Guided courses can help you learn methods and tactics for daily management. You can consult the National Alliance on Mental Illness for its mental health education directory.
  • Mental health apps: Many mental health apps use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to reduce anxiety and help manage symptoms.
Can't Afford Therapy? 4 Things to Do to Promote Better Mental Health (4)

Stay connected to others

It's important to connect with other people, especially those experiencing similar things. Studies show that connecting to others can provide a sense of meaning and purpose and decrease loneliness. Group therapy or support groups are typically led by a mental health professional or group leader and can be low-cost or free. Whether it be friends, family or strangers, sharing your feelings and experiences is essential.

You also can use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website to locate community resources near you.

Connections with people aren't the only ones that can help improve your mental health. Pets and animals can reduce stress and anxiety levels. Take some intentional time to hang out with your pet -- play with your dog, hug your cat. If you don't have a pet, you can volunteer at a local animal shelter or humane society. Fostering or pet-sitting animals is also an option.

Practice mindfulness and meditation

Meditation has a history that stretches back thousands of years, but it's become an extremely popular stress-relieving practice in the last few. Mindfulness helps you become more attuned to what you're feeling and thinking, which helps you manage your thoughts and emotions more effectively, rather than becoming overwhelmed by them. Mindfulness uses techniques like meditation and breathwork to improve your mental health.

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Mindfulness can help you manage symptoms of anxiety and other mental health disorders by helping you understand and cope with what you're feeling. Studies show that meditation can help reduce stress, alleviate symptoms of depression or anxiety and help you sleep. The focus is on mind and body integration, which can help you enhance your mental well-being.

You can also use meditation apps to reduce stress and help maintain your mindfulness regimen. These free or low-cost apps are great for beginners.

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Other practical tips to improve your mental health without therapy

  • Exercise: Several mental health benefits are associated with exercise, like relieving anxiety or improving your mood. Exercise also can boost your confidence and release endorphins. You don't have to jump straight into heavy lifting; any exercise can help.
  • Go outside and soak up the sun: Sunlight boosts serotonin in the brain, which can improve your mood. When you don't get enough sun, your serotonin levels drop, leading to seasonal affective disorder.
  • Prioritize your sleep: Poor sleep is linked to a greater risk of anxiety or depression, poor mood and higher stress levels. Prioritize your sleep by sticking to your bedtime routine -- get ready for bed by doing something relaxing, aim for the same bedtime each night and turn off your screens.
  • Take a step back from social media: Constant social media use can increase symptoms of anxiety and depression. A digital detox may be warranted if you compare yourself to others online or notice a dip in your mental health. Start by limiting your time on social media. Then, try to fill that time with things you enjoy or people you like spending time with.
Can't Afford Therapy? 4 Things to Do to Promote Better Mental Health (5)

When should I see a therapist?

Self-directed therapy and well-being tactics are extremely useful, but they're not the be-all and end-all in mental health. Face time with a licensed therapist is essential for those with severe conditions and symptoms.

The first thing you should do is check your insurance. Employer-provided insurance and Medicaid may cover screenings, psychotherapy and counseling. Your insurance coverage will depend on your state and your health plan, but many plans include mental health coverage for in-network therapists.

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Your finances shouldn't stop you from getting the help you need. It may take some research into therapists and programs, but there are low-cost options.

  • Sliding scale payments: Some therapists offer sliding scale fees -- you pay what you can afford. The cost will be based on your income. Not all therapists offer this, but many do.
  • Low-cost or free services: Some therapists offer low-cost or free counseling for individual and group sessions. If you live near a college or university, the graduate department may offer free or discounted therapy sessions.
  • Community health centers: Community mental health centers assist those in surrounding areas.
  • Local and online support groups: Local organizations and volunteers in many areas offer support groups for things like grief and addiction. Use Mental Health America's list of support groups to find one that best fits your needs. You can participate in a peer-led support group through the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI).

More for your mental health

  • 7 Stress-Relief Strategies That Really Work
  • 8 Affordable Therapy Options That Don't Require Insurance
  • 6 Best Teas for Anxiety and Stress

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.


Can't Afford Therapy? 4 Things to Do to Promote Better Mental Health? ›

Self-help books, meditation apps, and podcasts

Many self-led activities can help you improve your overall mental and physical health. Visit your local library or discount book store for self-help books. There are books to help with grief, depression, and other mental health issues.

