Online therapy has exploded in popularity over the last few years. Studies have shown that it is as effective as in-person therapy, and it’s often much cheaper. But, for many folks, online therapy doesn’t fit into already tight budgets.
Many online therapy companies require a subscription fee on top of therapy session costs. While online therapy is still more affordable (in general) than face-to-face therapy, these costs can add up. Well-known services that are advertised as affordable are still cost-prohibitive for many people.
Lots of resources lure you with the promise of free online therapy but don’t deliver actual free options. Partly, this is because we all wish there were free therapy options online that don’t really exist. But the good news is that some online therapy companies do offer free trials, and others offer cheap online therapy. Not only that, but there are free online opportunities that aren’t technically “therapy” but can provide valuable mental health support. We’ll also tell you about the wealth of resources online to find the help you need, get financial assistance, and help yourself through almost any mental health issue.
Finding free and inexpensive mental health help requires some digging, but we’ve done the legwork for you in this guide.
Reminder: Online therapy is not suitable for crisis situations. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255
Why you should trust us
Truly free online therapy: free trials
Does free online therapy exist long-term?
Types of free online mental health services
Free online peer-to-peer counseling
Very affordable online therapy and mental health care options
Free online mental health resources
Free online support groups
Free therapist matching services
Financial assistance for mental health care
Finding free and affordable in-person therapy
Mental health apps
Frequently asked questions about free online therapy
Our picks for best online therapy (regardless of price)
Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions involving staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles. We’ve spent hundreds of hours testing and researching your online therapy options to provide you with the best possible advice.
Like all medical-related content on this website, this guide was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for medical accuracy. Additionally, we extensively test, experience, and order from each medical service we review. We try our best to give you unbiased, marketing-jargon-free descriptions of all the at-home health services evaluated based on the latest scientific evidence and medical standards.
Consider a free trial if you think you might need a live session or two to help with your issue – not to mention the opportunity for lots of text messaging with a therapist – or you aren’t sure if online therapy is right for you.
Finding free trials for online therapy isn’t easy; most companies no longer offer this user-friendly service. But some online therapy services provide a trial period where you can utilize the service for free before committing to a subscription or continuing with appointments. Remember that a free trial will not lead to an ongoing relationship with a therapist that is often necessary for substantial change and growth. But make no mistake, a free trial is a very valuable way to discover if online therapy can work well for you.
Free one-week trial
ReGain specializes in couples therapy but also offers individual therapy. They provide a free one-week trial. ReGain doesn’t make it easy to access the free trial, though. Here’s how to do it:
- Fill out the questionnaire and create an account.
- Click the link that says, “I can’t afford therapy.”
- Choose the option “Still not ready.”
- Choose the option “I don’t feel that I need help at the moment.”
ReGain offers you a week of free therapy if you follow these steps. You still need to provide your credit card or PayPal details to proceed with the free trial. It includes unlimited text, video, and audio messaging with a therapist as well as a live session.
Cost after trial: ReGain costs $60-$90/week, and you’re billed monthly. Your membership includes unlimited messaging through text, video, and audio. You can also set up a weekly live session with your therapist. ReGain offers financial assistance for those who need it – you can apply on the site and cancel your membership at any time.
Rethink My Therapy
7-day free trial
Rethink My Therapy offers online therapy and psychiatry services for individuals, couples, and families. During the 7-day free trial period, you can access virtual primary care and mental healthcare. Rethink My Therapy can assist with a variety of issues, including:
- Bipolar disorder
- Grief and loss
- Relationship counseling
- Postpartum depression
- Women’s issues
Cost after trial: Your subscription to Rethink My Therapy includes unlimited phone and video calls with your therapist, psychiatrist, or primary care doctor. Here’s the cost breakdown:
- Single plan: $99/month
- Couples plan: $129/month
- Family plan: $159/month
The couples plan includes separate accounts and scheduling partner or single therapy sessions. The family plan provides up to 4 accounts.
