Discover Free Online Therapy: Find Where It Exists

Dr. Serenity
April 14, 2023

Key Takeaway:

  • Volunteer-run mental health services differ from online therapy
  • Free support groups, chat rooms, and trained listeners are available
  • Affordable online therapy is offered by BetterHelp, Talkspace, Brightside, and Calmerry

Online therapy, or teletherapy, enables you to connect with a licensed therapist or counselor via phone, messaging, or video call. This approach is particularly advantageous as it offers convenience and comfort, and can be more affordable than traditional therapy. Our team researched and found numerous online therapy options that are affordable. However, it’s important to note that free therapy is not provided by online therapy platforms, though financial aid is available from some, such as BetterHelp and its associated sites. Volunteer support services, including 7 Cups and the Crisis Text Line, offer free mental health communication and can connect you with support groups and trained listeners. It’s important to understand that these services do not offer therapy from licensed professionals.


Why Our Reviews are Trustworthy

At our publication, we are dedicated to thoroughly researching and recommending products and services that we believe will improve the lives of our readers. We take great pride in providing honest and unbiased reviews, and we want you to feel confident in the information we provide. Here’s why you can trust our online therapy reviews:

  1. Independent and Ongoing Research: We conduct ongoing independent research on the online therapy market to stay up-to-date on new services, pricing models, and trends. Our team is committed to providing the most accurate and current information available.
  2. Mystery Shopping: To get a firsthand experience of each online therapy provider, we engage in mystery shopping. We evaluate the user experience, user interface, and overall service quality to provide an honest assessment of the provider.
  3. Customer Service Testing: We reach out to each brand’s customer service team to ask questions and gauge responsiveness. We evaluate their response times and the helpfulness of their support representatives.
  4. Consulted with Leading Experts: Our team of six leading psychologists and psychiatrists provides us with expert insight into the efficacy of online therapy versus in-person therapy. They help us evaluate the strengths and limitations of each provider.
  5. Became Customers: We become customers of online therapy providers ourselves to fully understand the user experience. We evaluate everything from the sign-up process to the quality of the sessions.
  6. Reviewed Academic Research: We review academic research about the effectiveness of online therapy versus traditional therapy to provide a comprehensive understanding of the field.
  7. Verified Customer Reviews: We read hundreds of verified customer reviews from trusted third-party sources such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot. This helps us evaluate the customer experience and identify common issues.

We take pride in our rigorous review methodology and are committed to providing trustworthy and informative reviews. You can feel confident in our recommendations, knowing that we’ve done the research for you.


What Is Online Therapy?

Psychotherapy, also known as therapy, is a set of treatments designed to help individuals recognize and modify unhealthy thoughts, emotions, or behaviors, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Telemental health, also known as online therapy, refers to receiving therapy treatment from a licensed therapist or counselor through video or phone calls instead of attending appointments in person.


Understanding Counseling and Therapy: What’s the Difference?

Counseling and therapy are often used interchangeably, but the two terms actually refer to distinct types of mental health interventions. Here, we’ll explore the differences between the two practices.

  • What is Counseling?

Counseling is a type of mental health treatment that aims to help individuals cope with specific, immediate problems. Counseling sessions often involve discussing strategies to manage difficult situations, work through relationship issues, and develop coping mechanisms for daily stressors. Counselors may provide guidance, offer support, and help clients identify patterns in their behavior that may be contributing to their struggles.

According to Candace Kotkin-De Carvalho, LSW, Clinical Director at Absolute Awakenings in Morris Plains, New Jersey, counseling is typically short-term and focused on a specific issue. “Counselors usually work with people for shorter periods of time, often just a few sessions,” she explains.

  • What is Therapy?

Therapy, on the other hand, is typically a longer-term treatment that focuses on helping individuals recognize thought and behavioral patterns that could be contributing to psychological issues. Therapists aim to help individuals gain insight into their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and work through challenges that may be impacting their overall well-being.

“Therapy and counseling are both forms of psychological interventions to help people manage mental health issues, and the goal in both cases is to improve the person’s well-being,” says Kotkin-De Carvalho. “However, therapy is typically a longer-term treatment that aims to address the root causes of psychological issues, while counseling is more focused on specific, immediate problems.”

Choosing the Right Approach

Both counseling and therapy can be valuable tools for individuals seeking support for mental health challenges. When deciding which approach is right for you, it’s important to consider your goals and the specific challenges you are facing. Working with a mental health professional can help you determine which type of treatment is best suited to your needs.


How to Access Free Online Therapy Resources

Finding free online therapy can be challenging, as there are no platforms that offer therapy sessions without charge. However, there are some online therapy resources that may provide support groups or anonymous messaging with volunteers. Below are some options to consider:

  • Support Groups and Online Communities

Monument, an online therapy platform that specializes in alcohol use disorder treatment, offers online support groups monitored by a therapist.