How do you get better when you can't get therapy? ›

Self-help books, meditation apps, and podcasts

Many self-led activities can help you improve your overall mental and physical health. Visit your local library or discount book store for self-help books. There are books to help with grief, depression, and other mental health issues.

Can you improve mental health without therapy? ›

Alternative options to therapy include exercise (like yoga and dance), meditation, art, music, journaling, and reading. Mental health apps are available to help support you as well. If available to you, animals can also be a great resource for emotional connection.

When a client is unable to afford therapy it is possible? ›

When a client is unable to afford therapy, it is possible that he or she may: offer a bartering arrangement or exchanging goods in lieu of a fee. In the author's view, nonerotic touching between counselor and client should be: a spontaneous and honest expression of the therapist's feelings.

What are 4 reasons why people avoid getting help and support when experiencing mental health challenges? ›

  • Stigma. Society still attaches stigma to mental illness. ...
  • Lack of Awareness. Not everyone who has a mental illness is aware that they have this problem. ...
  • Lack of Support from Loved Ones. ...
  • Fear and Distrust. ...
  • Money.
Aug 21, 2018

Why has therapy never helped me? ›

Reasons, such as lack of trust or feeling misunderstood, may make you feel like therapy isn't helping. Here's how you can improve your experience. There are many reasons why therapy may not be working for you. Your therapist, the type of therapy they provide, and how they relate to you may be the reasons.

Is it OK to not go to therapy? ›

Even if you normally enjoy therapy, there might be some days when you're just not feeling it. It's okay to not want to go to therapy. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to improve your experience—and lots of other ways to improve your mental health outside of therapy.

How to afford therapy when you're broke? ›

Affordable Therapy: 11 Ways to Pay for Therapy When You're Broke
  1. Ask for a Lower Fee and Present a Budget. ...
  2. Community Clinics. ...
  3. Psychoanalytic Training Institutes. ...
  4. Clinical Trials. ...
  5. Participate in Research. ...
  6. Barter (being mindful of boundaries) ...
  7. Take Classes & Make Use of Counseling Services. ...
  8. Use a Consulting Clinician's Network.
Nov 7, 2019

Why is therapy so unaffordable? ›

Mental health care is generally just as, or sometimes even more expensive, than physical health care for various reasons. Operational costs and lack of insurance coverage can make it challenging to afford. And because you can't see much of the illness associated with your mental health, many people put off the expense.

What percentage of people Cannot afford therapy? ›

Eight in 10 people said going to therapy was a good investment, but 40% of those surveyed reported that they needed financial support to attend therapy, the survey found.

What can't you tell a therapist? ›

Other things to avoid during a therapy session include: asking about other confidential conversations with other clients; showcasing violent emotions; or implying any romantic or sexual interest in your therapist. The number one job of a therapist is to keep you safe and protect their clients' privacy.

What are 4 causes of mental health problems? ›

childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect. social isolation or loneliness. experiencing discrimination and stigma, including racism. social disadvantage, poverty or debt.

What are 4 mental health issues? ›

mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder) anxiety disorders. personality disorders. psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia)

What are alternatives of mental therapy? ›

What types of complementary and alternative therapies are there?
  • Acupuncture.
  • Aromatherapy.
  • Herbal medicine.
  • Homeopathy.
  • Hypnotherapy.
  • Light therapy.
  • Massage.
  • Meditation.

What is an alternative therapy for mental health? ›

Complementary and alternative therapies for mental health problems include yoga, electrical stimulation, and dietary supplements, such as omega-3s and kava. These approaches may increase feelings of well-being, reduce anxiety, ease symptoms of depression, and aid relaxation.

How can you promote mental health? ›

  1. Value yourself: Treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self-criticism. ...
  2. Take care of your body: Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. ...
  3. Surround yourself with good people: ...
  4. Give yourself: ...
  5. Learn how to deal with stress: ...
  6. Quiet your mind: ...
  7. Set realistic goals: ...
  8. Break up the monotony:

What happens if no therapy works? ›

If therapy's not working, it's time to consider taking medication. But medication is not the only thing your doctor can help you with. Health problems can interfere with your progress, and some physical health problems masquerade as mental health problems.