3-day trial for $5
eTherapyPro provides online therapy services, including text, audio, and video sessions. While not truly free, it offers a 3-day trial for only $5 that gives you access to unlimited messaging with a therapist. You can also schedule a live session according to your therapist’s availability. To begin the trial, fill out a questionnaire about your mental health, create an account, and provide credit card details. The trial ends after 3 days, and you won’t be charged again.
Cost after trial: If you decide to continue with eTherapyPro, you have two options for payment.
- Charged monthly: $180/month
- Charged weekly: $55/week
Whichever plan you choose, eTherapyPro provides unlimited messaging and live sessions. Their site also includes a blog with mental health resources, a guide to online therapy, and free anxiety help.
7-day free premium trial
Meditopia is a mental health app that offers meditation guidance that can help with anxiety, sleep, and mental well-being. When you sign up with Meditopia, you can try 7 days of their Premium version for free. This includes access to over 500 pieces of content, including sleep stories, meditations, music, and nature sounds. You can also download content to use when you’re offline.
Cost after trial: The app can be purchased by month or year:
- Monthly: $9.99/month
- Yearly: $5 per month, billed as $59.99/year
You can also choose to continue with a Free Membership that provides limited access, including any unlocked meditations, two pieces of music, and one sleep story.
Is it possible to get free online therapy in an ongoing and high-quality format? The answer to this question is: No. You can take advantage of free trials in online therapy – a valuable opportunity to try online therapy before you pay for it. And there are helpful mental health services online for free – including coaching, peer counseling, apps, support groups, and other online resources. But these are not the same as therapy, and we want to help you understand the differences between your options, free and paid.
As valuable as other mental health help often is, there’s no substitute for a sustained, meaningful relationship with a therapist. You can certainly achieve this relationship online, but it will cost you some money.
Keep in mind that the most constructive question might not be, “How do I find free therapy?” Instead, the question ought to be, “How can I make mental health care affordable for me?” This might not involve live one-on-one sessions with a therapist every week. Instead, this could include free support groups, inexpensive mental health apps, an application to a mental health fund for financial assistance, and many other free and affordable online options.
You will have to pay for ongoing therapy lasting longer than a week, for instance. But, you can try it for free or cheap if you know where to look (see our list above), and this experience can be invaluable. Beyond that, you can make therapy and mental health care more affordable for yourself by accessing some of the resources in this guide.
While free online therapy may only be available in limited fashion, there are free mental health services offered on various platforms that are helpful in different ways. Even if you can’t afford to meet with a therapist, you can take advantage of these free services to vent frustrations, gain perspective and guidance, or work on goal setting.
Chat therapy involves texting or chatting with a provider using your phone or computer. Unlike a typical therapy session, chat therapy can be asynchronous, meaning that you might message your provider and wait on a response. Or you might experience a live chat. Either way, chat therapy includes writing out your thoughts instead of talking.
In general, chat therapy will be best used for support or help with minor issues. Chatting is a good option if you feel alone or need to reach out to someone. But, if you want the sustained type of relationship with a therapist that is most beneficial to substantial mental health improvement, chat therapy is no substitute for talk therapy.
Sometimes, online mental health help doesn’t come from a professional with a degree. In some cases, it can come from a peer who has similar experiences and can listen and give guidance. In peer-to-peer counseling, you’re matched with someone who can relate to your issue, is there to listen, and can provide advice and suggestions or ask important questions.
The National Warmline Directory provides a list of peer-to-peer counseling services freely available online. Warmlines are like hotlines, except they aren’t used for crisis situations. Instead, they’re used for emotional support and recovery and are operated by volunteers.
You might see online coaching, sometimes called life coaching, lumped in with therapy or counseling. Coaches are not therapists, and their purposes in your wellbeing journey are much different than those of mental health providers.
While a therapist focuses on how your past impacts your present, coaches focus on who you are today and what you need to achieve your goals. Coaching is less about mental health and more about goal setting, forming healthy habits, and feeling empowered. Coaches can help you reach a personal or professional goal by working on practical strategies and motivation.
