Should I Get Free Online Therapy?

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Many people struggle with their mental health and hesitate to consider online therapy, which is a well-known method of talking to a psychiatric professional easily. This can be due to the need to learn an online platform. Others may not know how to pay due to healthcare costs. However, free online therapy or low-cost online therapy is valuable and easy to access. 

Studies, such as The Effectiveness of Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders originally published in Cureus, show that online counseling is also effective. 

In this article, we discuss the value of online therapy, provide direction on how to find therapy online, discuss the pros and cons of participating in online therapy, and share free and affordable therapy resources. We will also answer your insurance and costs-related questions about online care.

If you’re looking for easy access to online therapy, use Klarity. Klarity quickly connects you with a vetted, licensed independent therapist who can help you with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and/or insomnia

What Is Free Online Therapy?

Online therapy may also be called telehealth, teletherapy, telepsychiatric care, or virtual therapy. It’s the process of talking to a therapist or crisis worker online through a secure, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)-compliant video conferencing tool. Whether free or at a cost, online therapy is widely available.

Some crisis lines, such as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, are important resources but not what most people think of as online therapy. Online therapy isn’t meant to replace emergency or crisis services. If you’re having an emergency or feeling suicidal, dial 911 or call 988. 

Online therapy is intended as an ongoing long- or short-term relationship with an individual, a licensed professional therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or related except for help with mental health issues, stress, or relationship problems. It can be used in combination with in-person therapy as well as solely done online.

Where Can I Get Free Online Therapy?

Ongoing free online therapy is rare. Most free services are one-time crisis services that also offer ongoing care referrals. You can call crisis services for free and talk with someone anytime if you’re in distress and need an ear. The service will refer you to a therapist or other resources for ongoing help if needed. 

The following are free online resources for help with suicidal thoughts or reference to a therapist.

IMPORTANT: If you or someone you love is having a medical emergency, dial 911. 

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

The 988 Lifeline is a national network of crisis centers available by phone, text, or chat 24/7 year-round to help with suicide prevention and emotional distress. 

Pros

  • A quick, confidential way to talk to someone if you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or emotional distress. 
  • Connects callers with additional help and resources.
  • Available 24/7 year-round.
  • Serves English- and Spanish-speaking callers as well as Deaf and hard-of-hearing callers.
  • Offers specific programs for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and other sexual and gender minority (LGBTQI+) youth and young adults.
  • Offers a Veteran-specific crisis chat.
  • Free, no insurance required.

Cons

  • Not intended for ongoing therapy.

Contact

General: 


For Veterans: 

For Deaf:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a free, confidential, 24/7 information referral service for people seeking help with mental and/or substance use disorders. While free, its primary goal is to refer callers to a local provider or treatment facility, support group, or community-based organization, which the caller’s state government typically funds.

Pros

  • A quick, confidential way to connect with a trained specialist to find local resources for mental health or substance abuse needs.
  • Available 24/7 year-round.
  • Serves English- and Spanish-speaking callers as well as Deaf and hard-of-hearing callers.
  • The call is free, and no insurance is required.

Cons

  • Not intended for ongoing therapy; SAMHSA does not offer counseling services directly, it’s a treatment referral service that connects callers to local therapy and other resources.

Contact

Website: www.samhsa.gov

Phone: 1-800-622-4357

Text: 435748 (HELP4U)

SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline

The SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline offers crisis support to people in emotional distress due to a disaster, such as a tornado, flood, wildfire, anniversaries, and more. It’s available 24/7 year-round to callers. It supports over 100 languages, including American Sign Language (ASL).

Pros

  • Offers access to free counseling services with trained crisis counselors.
  • Serves callers in more than 100 languages as well as Deaf and hard-of-hearing callers.
  • Callers remain anonymous.
  • Connects callers with added resources.

Cons

  • Not intended for ongoing therapy.

Contact

Website: www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline

Phone or text: 1-800-985-5990

TheHopeLine for Students and Young Adults 

TheHopeLine is a free live chat available 24/7 year-round to students and young adults in crisis. It offers free, confidential chat services with Hope Coaches who can help with mental health issues and more.

Pros

  • Offers access to free chat services 24/7 year-round.
  • Free.

Cons

  • Not intended for ongoing therapy.
  • Online chat only, no text or phone access.

Contact

Website: www.thehopeline.com/

Black Mental Health Alliance (BMHA)

BMHA is a referral service that connects individuals with culturally-competent, patient-centered licensed mental health clinicians. For a referral, fill out a short questionnaire and expect to hear back within 24 hours.

Pros

  • Connects people with licensed, culturally-competent counselors.

Cons

  • Does not let people search for providers based on cost. 

Contact

Website: https://blackmentalhealth.com/ 

To get started, submit the online questionnaire.

Note that many directories offer culturally-sensitive referrals, including Therapy Den and 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

State and County Mental Health Agencies

Every state in the U.S. has a mental health agency as do counties in each state. These agencies don’t offer counseling, but offer crisis help through the 988 Lifeline, links to local crisis lines when available, and valuable resources for learning about and discovering local resources.

Pros

  • Connects callers with needed crisis resources and referrals to free or affordable ongoing therapy where available. 