Is crying in therapy a breakthrough? ›

In these instances, tears indicate that the person is at least temporarily giving up the struggle. Although this is commonly thought of as a “breakdown,” we optimistically consider it a potential breakthrough.

Why does my mind go blank in therapy? ›

When patients say, “My mind just goes blank”, that also could mean many things. It could mean that the patient is experiencing cognitive/perceptual disruption as a result of a high rise of anxiety. It may be also a way a patient hides as if she is a blank person to be filled with the desires of others.

Why should you avoid asking why in therapy? ›

By starting your conversations with 'why', it can send off signals of judgement from you, and indicate a lack of trust in their own judgement.

How many people don't go to therapy when they need it? ›

Only about 40% of people with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression decide to participate in counseling. Here are 10 reasons that people may not seek out therapy.

Why therapy is not for everyone? ›

A person who is a rigid thinker might be resistant to making the appropriate behavioral changes because she doesn't agree with them. A person who has issues with unrealistic expectations and impatience might believe therapy isn't helpful because he thinks he should make much faster progress than he is.

Is $100 a lot for therapy? ›

Most individuals spend between $60 to $120 on average for an hour-long session. Given this range, most therapists charge an average rate of $90 per hour. However, various factors impact this cost, such as sliding scale therapy, the type of therapist you see, and the type of therapy session you are attending.

What is a reasonable amount to spend on therapy? ›

Factors that impact therapy cost
Type of therapyAverage cost per session without health insurance
Individual therapy$150
Couples therapy$70-$250
Group therapy$50-$300
Online therapy$40-$70 per week
1 more row

Why does therapy cost so much money? ›

In order to receive a license; therapists have to go through a lot of training and years before they can actually work. Lastly, counseling is expensive because there are many bills to pay: Rent and utilities. State licensure fees, each licensure requires annual fees to be paid.

Can the average American afford therapy? ›

What's more: even people whose therapy sessions are covered in part by insurance worry that they will struggle to afford it long-term. Over 60% of participants, including those with insurance, report that they pay out-of-pocket therapy costs, with a total average of $178 each month.

Is therapy actually worth it? ›

Therapy can increase your confidence, self-esteem, and communication skills. If you have trouble in areas of confidence and self-esteem, therapy is a great way to work on underlying causes – and learn tools to overcome them.

How much therapy is really enough? ›

Previous investigations of the dose-effect relationship in psychotherapy suggest that therapeutic benefits occur early in treatment. Approximately 25% of patients have been estimated to improve after 1 session, and 50% improve by 8 sessions.

Is there free mental health care in the US? ›

Community Mental Health Centers offer low-cost or free care on a sliding scale to the public. Typical services include emergency services, therapy and psychiatric care for adults and for children. You can expect to go through an intake interview that determines the kind of care you will receive.

Why does Gen Z have so many mental health problems? ›

Gen Zs are growing up and coming of age in a time of heightened stress and anxiety. From violence and terrorism to a global pandemic, Zoomers have dealt with significant issues in a relatively short period of time.

Can you overshare in therapy? ›

Sharing something you think is too sensitive or personal can be uncomfortable. But know you're not alone in thinking you've disclosed too much in therapy. When this happens, it can help to explore why you think you've overshared and talk it over with your therapist.

Why does my therapist watch my hands? ›

Hands. Your client's hands can give you clues about how they're reacting to what comes up in the session. Trembling fingers can indicate anxiety or fear. Fists that clench or clutch the edges of clothing or furniture can suggest anger.

Is it OK to tell your therapist everything? ›

The short answer is that you can tell your therapist anything – and they hope that you do. It's a good idea to share as much as possible, because that's the only way they can help you.

What are the 5 signs of mental illness? ›

5 Warning Signs of Mental Illness
  • Changes in personality. ...
  • Changes in emotion. ...
  • Isolation. ...
  • Sudden absence of self-care. ...
  • Sense of hopelessness or feeling overwhelmed. ...
  • Warning Signs of Suicide.
Dec 17, 2020

What are the 7 main mental disorders? ›

Many people also experience stigma, discrimination and violations of human rights.
  • Anxiety Disorders. ...
  • Depression. ...
  • Bipolar Disorder. ...
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) ...
  • Schizophrenia. ...
  • Eating Disorders. ...
  • Disruptive behaviour and dissocial disorders. ...
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders.
Jun 8, 2022

What is the number one cause of mental illness? ›

Abuse. One of the most well-known causes of mental illness is abuse. This can include physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse and can also involve bullying or neglect. Abuse can occur in childhood or adulthood.