As an alternative to free online therapy, consider that many companies offer free services like online chat or coaching. But, if you want access to an online therapist, you have to pay for it. Even companies that advertise free online therapy don’t offer all services for free. But, if you need quick or temporary help, one of these services could assist you.
Also, keep in mind that online therapy companies offer affordable therapy services that won’t break the bank. See below for more information on these low-cost services.
What’s free: If you search for “free online therapy,” 7 Cups often comes up as an option, but there’s just one problem: it does not offer free therapy. However, you can chat with a volunteer listener for free.
Peer chat is anonymous and available for anyone over the age of 13. Listeners are trained in active listening skills, which can help you open up about your issue and work through it. You can browse through a list of active listener profiles to determine who you’d like to chat with. Chat sessions can last as long as you need, and you can end a session at any time. 7 Cups also offers free online support groups.
Therapy cost: Therapy at 7 Cups costs $150 per month for unlimited messaging with a licensed therapist. You can message your therapist at any time in your online therapy room, and they will respond 1-2 times per day. You don’t video chat with a therapist or have typical therapy sessions with 7 Cups.
Free Online Therapy
What’s free: Free Online Therapy provides free peer-to-peer chat with volunteers from their online community. When you sign up, you can identify as a “listener” or a “venter.” Listeners listen to your issues and offer guidance, while venters are those who need help. In addition to peer-to-peer chat, Free Online Therapy aims to connect you to individual and relationship counseling, including unlimited messaging and one full therapy session, by partnering with BetterHelp.
Therapy cost: Free Online Therapy partners with BetterHelp to offer therapy sessions for $140-$300 per month. This includes unlimited messaging and phone or video sessions with a licensed therapist. While Free Online Therapy claims to help you get a 7-day free trial for online therapy, this opportunity doesn’t exist. BetterHelp is our top recommendation for online therapy and provides robust financial aid opportunities based on need, but BetterHelp doesn’t offer free trials.
What’s free: BlahTherapy offers free peer chat with other site users. When using the chat function, you can sign up as a “venter” or a “listener.” Venters are there to talk and release their frustrations, and listeners provide help and guidance. Chat is anonymous, and listeners are untrained.
Therapy cost: BlahTherapy partners with BetterHelp to offer online therapy sessions and unlimited messaging with a licensed therapist for $60-90 per week.
“Affordable” is a relative and troublesome term, but some online therapy companies aim to make their services as inexpensive as possible while still offering good-quality care. Often, services labeled as “affordable” can still cost hundreds of dollars a month. This is cost-prohibitive for many people. Mental health care is essential to overall wellbeing, but you want to know that you’re receiving the best therapy possible, even if you have a tight budget.
In this guide, we’re labeling therapy as “very affordable” therapy if it will cost you less than $100 per month. And many of the options below are far more budget-friendly than that.
Open Path Collective
$59 lifetime membership, $30-60 for individual sessions
Open Path Collective matches those in financial need with a therapist that offers reduced rates. Enter your zip code for a list of providers certified in your area, browse their profiles, and select your therapist. Set up your account, including your current financial information to determine need.
If you’re accepted by Open Path, pay for a lifetime membership for $59. And set up an appointment with your therapist. Providers offer in-person and online therapy sessions for:
- $30-60 for individuals
- $30-$80 for couples and families
Insider Tip: BetterHelp – one of the most popular and reputable online therapy services – offers financial aid and discount rates for those in need. For more info, visit our review of BetterHelp here.
$24/month for various services and resources
Real does not offer live, one-on-one therapy. Instead, they provide on-demand resources created by therapists that you can access any time, anywhere. Much of Real’s services are based in group therapy, but they also offer tools that help to personalize your experience and work on your mental health goals. They offer:
- Mental health progress tracker
- Personalized therapy pathways that meet your specific needs
- Audio and video lessons about mental health issues
- Member-only online events featuring therapists and experts
Even though Real doesn’t offer what you’d expect – one-on-one therapy sessions with a dedicated therapist – they aim to revolutionize online therapy, making it more accessible, collaborative, and customizable.
