How much does free online therapy cost?
While there are some ongoing free online therapy services, these are often in the form of volunteer listeners and peer coaches who are trained but not professionally licensed.
Many services offer a free trial or preview, but you must pay for regular therapy sessions. Some online therapy and counseling services offer a low monthly rate, such as iPrevail, at $9.99 per month. However, many services charge more, such as eTherapyPro ($40 per week) or 7 Cups ($150 per month). While these services aren’t free, they offer an affordable and convenient alternative to traditional therapy sessions, which can average between $65 to $250 per hour.
How can online therapy help?
Free online therapy offers accessible emotional support in a secure and confidential environment. You can choose from a wider pool of therapists, and you don’t have to worry about finding a qualified local licensed therapist to treat specialized mental problems.
The best online therapy and counseling increases privacy by allowing you to remain anonymous and removes the potential trauma of seeing people you know when going to an in-person appointment. The modern convenience of mobile applications allows you to receive therapy from anywhere, and scheduling is easy.
But for many, one of the most appealing benefits of free online therapy is that it eliminates the financial barrier that can keep you from seeking the online mental health treatment and support you need.
Is free online therapy effective?
Free online therapy and counseling services that offer volunteers and peer listeners can be great for getting general emotional support. However, more complex problems and mental health issues often require the attention of a licensed professional.
Studies show that structured online therapy sessions can achieve the same outcome as traditional therapy sessions. Online cognitive therapy can be just as effective as in-person sessions when handling certain mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and panic disorders. However, free online therapy is not a practical solution for crisis situations and emergencies.
How do people use online therapy?
People use online therapy to gain coping strategies, tap into mental health resources, and get talk therapy and support so they can manage anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental health concerns. You can use online therapy from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a stable internet connection.
To use online therapy, you register with the platform. You might be asked to fill out a questionnaire or assessment so the service can match you with the right therapist, counselor, volunteer, or listener based on your mental health concerns. Free services can deliver online therapy via text, online chat, and live online sessions with a professional. Services can require you to sign up for a subscription, pay per session, and some are free.
What kind of things do people use online therapy for?
Online therapy and counseling can help you deal with relationship problems, overcome addiction, and better manage stress. The best online therapy services can include talk therapy, psychotherapy, CBT, and other professionals’ approaches in an office setting. You can access online therapy for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, grief support, panic attacks, stress relief, and more. However, online therapy isn’t appropriate for crises and emergencies.
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What is online therapy?
“Online therapy is an opportunity to meet with your therapist online, using a HIPAA compliant platform,” says Dr. Tracy W. Lowenthal, a licensed clinical psychologist in California.
Also known as telemental healthcare, it’s often done over a messaging app, video chat, or even the phone.
Because online therapy is accessible through an internet connection and a device, Marilyn Denovish, a multidisciplinary therapist, says that “online therapy can be as effective, and sometimes even more effective than, traditional face-to-face services.”
This is because people might find it easier to open up to a therapist when they can talk with them from the comfort of their home.
How much can free online therapy cost?
You can find free or low cost therapy through social services, nonprofits, universities, financial assistance programs, and employee assistance programs.
Read our article on therapy services for every budget.
The average cost of an hour-long therapy appointment can range from about $65 to $250, depending on your therapist’s training, experience, and location.
Can free online therapy help?
Various studies show that free online therapy can be just as good (or even better) than traditional types of therapy. It all depends on how well your therapist and treatment strategy suits your needs.
For example, a 2020 study by the Journal of American College Health centered around goalsetting and finding solutions to problems found that both in-person and online therapy reduced anxiety equally.
So, depending on the person and circumstances, using online therapy services like 7 Cups and ReGain can be quite effective.
What can free online therapy help with?
Free online therapy can help with certain conditions and feelings, such as:
- relationship issues
- minor depression
However, it’s important to keep in mind that these types of services are not ideal for emergencies or more serious situations, like addiction or eating disorders. Additionally, some conditions may warrant medication, in-person discussions, or group therapy.
How we chose the best affordable therapy services
We selected each free or low cost online therapy service based on key features to ensure the mental health support offered is:
- appropriately credentialed
We also considered how long you need to wait for an appointment, whether the service offers 24/7 support, and if the service offers video and phone chat, live chat, and text messaging.
