Over the past few years, online therapy has been steadily growing as an alternative to finding a cheap therapist near you. This trend has only been accelerated by the global pandemic, which not only forced us all to stay home for prolonged periods of time, but also dramatically increased the levels of stress, anxiety and uncertainty we had to deal with.
Now, more than ever, people are looking for affordable and reliable mental health solutions online. In this guide we’ll present you with the best affordable virtual therapy sites – some of which are completely free, while others provide tremendous value in a budget friendly manner.
If you are new to online therapy, BetterHelp is a great place to start. It’s the best online therapy site out there and is also extremely affordable. The level of therapy is high, and the platform itself is modern and very easy to use.
BetterHelp’s biggest downside when it comes to affordability is the fact they do not accept insurance. That said, between the generous welcome promo and their financial aid programs, the prices are still very competitive.
BetterHelp offers a financial aid program which reduces the monthly cost by as much as 40%. It is very easy to apply to and most chances are you’ll meet the requirements. You can do that as part of the signup process, and know if you are eligible for a discount in a matter of minutes.
It is also worth noting that BetterHelp is the most cost-effective platform if you are looking for a more niche focused therapy. As part of their network, they also operate Teen Counseling, Regain and Pride Counseling – which offer the cheapest therapy solutions for teens, couples and LGBTQ respectively.
When it comes to which platform is the best for online therapy in general, Talkspace and BetterHelp are almost tied. In the end, we feel like BetterHelp has the slight edge (see our BetterHelp vs Talkspace comparison), but when it comes to price, Talkspace might actually be the better choice.
If you are looking for a low cost therapy option, but don’t want to compromise quality too much, then both Talkspace and BetterHelp are great choices. Between insurance copay available at Talkspace, and BetterHelp’s financial aid program, you are very likely to find a cheap counseling package.
Since both sites offer a free trial our suggestion would be to open an account with both. You can take a week to see where you feel more comfortable, browse the profiles of potential therapists, and find out if you are eligible for discounts on either platform.
If you are looking for cheap chat-only based therapy without live sessions then Talkspace’s basic package is the most attractive option out there.
Calmerry is a relatively new addition to the online therapy industry, having only been launched in 2019. It has already been making significant waves though, presenting an excellent alternative to the big companies featured above.
Even though they do not accept insurance, Calmerry’s prices are amongst the best in the industry. What really sets them apart is the fact they allow weekly subscriptions and not just monthly ones. This means you can start off for an extremely cheap price, and figure out whether the platform answers your needs or not – there is no reason to commit (and pay) for a whole month right off the bat.
If you look at it strictly from a numbers perspective then Online-Therapy.com should be the clear winner. Even though they don’t accept insurance or have any financial aid programs, the prices are extremely competitive.
Not only that, but the platform is simply fantastic. They offer what is arguably the best mobile app and software for their site, and are renowned for having the best therapists you can find anywhere online. That said, even though cheaper, the sessions over at Online-Therapy.com are only 30 minutes long, which is why we still believe Talkspace and BetterHelp offer better value for money, even if it’s slightly more expensive overall.
As with all therapy sites we review, we always make sure to highlight the issues the site suffers from. In this case, the only real one is the lack of flexibility when it comes to treatments. Online-Therapy.com counselors only offer CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) treatments.
While CBT is great (in fact, researches show it’s the most effective treatment to be had online) it is more directed towards short term goals and is much more effective in dealing with very specific mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Online-Therapy.com’s basic package is extremely affordable and does provide some value. However, keep in mind that unlike Talkspace, here you won’t have any access to text messaging or live chatting. You leave a comment to your counselor, and they reply as soon as they can.
Amwell is one of the largest telehealth companies in the U.S and virtual therapy is merely a small part of the services they provide. For that reason, it follows the same module other services on the site do, which is very similar to traditional therapy – you book a meeting and pay for it, and there’s no subscription fees involved.
There’s no option to text your therapist or engage them in chat, so the value here is quite narrow. That said, Amwell has some of the best therapists and counselors you’ll find anywhere, their platform is excellent and they work with most major insurance providers. That is why Amwell is currently one of our top picks for online therapy site that takes insurance.
For those reasons, we still believe there are many people who might prefer Amwell over the other companies presented here. First of all, if you are already used to the way traditional, face to face counseling works, this might feel more comfortable and easier to adjust to.
Secondly, if you don’t need a strict regime when it comes to sessions, Amwell might very well end up being cheaper. Having 1 or 2 sessions a month over at Amwell will cost much less than a monthly subscription anywhere else.
Note: If you are only interested in medical prescriptions, check out our Cerebral review, where we compare this cheaper alternative to Amwell.
7 Cups aims to revolutionize the mental health field by making free online counseling accessible to all. There’s no catch or hidden fees – This platform is 100% free to use. You can sign up right now and begin chatting with a care consultant within a matter of minutes.
This makes 7 Cups an ideal place to get your feet wet and figure out if you are even comfortable with the idea of getting help online.
