You’ve been stuck in the house for a month, you’re feeling worried and anxious, and your boyfriend has been playing video games every damn second of the day. You’d love to start therapy, but you’ve just been laid off at work and you aren’t sure you can afford it right now. Therapy isn’t cheap in this country, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting the mental health care you need. And because of COVID-19, now is a time when you might really need the extra support. Great news: Some therapy providers have created free programs or are offering special discounts right now. (There are a number of options that have been around forever, too.) Here, eight free therapy resources to try if you can’t afford to see someone.
The therapy startup had planned to open a mental health studio in New York City this month, but it was postponed due to the virus. Instead, they’ve started Real to the People, a program that offers free group salons and individual digital mental check-ins. The group salons (which are facilitated by a therapist) offer an opportunity to find support and connection with six to eight other people around a common issue like attempting to juggle parenting and working from home. You’ll meet with the group for four sessions. Prefer to tackle your issues one-on-one? Try a digital mental check-in, a one-time session where one of Real’s therapists will help you develop a plan to prioritize your mental health.
Created by United Way, 211 is a national helpline that can help you learn about the therapy resources in your area. Dial 211, and you’ll be connected with a representative who can point you towards the free or low-cost therapy options that are available to you. Basically, they’ve done the research so you don’t have to. You can also call the NAMI HelpLine at (800) 950-6264 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you don’t have luck through 211 adds Casey O’Brien Martin, a licensed mental health counselor and the founder of Whole Child Counseling.
3. Talkspace Free Public Support to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety
This Facebook support group was created by Talkspace and is led by therapists, so you can feel confident that it’s legit. It’s completely free to join and members can post coping tips, questions and concerns for the group to weigh in on. So far we’ve seen self-care tips from therapists, encouraging quotes and helpful reminders from mental health professionals. It’s not a substitute for one-to-one therapy, but it’s a start.
4. Pro Bono Therapists
The American Psychological Association encourages mental health professionals to do pro bono work, says Dr. Molly Giorgio, a Windsor, CT-based therapist. Don’t hesitate to contact therapists in your area and find out whether they’re willing to do pro bono work. “Many therapists and psychologists offer sliding scale [pricing] based on the income of the client,” she adds. And if they’re not currently taking pro bono clients at the moment, they might be willing to point you in the direction of someone who is.
As opposed to hotlines, which are typically reserved for times of immediate crisis, warmlines provide support for any situation where you’re just looking for someone to talk to. “Many people are feeling isolated in their homes right now and a warmline is an excellent resource to connect with a caring person. This is a great option to use when you are feeling anxious,” says Martin. They’re free, but keep in mind that warmlines are staffed by peer counselors who have experienced mental health conditions themselves—not actual therapists. The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers an extensive list of warmlines by state, as well as ones that will accept out-of-state calls.
6. National Alliance on Mental Illness COVID-19 Resource and Information Guide
This resource guide is a fantastic resource for mental health during this time. Whether you’re looking for tips to help manage your anxiety, ways to find community support or advice about self-care, it’s got you covered. Plus, the guide links out to a bunch of helpful, NAMI-approved resources that may be useful if you need further help.
7. 7 Cups
If you’d prefer to text someone (because who makes phone calls anymore?) consider using 7 Cups. The service will connect you with a volunteer listener—all of whom have completed an active listening training program designed by a psychologist—who you can chat with you whenever you need to, 24/7. It’s totally free, but definitely not a replacement for seeing a real therapist on a regular basis if that’s what you’re looking for.
8. Mental Health Apps
When you don’t have access to an actual professional, you might be tempted to turn to a mental health app…but not all apps are created equal. PsyberGuide has a library of 176 apps which it rates on factors like credibility, user experience and transparency so that you can choose a reputable resource that fits your needs.