What are the top 3 mental health challenges? ›

Of those, the three most common diagnoses are anxiety disorders, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These three conditions make up around 30 percent of all diagnoses of mental illness in America.

What might worsen a person's mental health? ›

poor family connection. difficulties socialising and feeling like you don't belong. feelings of loss or grief. poor physical health or frailty.

What is the most difficult mental disorder to treat? ›

Personality disorders are some of the most difficult disorders to treat in psychiatry. This is mainly because people with personality disorders don't think their behavior is problematic, so they don't often seek treatment.

What is the next step if therapy doesn't work? ›

Asking Your Therapist for Insight

If you're noticing therapy isn't working, being honest with them can help you get answers. Even if you find that perhaps your expectations for therapy aren't realistic, sharing that with them can lead to fruitful insights. If you're noticing that you feel judged by them, let them know.

What to do when therapy hasn't worked? ›

If therapy isn't working, start by talking to your therapist about your concerns. They may change their approach to treatment, help you change your treatment goals or outcomes, give you different coping tools and techniques, or help you find alternative support.

Why is it so hard to get therapy? ›

Many therapists only see patients during working hours. If someone's work doesn't allow them to take time off for regular appointments, therapy isn't a feasible option. Other people are also very hesitant to speak with a therapist.

What happens if you did not get therapy? ›

Untreated mental health issues often get worse and may have other negative effects. They could also lead to: Inability to work or go to school. Difficulty in relationships or taking care of children.

Is bad therapy better than no therapy? ›

People who've been to a bad therapist can tell you: bad therapy is worse than no therapy at all. A bad therapist can shut down your healing process instead of helping it along. Bad therapy can even be destructive, either re-traumatizing you or causing new psychological harm.

How long is too long in therapy? ›

People come to therapy to alleviate a disorder or symptoms and treatment lasts as long as those unpleasant symptoms exist, from a few weeks to a few years. If you are symptom-free and that's all you wanted out of therapy, you're all done. In the wellness model, going to therapy is like going to the gym, Howes says.

How to tell your therapist you can no longer afford therapy? ›

Talk to Your Therapist About Your Finances

So, being open and honest about your financial situation leaves room for them to help you. For example, your therapist may: Allow you to negotiate your therapy fee to a rate that is more in line with your budget. Direct you to go through your insurance to find a provider.

What if I have nothing to say in therapy? ›

Some people feel like if they don't have anything to talk about their therapist will be disappointed. A good therapist doesn't mind if you sit there in silence. This is your time and you have the right to say or not say whatever you want.

Why do most people avoid therapy? ›

Individuals fear judgment, change, the unknown, and what they might discover in therapy; additionally, they're too prideful to admit they need help. Additionally, some people doubt the efficacy of mental health treatment: They're uncertain it will work or misunderstand how it works.

What percentage of people get better from therapy? ›

About 75 percent of people who enter psychotherapy show some benefit from it. Psychotherapy has been shown to improve emotional and psychological well-being and is linked with positive changes in the brain and body.

Why are therapists leaving the profession? ›

Therapists have discussed with me the “deep drag” of burnout resulting from overscheduling, personal conflicts, health struggles, and compassion fatigue. Some have made it to the other side, by taking time off and creating a regimen for rejuvenation. Others have realized that this field is not for them any longer.

Is there anyone who doesn't need therapy? ›

Research shows not everyone needs therapy — but everyone needs some form of mental health support. You may get along just fine with social support from loved ones or with peer support from people who understand what you're going through.

Should I see a therapist if nothing is wrong? ›

It's also OK to start therapy just because you think you need a little extra help, even if you're not sure why. “Seeking therapy is a routine and preventive form of healthcare, like going to the dentist or the doctor,” Marter says. “A therapist is like a personal trainer for your mind and your relationships.” Dr.

What is the mental disorder where you don't care about anything? ›

If you have schizoid personality disorder, you may be seen as a loner or dismissive of others, and you may lack the desire or skill to form close personal relationships. Because you don't tend to show emotion, you may appear as though you don't care about others or what's going on around you.


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