You have 3 subscription options for Real:
- $23.99 per month
- $104.99 for 6 months
- $164.99 for 12 months (save 50%)
$9.99/month for unlimited coaching
iPrevail offers online coaching, not therapy. But, their services are very affordable and could help if you’re looking to talk to someone about goal setting or motivation. They also staff coaches who specialize in areas like:
- Healthy habits
A coach is not a therapist, but iPrevail’s coaches go through a training process that prepares them to tackle various issues. iPrevail provides a free 24-hour trial that includes unlimited chatting with a coach. After 24-hours, you have the option to begin a subscription for $9.99/month. This includes:
- Unlimited chatting with a coach
- Access to community groups
- Use of tools like self-paced, interactive lessons
In addition to free and affordable online therapy, many sites also provide resources and information that can help us through a mental health issue. For example, suppose you have anxiety or depression. In that case, you can visit one of the links below, learn more about those conditions, and possibly find other free mental health resources that could benefit your treatment.
The lists below provide sites and phone numbers for various free resources available online. This is not an exhaustive list; just know that you can search for similar information on your own if your mental health issue isn’t listed.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
- The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386
- The LGBT National Hotline: 888-843-4564
- Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
- American Addiction Centers Hotline: (866) 510-0809
- Self-Harm Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
- National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma, and Mental Health: (312) 726-7020, ext 2011
- National Eating Disorders Helpline: (800) 931-2237
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Helpline: (800) 622-HELP
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Find a Helpline
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline Crisis Chat: (800) 273-8255
- See our full article on Suicide Facts and Resources here.
- Addiction Resource Center
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Find Treatment
- Anxiety Disorder Association of America
- Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association
- The Anxiety Network
- Bliss – a self-paced online therapy program to help treat depression
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Academy for Eating Disorders
- Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness
- National Eating Disorder Association
- The Pride Institute
- Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
- The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
- The Bisexual Resource Center
- National Center for Transgender Equality
- See our full article on Mental Health Resources for the LGBTQ+ Community here.
Insider Tip: Pride Counseling – a counseling service for the LGBTQ+ community – offers financial assistance for those in need. Check out our full review of Pride Counseling.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness COVID-19 Resource Guide
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Mental Health America COVID-19 Resources
One alternative to one-on-one talk therapy is support groups. Many support groups are led by mental health professionals and focus on a particular mental health issue. You’ll get the added bonus of meeting other people going through a situation similar to your own.
There are tons of online support groups, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The listing below is not comprehensive – you can find a free online support group on just about any topic with a quick internet search. There are also several support group lists and support group locators available online:
- Support Group Central
- Mental Health America Support Group Finder
- Psychology Today Support Group Locator
- Anxiety & Depression Association of America Support Groups (English & Spanish)
General Mental Health Help
A therapist matching service is a free service that links you with a therapist that meets your needs. Many groups that have been historically marginalized have trouble finding therapists that are accepting and sensitive to their cultural and spiritual needs. Matching services take these factors into account to eliminate those barriers.
Many matching services are free and offer pro bono or sliding scale therapy to those who qualify. Below is a listing of several free therapist matching services:
- Inclusive Therapists
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Therapy for QPOC
- Essential Therapy for Essential Workers
- Therapy Funds for Military, Veterans, and Victims of Natural Disasters
If you can’t afford therapy, you might qualify for financial assistance. Many online funds are set up to help historically marginalized groups afford treatment, eliminating barriers to mental health care within communities.
If you don’t qualify for one of these funds, consider doing your own research to see if other community funds could assist you.
Sad Girls Club
Sad Girls Club offers free mental health help for Black women and girls.
The Loveland Foundation
The Loveland Foundation provides free therapy for Black women and girls.
The National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN)
NQTTCN can offer up to 6 free therapy sessions for queer and trans people of color.