Cons

  • Resources and availability vary by state. 

Contact

How to Find Online Therapy That’s Affordable

There are several online services that connect people with therapists. We’ve included a few below. To find more, search for “online therapy directory” using your favorite browser.

Where Can I Get Affordable Online Therapy without Insurance?

Affordable options for online therapy if you don’t have or don’t want to use insurance include low-cost online referral services that connect you with a licensed therapist, psychologist, and/or psychiatrist for a small, fixed fee.

Klarity is one option that lets you meet with a licensed professional online within 48 hours at an affordable cost. Klarity’s mission is to make professional mental health diagnosis and treatment accessible and affordable to everyone. Klarity offers access to 100+ licensed, certified psychiatric and psychological experts nationwide along with worry-free, low-cost online services for depression, anxiety, insomnia, and ADHD. 

Other services for finding affordable therapy online include OpenPath and OnlineTherapy.com. 

Where Can I Get Therapy Online that Takes My Insurance?

If you have insurance, you can get low-cost therapy online or in-person. Depending on your insurance plan, you likely need to pay a copay and meet your deductible to avoid paying the full cost. For details, check with your insurance company. For details check with your insurance company. 

A variety of websites let you search for mental health providers that take insurance. (Note, you are not required to use insurance. You can choose to pay out of pocket.) Some of the most popular include:

  • Zocdoc offers a directory that lets you search for insurance plans right from the start of your search. When searching, you can choose a Video Visit.
  • Psychology Today offers a directory and shows whether or not a provider accepts insurance. Those who take online appointments are noted by a small icon of a video camera on the provider’s listing.

Advantages of Online Therapy

The benefits of teletherapy include that it’s been shown to be as effective as in-person therapy. It also has all of the privacy advantages of in-person care, as HIPAA protections cover it to ensure your information stays private. 

Just as with in-person therapy, your therapist, if licensed, is legally bound by a code of ethics to protect your privacy and not discuss you or your information with anyone, including family members. 

Online therapy is more accessible than in-person therapy. It may also be more affordable. All you need to participate is a working Internet connection and web or phone camera. You don’t need to drive or take transit to another location. A lack of drive time is particularly beneficial in crowded cities, widespread suburbs, and rural areas. 

Disadvantages of Online Therapy

A few disadvantages to online therapy include: 

  • It may not always be covered by insurance if you’re planning to use insurance to pay.
  • State laws vary and you may not be able to use an out-of-state therapist depending on where you live.
  • If your Internet goes down or is too slow or your computer or phone has a technical problem, you may not be able to connect with your therapist reliably.
  • Some people are less comfortable with virtual meetings and may prefer in-person communication.

Whether to use online therapy is a personal decision. For many, it’s a perfect choice and/or an ideal complement to a mixed approach. 

Additional Resources for Therapy and Crisis Intervention

In addition to online therapy from Klarity and online therapist directories, other resources for finding therapy include:

Ready to Talk to an Online Therapist, Try Klarity

Klarity gives everyone access to high-quality therapy from licensed therapists at a reasonable cost. No subscription or membership is required to access:

Explore affordable online therapy with Klarity today. Book an appointment with the therapist of your choice.

FAQs About Free Online Therapy

Can I talk to a therapist online for free?

There are online platforms that offer talk services. Churches Care for example, lets you talk to a minister. There are also online services that refer you to a therapist and/or state-funded programs that might make your therapy free. 

We know of no services that let you talk to a licensed therapist for free unless you’re paying with insurance, in which case, costs still apply in most cases.

Do I have to use insurance for free therapy?

To reduce the cost of your therapy, if you have insurance, you can use it, provided your plan covers the cost and your chosen therapist. Depending on your plan, you’ll likely still have a copay and/or partial coverage up to the time you meet your plan’s deductible and/or out-of-pocket limit. Check with your insurance plan for details.

You can also use your HSA and/or FSA to pay for therapy if you have one with available funds. 

Can online therapy be as effective?

Yes. Online therapy has been shown to be as effective as in-person therapy. A 2022 research report titled “Do older adults benefit from telepsychiatric care: Comparison to younger adults” and published in Frontiers in Psychology concluded that, “Older adults have similar improvement in depression symptom severity over time following initiation of psychiatric treatment via a telehealth platform. These findings suggest that age is not a barrier to benefitting from telepsychiatric care.” 

Why is therapy so expensive?

Therapy costs vary widely and can range from $65 to $400 per hour depending on the type of therapist you see, where you live, and other factors. For example, seeing a psychiatrist is typically much more expensive than seeing a social worker. Learn more about the cost of therapy.

Is $100 expensive for therapy?

According to Bankrate.com, the average cost of therapy in the U.S ranges from $100 to $200. So a session that costs $100 is on the low end of the average.

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Geralyn Dexter

Dr. Geralyn Dexter received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Florida, a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Nova Southeastern University, and a doctorate in Psychology from Northcentral University. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with over a decade of clinical experience. Currently, Dr. Dexter is a mental health and substance use writer, psychology faculty at Southern New Hampshire University, and content reviewer for Verywell Health and ESA Doctors.

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