How to Get Free Therapy

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

You are on a low budget, but you need mental health support. How can you find free or low cost counselling?

Is there free counselling available?

Here in the UK, the way to get free one-on-one counselling is to go see your GP and ask for a referral. You can't refer yourself to the NHS mental health services, it has to go through your general practitioner.

Waiting lists to see a NHS therapist can vary depending on your council. Some report getting help within weeks. Whereas others, such as in certain London boroughs, report nightmare stories of waiting over a year.

Note that you also don't get to choose your therapist when going through the NHS, but are assigned someone. There are also limited options for the type of therapy offered.

But I need help now

If you need free help immediately and have no money, you can call a free help line. There are many free help lines here in the UK, with some specialising in different age groups and issues.

Some places even offer email or text chats, so if you hate talking on the phone you won't have to.

There is no need to be nervous as the volunteers who answer the phone are trained and happy to chat with you.

You can find a list of helplines here.

Low cost counselling

If you have a little bit of money to spare and are looking for low cost counselling, do some research into counselling and psychotherapy schools in your area. Most will offer low cost counselling with their advanced students.

Even if your therapist will still be in school, they will have several years of training and be very committed to helping you. And they will also have a supervisor they talk to, who will make sure they are doing a good job of helping you.

There’s a therapist I really want to work with

Another idea is to call a therapist you have your eye on and explain your situation. Many therapists reserve a few spots for those with less financing. Just ask if they offer a ‘sliding scale’.

The idea isn’t to save money just because you want to. These spots are for people who really have no choice, and either take a sliding scale or don't get help. The idea being that in the future, if your financial situation improves, you can then pay full price.

I like the idea of working in a group

Then you are in luck. Many areas have free support groups for a range of issues, such as being in a difficult relationship, dealing with addiction, or having recently lost a loved one. You will meet people like you, who know what you are going through. If you can’t find anything using an internet search, try calling your local chapter of the Mind charity to see if they have ideas for you.

Also search for group therapy in your area. Group therapy is different than a support group as it is not just people helping people. It means a therapist is in charge, but that you work in a group instead of one-on-one. It is always cheaper, and some people even find it suits them better than individual therapy.

Check with your workplace or school

If you are a student or employee, then you might have free or low cost counselling right under your nose.

Colleges and universities now offer mental health support for students. Ask what is available.

And workplaces also offer help. Ask what your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) includes, as well as looking into your workplace insurance. Many cover a few sessions of therapy which can at least get you started.

Try online therapy

Also note that some therapists offer a cheaper rate if you are happy to work over the internet instead of in person. This also saves you the cost of transport to and from their work space, and on things like finding a babysitter.

Did you know that our site offers therapy for a wide range of budgets, including low cost counselling? Use our easy booking tool to find the right therapist for your pocketbook now.

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