How To Afford Therapy

By Lisa Smusz, MS, LPCC

Many people would like to find support for their mental health , but may be scared that they cannot afford therapy. The good thing is there are many ways to get support for free or at a lower cost. Here are our top 10 tips for making mental health support affordable:

  1. Therapy isn’t the only way to improve your mental health. There are many types of support. Talking with a peer can be a very powerful tool for better mental health. The Peer-Run Warm Line is for anyone in California seeking mental and emotional support at 855-845-7415. If you’re a teen you can call, text, or email the teen line
  2. Try self-help. Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) is a self-help tool for better mental wellness. There are free groups (in English and Spanish) for adults and teens in Alameda County. Sign up for an introduction class to learn more.
  3. If you have a smartphone try using a mental health app. There are apps that help you with problems like stress, or you can pay a monthly fee to talk to a therapist. To find a list of apps and read reviews visit Psyberguide or read our article.
  4. Group therapy is a low-cost option. You also get to meet other people who are dealing with similar life issues. There are many free or low-cost groups in Alameda County. Here are a few:
    • African American Family Support Group: 4th Tuesday of each month, 5:30-7:30pm; 954 60th St. Suite 10, Oakland. Call (510) 835-5010.
    • Berkeley Families Support Group: 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month, 6:30-8:30pm; 1901 Hearst Ave. Berkeley. Call (510) 981-5302.
    • Chinese-Language Family Support Groups: 1st Saturday of each month, 10 am-12pm; 523 8th St. Oakland. Call (510) 522-0924.
    • Group for Families of Children and Teens: 4th Tuesday of each month, 7 pm; Albany Methodist Church, 980 Stannage Ave, Albany. Call (510) 524-1250.
    • Grupos de Apoyo en Español: Llame (510) 567-7621 o envíe un mensaje a
    • The Depression and Sadness Support Group in Fremont. Call (510) 796-5722.
    • Youth Program at PEERS in Oakland. Call (510) 832-7337 or email
  5. Use the AllyNetwork provider search. All providers listed either provide low or no-cost therapy, or accept MediCal.
  6. Find a clinic where mental health providers are being trained. Many university training programs offer a clinic where new therapists are supervised by a licensed mental health provider. In Alameda County, California State University East Bay offers a community clinic.
  7. Many mental health professionals want to make therapy affordable and offer what is called a “sliding scale.” This means the therapist may lower their cost to a price that a person can afford. To find out if a therapist offers a sliding scale, ask when you call to set up your first appointment.
  8. If you are employed, ask your human resources department if there is an Employee Assistance Program available (sometimes called “EAP”). An EAP may offer a number of free therapy sessions for employees.
  9. If you are a student, ask Student Services if there are mental health benefits for students at your campus. College students pay fees each term that give them benefits on campus. This may include a counseling center where students can meet with a counselor for free. 

Do a search online to see if there are mental health scholarships available to pay for therapy. For example, the Loveland Therapy Fund provides financial help to Black women and girls seeking therapy.