What to do when you can’t afford to pay for counselling

The coronavirus crisis is having an impact on all our lives and our mental health. We are currently experiencing one of the most unusual periods the world has ever witnessed. Living in unprecedented times, many are feeling anxious and worried particularly as the global pandemic has put a strain on many financially. Getting affordable mental health care is especially important right now, and whilst it has many benefits, private therapy is not always an option for those who cannot afford it.

It is important to realise that there is always help available and there are alternative routes that are free or offered at a low cost that are equally as beneficial.

Here are 5 ways you can get some free support if you are not in a position to pay for counselling right now…

1. Counselling through the NHS

If you are registered with a GP, free therapy is available through the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme through the NHS. The therapy you receive will be specific to your circumstance, and may be delivered one-to-one, over-the-phone or online through self-help courses. If you are unsure about what help you need, don’t worry, your needs will be assessed and the appropriate type of therapy will be selected for you.

You can also self-refer directly to an NHS service in your area. Click the link below to find a psychological therapies service in your area.

Find a psychological therapies service in your area

Depending on where you live, you will need to be over a certain age to do this and if you are younger, then you can get support from your local child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS).

The main barrier with this route is the waiting time. The amount of time you will have to wait to receive treatment depends on various factors, including where you live. If the wait is too long and you would prefer help sooner, you may want to read on about the other options available below.

2. Ask about free counselling services at school/college/university/workplace

Many schools, universities and workplaces are now investing more into mental health and wellbeing support for their students and employees.

If you’re employed by a company, ask your HR department if they offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Employees are offered confidential counselling and support tackling work-related and personal concerns. Not all companies will offer this, but it’s certainly worth asking about.

Schools, colleges and universities all may offer free counselling sessions too. Ask a teacher about it or speak to your Student Union. Click here to find out more about getting mental health support for students.

3. Reach out to charities

Many mental health charities offer free guidance and advice through support forums, helplines, or even counselling services. Searching local charities near you for example, local Mind branches, will help you find a range of services including crisis-helplines, drop in-centres or talking therapies. Click here for a range of charities offering this type of support.

4. Download a mental health app

In the recent emergence of the ‘digital society’, there has been an increase in apps that have been designed to help those struggling with mental health issues. Varying from meditation apps, to mood trackers, or even apps that connect you to counsellors, the majority are free or at a low-cost. Not only does this make therapeutic techniques cost-effective, but also this route of help is portable and can be accessed anywhere at anytime.

Every individual’s circumstances are different and an app alone may not be enough support to tackle the issue, however they are useful in tackling common mental health conditions, such as low-level anxiety.

Click here for the NHS App Library, which includes a list of mental health apps that have been assessed and approved by the NHS.

5. Try self-help books

An additional self-help option is to read books that offer advice and strategies to help live with various forms of mental health challenges. Many authors who write these books have themselves experienced the same or similar problem, as they offer tools of support to test out, helping you understand your feelings more clearly.

Click here for the Reading Well scheme, which is a list of books created by the Reading Agency and Society of Chief Librarians, which include personal stories from people who are living with or caring for those with mental health issues.

If you’re in a crisis and need immediate support, you can contact one of the following helplines to talk to someone who can help

  • Samaritans. Listening service, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 116 123 (free from any phone) for immediate support or email jo@samaritans.org if this feels easier.
  • SANEline. Free helpline available 4.30pm-10.30pm every day for those with/supporting people with mental health problems. Call 0300 304 7000.
  • Papyrus HOPELINEUK. For those under 35 who are struggling with suicidal feelings, or concerned about a young person who might be struggling. Call 0800 068 4141 on weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 2pm-10pm and bank holidays 2pm–10pm, text 07786 209 697 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). If you identify as male, call 0800 58 58 58, 5pm–midnight every day. They also have a webchat service.
  • Switchboard. If you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630 for immediate support. Open 10am–10pm every day . Or you can email chris@switchboard.lgbt or use their webchat service. Phone operators all identify as LGBT+.

(Source: Mind.org)

You can also use the NHS urgent mental health helpline search tool to find other services available in your local area.

Please Note: Self-help resources (including books, apps, websites and social media accounts) are NOT a substitute for professional counselling support. It is always important that you seek professional help if you are struggling with your mental health so that you can be supported in the right way.

Article and resources written and researched by Simran Surdhar

2 responses to “What to do when you can’t afford to pay for counselling”

  1. Great article which will help a lot of people gaining information in one concise, comprehensive article. Well done 🙏🏽🙏🏽👏👏 .SSA


    1. Thanks! I’m glad you found it helpful 🙂


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