The 7 Cups platform provides anonymous messaging between you and a volunteer listener. Additionally, you can participate in support forums or chat rooms where you can connect with others. These options are available for free. The 7 Cups community forums offer a range of groups to choose from, including mental illness support groups for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, psychosis, and schizophrenia. They also offer peer groups for members of the LGBTQ+ community, students, young career professionals, young people of color, and people over the age of 35. Additionally, the platform offers a group called the Hobby Zone where members can discuss their favorite pastimes, such as gaming, arts and crafts, gardening, and cooking.

  • Crisis Hotlines

The Crisis Text Line is a free option for individuals who need immediate help. By texting HOME to 741741, you can connect with a volunteer crisis counselor. If you have a cell phone plan with T-Mobile, AT&T, or Verizon, texting with the Crisis Text Line is free. For other phone networks, you will be charged standard messaging rates.

It’s important to note that volunteer listeners on the 7 Cups platform are not licensed therapists or counselors. They are trained in “reflective listening, collaborative problem solving, and crisis management.” These listeners may not have the same level of experience or qualifications as a licensed professional. If a volunteer believes someone is a danger to themselves or others, they are required to recommend therapy or a crisis resource and terminate the chat.

  • Affordable or Free Therapy

Some organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), may be able to help you find affordable or free psychotherapy near you. These resources may be available in-person or online.

Therapists through the Therapy Aid Coalition have been offering low-cost or free online counseling services to healthcare workers and first responders since 2020, even if they are currently unemployed. The Therapy Aid Coalition also provides free online mental health counseling after national crises.

It’s important to remember that finding the right therapy and support for your mental health needs may require some research and effort. While free online therapy sessions may not be readily available, exploring the above resources can be a great starting point.


Best Free or Affordable Online Therapy: Comparison Table

Are you looking for the best free or affordable online therapy? Check out this comparison table to help you make an informed decision.

Cost Per Week*Session TypesPrescribes MedicationFinancial AidAccepts Insurance
BetterHelp$60–$90Video, phone, text, messagingNoYesNo
Brightside$75–$88, or $95 per month for only medication management + $15 per medicationVideo and messagingYesNoYes
Talkspace$69–$109Messaging, video, online workshopsYesNoYes
Calmerry$42–$68Video, messagingNoNoNo
Monument Varies; monthly plans range from $10–$249 per month, community membership is freeVideo, messagingYesNoYes
7 Cups$150 for online therapy with a licensed counselor; free to talk with volunteer listeners or post on forum boardsMessagingNoNoNo

*Cost shown is without financial aid or insurance.


How to Save Money on Online Therapy: Tips and Resources

Online therapy can be a convenient and effective way to access mental health services, but the cost may be a barrier for some people. Here are some additional ways to save money on online therapy:

  • Use Insurance or Health Savings Accounts

If your insurance plan covers mental health services, look for an online therapy platform that accepts your insurance. You can also use your health savings account or flexible savings account debit cards to pay for services on some platforms.

  • Explore Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Check with your employer to see if they offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provides free workplace programs that can help you with work-related issues. Some EAPs also offer counseling services.

  • Connect with Free Mental Health Organizations

National organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can provide information and resources on local support groups and low-cost mental health services.

  • Join Local Support Groups

In addition to online therapy, there may be local support groups in your community that are free or low-cost. Look for groups that address your specific mental health needs.

  • Consider Financial Aid

Some online therapy platforms, like BetterHelp and its specialty sites ReGain, Pride Counseling, and Teen Counseling, offer financial aid to those who qualify. Contact the platform’s customer service to see if you are eligible for financial assistance.

By using these resources, you can find affordable ways to access mental health services online. Remember, investing in your mental health is worth it.


The Bottom Line: Accessing Affordable and Free Online Therapy and Resources

While free online therapy is not widely available, there are free online resources and support groups that you can use to seek help. Many online platforms like 7 Cups and Monument offer free services where you can talk to active listening volunteers, participate in online forums, and access support groups for alcohol use disorder. You can also contact the Crisis Text Line, where trained volunteers can help you in crisis situations.

Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, ReGain, Pride Counseling, and Teen Counseling offer financial aid to make their services more affordable. To find the right therapist for you, these platforms typically use a questionnaire to match you with a licensed professional.

Additionally, some online therapy platforms like Brightside and Talkspace accept insurance plans. Calmerry, our top pick for “Most Affordable Online Therapy,” offers therapy sessions at a lower cost than many other platforms.


In Emergency Situations

If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, waiting for an online therapy appointment is not safe. If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, call 911 immediately. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached by dialing 988, and the Crisis Text Line is available by texting 741741. You can also call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) for free and confidential treatment referral and information services for mental health or substance use disorders. Help is available 24/7, every day of the year.

Author Dr. Serenity

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