How to choose an online therapy service
It’s important to consider your mental health needs when choosing an online therapy service. Factors like service cost, insurance coverage, and appointment types offered (chat, video, or phone call) will help you determine the online therapy service that fits your personal needs and lifestyle.
Tips for finding free online therapists
Finding free online therapists is typically not very easy. If you have insurance, a good place to start is to give your benefits center a call. Or, you can do a quick search online.
Here are a few places that might help you find free or affordable online therapy:
- Your health insurance company: With the ongoing pandemic, most health insurance companies have started to cover the cost of some online therapy platforms. If you have insurance, check with them before settling with a pricey program.
- EAPs: Most employers offer free counseling sessions with the platform of their choice. If you have one, don’t be afraid to send your benefits center or human resource official an email to ask if they offer any services.
- Your local college or university: If you’re a student or professor, your campus most likely has a counseling center or social worker who can assist you in identifying resources for support. If the university has a psychology department, they may host free clinics where students can put their skills to the test and help the public.
- Mental health organizations: Several national organizations, like Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), can help you find free or low cost online therapists or resources. These are usually trustworthy resources that they’ve worked with before and that they know can help you with your situation.
Pros and cons of online therapy
- Convenience: You can have sessions with your therapist from the comfort of your own home.
- Anonymity: On certain platforms, you can remain anonymous if you wish.
- Cost savings: Online therapy can be more affordable than in-person sessions.
- Greater access: You may prefer online therapy if you have difficulty accessing traditional therapy due to location or other constraints.
- Lack of direct contact: Without physical contact, it can be more difficult to establish trust with a therapist online.
- Difficulty conveying emotions: It can be tricky to express complicated emotions through text-based communications.
- Technical issues: Occasional hiccups in the technology can inhibit progress. You also need a computer or smartphone and reliable internet access for online therapy.
How to choose an online therapy service
It’s important to consider your mental health needs when choosing an online therapy service.
Some factors to keep in mind include:
- service cost
- insurance coverage
- appointment types offered (chat, video, or phone call)
- access to your therapist
- the scope of your mental health goals and needs
When to see an in-person therapist
If you prefer more intimacy or are dealing with serious issues that require exposure therapy or many in-depth discussions (like those relating to addiction, eating disorders, or severe depression), you may want to think about seeing a therapist in person.
With that being said, everyone is different and this will be a matter of personal preference. If you have quicker access to an online therapist, you might want to start this way and then switch to in-person if it suits you better overall.
Frequently asked questions
What are the benefits of online therapy?
- Accessibility: Anyone with an internet connection can participate in online therapy.
- Time efficiency: Online therapy and counseling eliminates travel time between appointments or support group meetings. You can also mold it to your schedule and don’t have to call out sick to work to make it to your appointment.
- Cost-effectiveness: Online therapy can be cheaper than in-person visits, and most health insurances cover part of the cost.
- Eliminates geographical barriers: If your ideal therapist resides in another state or country, you can still get treatment with them as long as they’re licensed in the state you live in.
- Comfort: Some people might find it easier to open up to a therapist when they’re in the privacy and comfort of their own home.
- Safety: With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth eliminates the risk of potential exposure.
Can therapy really be free?
A number of online services offer free or reduced cost therapy. Sometimes these free services will be run by peer counselors or coaches, but require payment to work directly with licensed mental health professionals. Additionally, certain online services may be covered by some insurance plans or EAPs.
Also, a number of mental health organizations, including SAMHSA and NAMI, can provide free peer counseling over their hotlines or connect you with a free or low cost online therapist.
Who might be a good candidate for online therapy?
Anyone who is willing to listen, focus, and commit to bettering their mental health may benefit from online therapy. However, online therapy is not useful for helping to manage all conditions.
A 2013 review revealed that people with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorders can thrive in online therapy. Online therapy is also a great option if you are having trouble finding a therapist near you that suits your needs.
However, someone with a mental health condition that needs more direct management, such as schizophrenia or psychosis, might need immediate, face-to-face intervention. Online therapy might not be helpful for people with schizophrenia, because it may exacerbate the feeling of being secretly watched.
Additionally, if you or someone you know is experiencing significant suicidal ideation, in-person therapy might be a better choice.
Managing your mental health doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive.
Various online therapy platforms can help you find support groups or licensed therapists, who can teach you how to manage anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health conditions for free or a very low cost.