Sometimes when funds are low, you don’t have health insurance coverage, or when you’re just a really frugal person, it’s time to get creative. Enter free online counseling!
In the vein of saving money on your mental health, I’ve listed some creative ways for you to obtain free online counseling (or ultra low-cost options; like $5 a month).
You might think some of these are a bit silly, but the idea is to get you thinking outside the box about how to solve this problem.
Buy a Self-Help Book
Most self-help books can be purchased for $20 or less. Make a point of actually completing the workbook exercises over a period of four months, and you’ve achieved a form of therapy for less than $5 a month.
You can check out a list of my top recommendations of self-help books for social anxiety here. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home to order a book from Amazon.
Make Friends With a Psychologist
This is probably not the best option, but if you happen to know a psychologist or social worker, invite that person to have coffee and a muffin with you for a standing date once a month or get in the habit of emailing regularly.
Their natural helping nature won’t be able to not help you at least a little with your problems. If they catch on, fess up but say that you really appreciate the help.
If you don’t know a psychologist, choose the most empathetic friend you know. Sometimes the best free online counseling is just about being heard.
You can join Toastmasters for very close to $5 a month depending on where you live. Even if it’s a little more, that’s still a bargain for this organization dedicated to public speaking and leadership.
Be warned though, although the dues are low, the time commitment can be high. You will need to prepare speeches and prepare for meetings. If you’d rather do this totally online, you’d be better off finding an online public speaking group on Facebook to test the waters and get your free online counseling that way.
Sign Up for an Online Therapy Service
The trick here will be to work out your cost over a month, and then somehow spread that over the year until it only costs you $5 a month.
For example, Betterhelp advertises unlimited text message counseling for $80 a week (less if you require financial assistance).
In order to make that $5 a month, you would need to pause your counseling after the week’s end, and not resume for another 16 months.
Most people aren’t going to benefit from therapy once every 16 months though, so this is probably not the best option, unless you are just trying to maintain good mental health and need a check-in once in a while (think of it kind of like a dentist visit).
If you can maintain continuity with the same therapist, this might actually work for you as far as getting nearly free online counseling.
Find a Research Study
Check out your local university or teaching hospital to see if they are running any studies that offer free therapy. Many years ago I worked as a research assistant on a study of the effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression, and participants in the study received free therapy.
Note however, that you could be randomized to various groups in a study (who may or may not receive therapy), so it’s important to understand what you’re getting into.
This option doesn’t usually actually cost you anything, and they may even reimburse you for costs associated with attending the appointments. While you will have to go in person, you may even find studies conducted completely online, fulfilling your wish for free online counseling.
Buy a Magazine Subscription
I’m not aware of any magazines about social anxiety, but ADDITUDE magazine is a good option if you also live with attention deficit disorder. A one-year subscription costs $20 and gets you four issues, so in essence, you get each issue for $5 a month.
Join a Facebook Support Group
Hint–sometimes helpful types (e.g., mental health professionals) hang out in these support groups to offer advice or promote their services.
You might be surprised at the good advice that rolls in if you post a concern that you’re having or issue you are facing. Just be careful to steer clear of troublemakers.
Have Health Insurance
Probably the best way to pay so little for your therapy is to have it covered by some form of health insurance.
Here in Canada, many employers offer some sort of assistance in this regard to their employees. If you have a job, check if you aren’t entitled to benefits of this sort. This will allow you to meet with a therapist in person, which is often necessary if your symptoms are extreme.
Buy the Social Anxiety Institute‘s Therapy Series
It costs $30 a month, which is more than your budget of $0-5 a month. That means that you’ll need to rally together five other people from your support group or your Toastmaster’s club to split the cost with you. You do the learning, and then teach what you’ve learned to the others.
Get an App
Get a chatbot app such as Wysa or Woebot and try out a little AI therapy. You might even forget you are talking to a robot. Most of these apps are free to install, so it’s up to you if you spend on in-app purchases.
That’s it! I hope I’ve shown you that it is possible to get some help even if your funds are limited.
In a perfect world, we would all receive as much therapy as we need. In the meantime, get creative and see if any of the above methods work. You might even find that combining a few gives you the best value for your money.