Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

9 Tips to Overcome Financial Barriers When Seeking Mental Health Treatment

With the approval of the Affordable Care Act, mental and behavioral health services have become essential health benefits most health insurance providers have offered. Now, multiple options to get care are available for low- and middle-income earners who previously were less likely to afford therapy sessions and medications.

If you’re looking for ways to get around the financial barriers in mental health treatment, here are nine tips to help you get the right care.


1. Search for In-Network Providers First

Health insurance is your main keycard to access mental health services. The first place to look is your health plan’s participating providers. You will have access to mental health and behavioral services if you enroll in an Affordable Care Act-compliant plan. 

Get a list of in-network mental health providers by calling your insurance company. Have your policy number and plan details ready beside you. While on the call, ask questions about copay or deductibles, requirements for the coverage, such as the need for referral or preapproval, and limitations on benefits. 


2. Try Private Therapists

Therapy per session without insurance costs between $50 and $200. Many private therapists who don’t take insurance adjust their rates or work on a sliding scale to ensure patients receive care. Therapists with high regard for social responsibility and looking to expand access to their services may use a “pay what you can” approach for patients who can only make a low amount feasible. 

Organizations like the American Psychological Association have a locator to connect with credentialed psychologists within your area. Enter your zip code and the service you need. 


3. Inquire About the Flexible Payment Option

If the sliding scale option is not possible, negotiate for flexible payments if you’re unable to pay in full. You don’t have to feel embarrassed about negotiating. Many do since only 62% of adults in the U.S. are confident in their ability to afford health care.

You may find providers in private practice who can adjust the payment structure and allow you to settle fees in installments of several months. Another way to reduce the cost is to do shorter sessions. You can do 30-minute sessions instead of an hour and pay half the hourly rate. 


4. Explore Medicaid Benefits

Medicaid members may get free therapy sessions if they’re eligible. Eligibility requirements and accessible services vary per state. For example, in Virginia and Maryland, providers only cover counseling services for individual members, not marriage or family counseling. You can find out more about this when you’re shopping for plans. You can also check the provided handbooks in your state’s official insurance marketplace. 

Check the free clinics or any Medicaid-funded community health centers in your area if you want to consult a professional. You may find providers who accept Medicaid work in these settings.


5. Find Providers From Local Training Institutes

Local training institutes admit students and practitioners who want to dive into advanced psychoanalytic therapy and develop their psychotherapeutic skills. Some of these organizations may offer free services as part of their training but are supervised by qualified mental health professionals.


6. Seek Services at College or University Clinics

Some university hospitals and medical schools have programs that allow you to tap into therapists in training or interns for zero or low cost. Most training hospitals have a psychiatry department that offers affordable psychotherapy services. 

To find out which training hospitals have mental health programs, list universities and colleges within your area. Search for their website online and find their contact information. Email or call each to inquire about the therapy services. 

You may also enroll as part of the research. Some schools do research on a specific mental health condition. You can be a participant and receive free therapy and medications. 


7. Look For Nonprofit Options

Several nonprofit organizations have a network of mental health experts to counsel at a reduced rate. These organizations also often specialize in one area of mental health. 

For example, Project HEAL helps people with eating disorders. You can apply to various programs for support, such as cash assistance and treatment access. 

Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is a platform with nationwide networks of mental health experts, including interns, offering services starting from $30 per session. 

Another resource is the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. Here you can find over 1400 volunteer-supported, nonprofit and community-based medical clinics that offer zero or nominal fees for their services. To find one in your area, enter the zip code on the search function.


8. Explore Employee Assistance Programs

As mental well-being in the workplace is becoming a priority, many organizations integrate wellness programs into their employee assistance program (EAP). Review your handbook to check if you have such a program or connect with your human resource team to confirm your EAP benefits. 

If you use your EAP advantages, make sure you know the extent of the services available to you for free. You may need to pay out of pocket when you max out the free benefits. 


9. Look Into Telehealth 

Teletherapy is a cost-effective choice in general because it reduces other financial barriers. When you choose virtual therapy, you save on transportation costs. You also don’t have to take time off or hire childcare services for your children while in therapy. You can expect little to no disruption to your personal schedules. 


Affording Mental Health Services by Exhausting Your Options

Several options can help you get mental health care at low to no cost. If you have a health plan, use your provider’s in-network to get the services you need. Otherwise, check private therapy offices, college and university clinics and nonprofit organizations. 

Many therapists have a strong social responsibility and want everyone to access care. Sometimes, they’ll make room for affordable sessions and make it work with whatever you can afford. If you have mental health programs in your workplace, they can also drive down your care expenses. Lastly, choose the convenience of teletherapy.