Black Female Therapists (BFT)
BFT provides 2-3 free therapy sessions for Black people.
Black Men Heal
Black Men Heal can offer up to 8 free therapy sessions for Black men.
Therapy Fund Foundation
Therapy Fund Foundation can cover therapy sessions for Black people.
The Mental Health Fund (MHF) for Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
The MHF offers financial assistance to Queer and Trans BIPOC for mental health services.
Queer & Trans Mental Health Fund
Queer & Trans Mental Health Fund provides stipends for queer, transgender, and gender-expansive people to access therapy.
In addition to seeking online resources, looking for therapy options in your community can help cut costs. Of course, online resources may be the best option for those in smaller communities. But, if you live in an area with a hospital, university, or other services, chances are there are inexpensive therapy resources near you.
Keep in mind: even many in-person therapy sessions are being conducted online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you can locate free or cheap therapy in your area, ask about having virtual sessions.
Here are some strategies for finding free and affordable in-person therapy:
- Ask local therapists if they offer pro bono or sliding-scale services.
- Seek services through local nonprofit groups.
- Try counseling at a local university or college.
- Contact your local Department of Public Health for reduced fee options.
- Use the United Way 211 national helpline. It was created to connect you with therapy resources in your area. Simply dial 211 to be connected to a representative.
- Visit the American Psychoanalytic Association site, which provides a searchable list of low-fee mental health clinics.
- Visit Needy Meds to search for free, low-cost, and sliding scale mental health clinics in your area.
Apps can also be helpful on your mental health journey. There are dozens of apps dedicated to self-care, mental health, meditation, relaxation, and other self-improvement principles. Many apps are inexpensive, and some are free to use.
The One Mind Psyber Guide provides a searchable list of mental health apps, and we’ve listed a few notable ones below:
WeAreMore is a free peer support app for those with chronic illnesses.
MindDoc offers mood tracking and psychological exercises. It is free to download, but the full version costs $8.99/month.
Calm is a popular app for meditation and sleep. The app is free to download. There is also Calm Premium, which offers a one-week free trial and costs $69.99/year.
Happify helps with stress and negative thoughts. The app is free to download and costs $14.99/month.
Woebot is a personal mental health chatbot. You can download the app for free.
Clarity helps with dating and relationships through peer connection and information from experts. The app is free to download and offers a 7-day free trial. After that, it costs $4.99/month.
Wisdo is a peer connection app with over 70 online communities. It also features life coaching and group events. It is free to download, and a membership costs $5.99/month.
What do I do if I can’t afford therapy?
If you’ve looked through a lot of the resources in this article, done your own research, and have concluded that you can’t afford therapy, you still have a few options. Checking with your insurance or employer is a good idea, as is searching for local opportunities through organizations and institutions of higher education.
Check your insurance plan. A portion or all of your mental healthcare could be covered if you have insurance. You can also use a service like Headway to help you make sense of your insurance coverage.
Visit a community mental health center. Even in small communities, non-profit organizations or other community centers may offer free or low-cost services. Ask around or search online to find out.
Use your employer’s Employee Assistance Program. Many employers now offer an EAP that contributes to mental healthcare. This could be funds toward therapy or self-care. Read your employee handbook or ask your HR rep.
Practice self-care. There are so many free websites, books, apps, and podcasts to help you care for yourself. This could include affirmations, meditation, or self-help books with worksheets and projects to work through your issues. Check your local library if you can’t spend the money.
Contact your local university or college. When psychologists and social workers are in training, they need patients for practice sessions. You might find free or cheap sessions with trainees. You’ll also be contributing to building the skills of another mental health practitioner in your community.
Why does therapy cost so much?
You’re paying for knowledge, experience, and expertise. Therapists have to earn degrees and certifications to practice, and many have specialties that cater to specific issues. In general, online therapy is cheaper than in-person therapy. The average cost of an in-person therapy session is $200-250. If you want weekly or bi-monthly sessions, that cost adds up.
