I often advise members here to talk to a therapist or a counselor when they need some help with their emotions. I am a big believer in the value of talk therapy. And of course I am biased, since that’s what I do for a living.

Standard Therapy Options May Be Limited or Unaffordable

But I am also realistic. I know that therapy costs money. Here are some of the options for getting to connected with a therapist, along with the limitations:

Some people are fortunate to have health insurance that covers it. However, the copay can be high, especially if you are paying that copay every week. As a result, even therapy that is covered by insurance may not be so affordable.

I also recommend looking into community mental health services. Many communities provide low- or no-cost therapy through their community mental health system. Certainly worth looking into. But there’s a “however” here as well. Wait lists may be long. You may be making too much money to qualify. Other communities offer little, if any, mental health services.

There is also the potential of finding a therapist who is willing to work on a sliding scale. This arrangement can be beneficial, providing the therapist is willing to negotiate with you on a price you can afford. Getting the cost down to a manageable level may still be difficult.

A college or university that offers graduate training in counseling, social work, or psychology might also provide students with the opportunity for supervised practice through a community clinic. Students are well-trained and supervised by licensed professionals. If you are close to an educational institution, it may be worth exploring the availability of low-cost services. Keep in mind that some cost may be involved, and wait lists may be lengthy.

Not Having a Therapist Doesn’t Have to Equal No Support

You may be asking: What if I can’t afford therapy? I often hear back from our members that therapy seems to be out of reach financially.

I have two answers to that question. The first is: Don’t give up. The second is: Be resourceful.

Therapy is an opportunity to talk things out, to sort through what’s bothering you, and to get a fresh perspective. Therapy also provides an opportunity to learn new coping skills.

And while I think the best place to gain these benefits is by talking to a therapist, you can get help with your emotions by using one of the many alternatives that may be low cost or even free. You might make use of one of these options, or use a combination of options.

Here are some ideas for you to consider:

Smartphone apps. Check out the app store on your smartphone to see the collection of mental-health apps that you can choose from, including depression, anxiety, smoking cessation, sleep, and others. Keep in mind that apps provide information that may be tailored to your preferences and needs, and a structure to help you to follow a support plan, but they are not substitutes for therapy. Be aware of who is behind any apps that you choose to take advantage of. Read the reviews. And also be very cautious about providing any kind of personal information if that is requested. But you may find that an app can provide some useful tips and encouragement.

Websites. Many organizations offer great information on their websites about mental health issues, including specific topics like domestic violence and eating disorders, as well as approaches to dealing with issues like depression and anxiety. You might also be able to access presentations and even an online course on a subject like mindfulness. Do some Googling and see what you come up with. Some mental health organizations also offer hotlines, with information, emotional support, and other resources.

Support groups. Support groups are a great place to talk things out and get some input that can help you to see what’s bothering you in a different light by connecting with people who are facing similar challenges. You might check into local health-related organizations, community mental health organizations, or local hospitals to see what’s available. Another good resource is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI.org. Additionally, you might check out a 12-step group, if you have an addiction issue. I often encourage clients with relationship problems to consider Al-Anon for additional support.

Spiritual advisors. Members of the clergy are often trained to offer counseling to the members of their spiritual community. Some larger communities even have a counseling staff. If you are not currently attending a church or synagogue, this might be a reason to get connected. You might also meet supportive people to spend time with.

Bibliotherapy. There are an amazing number of excellent self-help workbooks available on topics like depression and anxiety, written from treatment approaches like cognitive behavior therapy. I often recommend them to clients. We sometimes even go through a workbook together.

Talking to a good listener. Just sitting down and having a good vent with someone who is willing to listen can be therapeutic. And sometimes, people who know you can provide you with an invaluable perspective on your life. Find someone who can listen without judging you or attempting to tell you what to do. (You may need to make it clear that advice is not expected or desired.)

Online support communities. How about joining an online support community to connect with other people who are traveling the road with you? Oh that’s right. You’re already experiencing the incredible benefits of support in cyberspace! Keep in mind that Heart Connect and the other Alliance Health support communities are each dedicated to specific chronic conditions as well as related mental health issues. So don’t limit yourself to one community!

Put together your own support program. One resource, like an app, might not meet all of your support needs. You might want to talk with a friend to help you apply what you’re what learning. Or you might pick up a good self-help workbook, and also join a support group. And don’t forget about your friends right here. We’re always interested in learning about new perspectives and sharing our own experiences with you.

Keep trying. Get on community mental health waiting lists if you can. Talk to your doctor. Contact mental health organizations in your area. And do some online searching.

So … can’t afford a therapist? Don’t give up on getting emotional support. Empower yourself to explore the options to find the support you need. Right now!

More from Dr. Gary:

Chronic Communication at Home: Getting Enough Quality Time?
Chronic Communication at Home: What Can I Do for You?
Inspiration: Here's How to Find Yours!