Of course, as with anything in life, being free does have a price to it. Most importantly, you’ll chat with (trained) volunteers which are usually great, but are not licensed therapists. Another issue is that their software and mobile app in particular are very outdated and full of bugs.
We recommend 7 Cups if you want to chat anonymously with other people who care and sympathize with your situation, or if the social aspect of the site appeals to you. They offer support groups, a forum to post questions and thoughts, and many other social features which are all nice.
That said, we do not recommend 7 Cups as a means of therapy. Even if you upgrade to the paid version, which is admittedly also very cheap, and get paired up with an actual psychologist – the value you get there is very limited.
The therapy doesn’t even include live sessions (neither voice and video), which in our opinion isn’t as effective. Even if you feel like chat therapy is enough, then getting that on Talkspace or Online-Therapy.com is actually cheaper.
According to recent statistics and data, traditional face to face therapy in the U.S currently costs $120 per session on average. If you live in a major city such as LA or New York, a therapy session can cost $200 or more! While insurance co-pay only covers about 20% of that amount, that also applies to many of the online therapy platforms – so the difference in price remains huge.
One common misconception is that getting help online is cheaper because the quality of virtual therapy is lower. This can’t be farther from the truth – companies such as Betterhelp, Talkspace or Amwell are worth billions of dollars and enjoy a stellar reputation.
Smaller companies such as Online-Therapy.com for example, compensate by focusing on quality over quantity. You can go to their site and see for yourself – many of the therapists there are ivy league graduates, and again, the reviews from users are overwhelmingly positive.
The most obvious answer is flexibility. The same way you enjoy it, so does your potential therapist. When they apply to work on a platform, they can decide how many hours they wish to allocate each week, and they can do so from the comfort of their own home.
Using a platform also saves them time in another way – they don’t have to promote themselves or look for potential clients, and they don’t need to book and schedule appointments on their own. The system takes care of all that automatically for them.
Not only that, but by having virtual sessions, therapists are able to save a ton of money on a lot of extra expenses they would normally have. For example, there’s no need to pay rent for a clinic or spend time and money commuting to it.
As we have stressed out all through this page, nothing in life is completely free. There’s always a tradeoff and when you try to save money, you can easily end up sacrificing too much in the process. If you look at our online therapy platform comparison page, you’ll see that there are actually cheaper companies which we have decided not to recommend here.
The reason for that is we feel even though some of those sites are slightly cheaper, the disadvantages clearly outweigh the lower price. Here are the key factors we think you need to look at when you consider signing up to an affordable online therapy service:
Even though research shows online therapy can be just as effective as face to face sessions for dealing with mental health issues, it certainly isn’t for everyone. Furthermore, in order for it to be effective, you usually have to pay. While there are completely free therapy sites out there, the value you get in return is very limited.
This means that if you truly want a free mental health solution, you might first want to consider one of the alternatives methods below:
While not exactly therapy, if your situation isn’t too severe, these apps can provide a suitable replacement. There’s no doubt about the effectiveness of these techniques when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety or helping people cope with lingering depression.
Obvious choices would be popular apps such as Headspace for example, which isn’t completely free but extremely affordable and does provide a ton of value. If you really don’t want to pay anything, you can easily find smaller apps that offer similar services but are 100% free to use.
The best way to do that is to single out a specific sub-niche such as mindfulness or meditation and download an app which is entirely focused around that. You can find more suggestions in our best mental health apps page.
Some people find group therapy more effective, and in fact studies have shown it can be a great way to deal with PTSD and substance abuse in particular. Another plus is that these groups are usually free of charge or incur a very low fee.
As mentioned above, 7 Cups offers support groups and the entire platform has a big community focus to it. That said, the groups are run by volunteers and only loosely moderated by licensed therapists, so it might not feel professional or on-point enough to your liking. Circles is not free, but it is quite cheap at only $20 a week, and the level of professionalism there is higher.
One of the biggest weaknesses of online therapy is that it is not suitable for people who are dealing with severe mental health issues or facing an emergency that might pose immediate danger to themselves or others.
Online therapy is a much better long term solution once things have been diagnosed and stabilized. You can think of it as an auxiliary that helps you maintain your mental health, but not as a tool that can be used in extreme situations.
If you are facing an emergency situation and are unable to visit your local physician or a nearby hospital, you should contact either the Crisis Text Line or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately.
Finding affordable or even free therapy is quite easy to do online, and we hope this article leads you on the right path. That said, we do realize the term affordable is quite subjective and means something different for every person, and that is why we have done our best to present as many different options as possible, with varying pricing and subscription modules.
While low cost therapy makes it harder to find proper care, it is by no means impossible. There’s nothing wrong with wanting or needing to save money, and it doesn’t mean you are not entitled to high quality therapy. Luckily, with some effort into research and trying out various platforms and apps, you can eventually find a good, affordable virtual therapy service at whatever price you feel comfortable with.