Reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Millions of people in the United States struggle with mental illness such as anxiety and depression; and many more struggle with emotional stressors. But only about half of those people receive treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Getting treatment for mental health concerns isn’t always easy. Even once you’ve overcome the thought of the potential stigma, costs can be a significant barrier. Fortunately, there are ways to get therapy without insurance and to get low-cost therapy.
If you feel motivated to find mental health treatment, don’t be discouraged because you don’t have insurance. There are options available for you.
Counseling, talk therapy, psychotherapy -- these terms are largely used interchangeably. They all refer to talking through your mental and emotional struggles with a trained professional.
These therapy “sessions” can be used to talk about all sorts of stressors, including: problems at work or in professional relationships, problems with significant others or family members, depression, anxiety, medical diagnoses, and grief or loss of someone close to you.
These sessions with a professional aren’t just like talking to a friend — your therapist’s office (or Zoom meeting, if you’re doing this remotely) is a confidential space.
As with a medical doctor, your discussions with your therapist are just between the two of you. So unlike talking about your feelings with your brother or girlfriend, there’s a certain freedom akin to screaming into a box. What you reveal to your therapist, stays with your therapist.
An estimated 75 percent of people who receive psychotherapy experience symptom relief, according to the American Psychiatric Association. In fact, brain scans reveal similar benefits from therapy as from medication, in people with depression, PTSD, and other disorders.
While there are many forms of therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the more common. It helps people identify flawed thinking and behavior patterns, and then change them. For folks that have negative thought patterns that seem to get stuck on a loop, CBT can help you learn to intercept and reroute them.
Other forms of psychotherapy may focus on childhood experiences that shape current behavior, or interpersonal relationships and how they impact personal mental health.
Generally, a trained therapist will use several approaches to help you reach your goals in therapy.
So how do you access the benefits of therapy when you don’t have insurance? You have options. Several of them.
Pick a therapist. Call them. Ask if they accept cash payments. This is the simplest solution. Handling insurance can be laborious for mental health professionals, too. And many accept cash patients.
Some may even offer a discount compared to what’s normally billed to insurance companies. So, just ask.
If not having insurance is only part of the problem, and not having enough money is another part -- look for a therapist that offers a sliding-fee scale. These clinics take your income into consideration when determining how much you pay for service.
An increasing number of websites (Hims, included!) are offering online sessions with licensed mental health therapists. These may come with a lower price tag than therapists in your local area. And talk about convenience -- you don’t have to leave your home for these appointments.
Some colleges offer sessions from graduate students at a discounted rate. If you have a university in your area that offers advanced degrees in mental health, this may be an option.
Group therapy is typically less expensive than individual therapy, but you are sharing your time with other group members. Online support groups can offer similar support, with added camaraderie.
If you need mental health treatment, you can get it. The above options are available for men who don’t have insurance.
When all else fails, your community health department may be able to put you in contact with a crisis center or emergency mental health provider. When you’re struggling with mental and emotional health, the last thing standing in your way should be insurance coverage.
Dr. Vicky Davis is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years of experience in clinical practice, leadership and education.
Dr. Davis' expertise include direct patient care and many years working in clinical research to bring evidence-based care to patients and their families.
She is also an active member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.