You’re still getting the same help with online therapy but with fewer overhead costs. Online therapists don’t have to rent a space or pay for insurance since they meet with patients online. This is why online therapy is a bit cheaper than face-to-face therapy. But, even with that reduced cost, the price can still be too high for tight budgets.
Are free and inexpensive services as effective as expensive ones?
The most effective form of therapy is a sustained, dedicated relationship with a therapist. Your therapist gets to know your background, and the two of you can develop a plan to achieve your mental health goals. With many free and cheap mental health services, you forego that ongoing relationship to save money.
Free and inexpensive services like chat therapy, peer-to-peer counseling, and online coaching can be effective as long as you know what you’re getting into and don’t expect the same results as you’d get from a sustained relationship with a therapist.
What can I expect with peer-to-peer counseling?
Online peer-to-peer counseling usually takes place via chatroom or text message. Depending on the platform you use, your peer counselor may be a trained provider or an untrained volunteer. Some platforms staff trained counselors who learn about active listening and other effective counseling methods. Volunteers usually benefit from peer counseling and use their time to give back to others who need assistance. Often, peer counseling can be kept anonymous.
Peer counseling is effective for those who need to vent or share their emotions with a dedicated listener. Peers can ask questions or give guidance and advice, but they don’t provide the same function as a therapist. For example, you probably won’t talk to the same peer counselor each visit, and you generally don’t schedule an appointment.
Even if you’re only interested in free or cheap therapy, it’s still good to know which companies offer the highest quality online therapy. Even though the cost of therapy may be higher, these companies provide the best online therapy in certain categories, according to our extensive testing.
For a full breakdown, see our full guide to the best online therapy.
Cost: $65-$80/week, financial aid and discounted rates available
BetterHelp is the most robust online therapy platform, with high-quality therapists and many helpful features. You’ll notice that many online therapy sites link to BetterHelp because, right now, they are the most prominent and respected online therapy company.
They offer flexibility and seamless therapist matching. All counselors are highly qualified and vetted. Your subscription includes one live video session per week with your therapist in addition to access to BetterHelp’s other features, like journaling, webinars, and unlimited messaging.
BetterHelp costs $65-$80 per week. They do offer financial assistance and discounted rates for patients with financial difficulties. This usually reduces rates to about $48 per week, a significant reduction and a great value considering what therapy services you can access each week.
Read our full BetterHelp review here.
Best app & Best for psychiatry
Talkspace comes in a close second to BetterHelp as best overall. Pricing and therapist quality are comparable to BetterHelp, but Talkspace’s app is superior for live therapy sessions. Talkspace also offers psychiatry services that include prescriptions.
Therapy services cost $55-$129 per week. If your goal is a once-weekly live therapy session, that will cost you more than with BetterHelp. Psychiatric services include an initial evaluation fee of $199 and $125 per session after that. Talkspace also offers relationship counseling at $99/week.
Read our full Talkspace review here.
Best for teens
TeenCounseling caters to teens aged 13-18. You match with a highly qualified counselor who can discuss any issues, such as anxiety, bullying, or eating disorders. You can communicate with your therapist via text, chat, and live video sessions.
Counseling sessions cost $60-$90 per week and are based on location and therapist availability. You can cancel your subscription at any time.
Best for LGBTQ+
Pride Counseling is an offshoot of BetterHelp that staffs counselors trained in issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. Pride Counseling offers a great deal of anonymity, allowing clients to use an alias in all interactions. Your subscription covers messaging via text, chat, video, or phone.
Sessions are similarly priced to BetterHelp at $60-$90 per week. Pride Counseling also offers financial assistance to those in need.
Best for couples
ReGain may look familiar because it appears elsewhere in this guide. The company offers a free 7-day trial of its couples therapy, but we also think it is the best option out there for couples. All counselors are certified and licensed, and you can consult with them via video, phone, text, or email.
ReGain costs $60-$90 per week, including unlimited messaging with your counselor.
Read our full ReGain review here.