“I can’t afford counseling because I’m in poverty”

empty jeans pocket : closeup of someone showing empty pockets on white background Stock Photo You’re looking for a counselor. But you’re not sure what to do about the fact that most of the counselors you think could help you charge more than you can possibly afford right now.

And maybe you’ve already found out that low-cost therapy is sometimes available, but it’s not all that easy to find a low-cost therapist with experience and a specialty in the area you need help with. (And finding help for any concern that requires more than a handful of sessions can all be tough, and most counselors who do such work aren’t advertising inexpensive rates.)

You’ve discovered that some counselors say they have a “sliding scale,” and then you find out that it only goes as low as 60 to 100 dollars per hour — and that’s still too much if you’re in poverty.

Don’t count yourself out of the possibility of good therapy yet. There are reasons that most therapists don’t advertise low-cost rates (even if they’d like to offer some). More about that below.

For now, don’t automatically assume that no therapist will work with you for a lower rate. There are therapists who may not advertise low-fee slots in their practice, but that doesn’t mean that none of them will work for a low fee with a motivated client.

If you like a therapist’s profile online, or you’ve heard good things about them, you can contact them in a way that’s more likely to get you the results you want.

Here’s why even counselors who are willing to work with some counselors for lower rates don’t often advertise this factl:

Most therapists (myself included!) have had plenty of inquiries from people who are asking for “cheap” or “low cost” counseling. And we’ve learned to filter out these requests. Most people who inquire solely about cost are not motivated to come to counseling. Even if it’s free. Simple as that.

And that’s why you need to have a different message in mind when you contact the counselor you want to work with. “Do you see people for cheap or free” will not win the heart of the counselor you want to see.

Here’s what to do instead — This works more often than you’d think. It doesn’t work every time, but it’s likely to greatly help your chances of getting in to see a therapist who can help you:

1. Learn something about your counselor online. Don’t write 30 counselors with the same exact inquiry. Find just one or two that you really get the sense you’d click with, who you think can help you.

2. Speak from the heart. Tell this counselor why you’d like to work with him/her. Explain what you’ve seen online or heard about this counselor. This will make the counselor less likely to hear you as a “bargain-hunter,” and will him or her know that you’re serious.

3. Make it clear that you’re motivated to work with someone who can help you. Many folks who’ve asked for low-cost counseling don’t show up to sessions, even after pleading desperation to see someone ASAP. So you will sound different by sounding motivated to show up to an appointment and interested in negotiating a good time for this counselor to see you.

4. Don’t give up, no matter the outcome.  Some counselors might offer you low cost resources you didn’t know about.

Some might offer you a lower-fee slot.

Some will ignore you, or hold firm to their fee. And that’s okay.

You don’t know what you can find if you don’t look at all.

Some of my clients got in my door by taking a risk, and leveling with me honestly about their financial situation.

Here are some low-cost or free things you can do to help yourself and find support:

Right now, if you can’t afford therapy, there is still hope for your healing, and there are still things you can do to make your life better. Today. Some of them cost a fraction of the money counseling costs. Some of them are free.

Use the resource of online information. More and more counselors are putting information and tips out there, for free. (I’m one of them. If you’re struggling specifically with trauma symptoms, subscribe to my newsletter and/or youtube channel to keep getting useful information.)

Search out topics you’re interested in — therapy topics, self-help topics, and topics that just plain interest you. By searching online, you’ll find great information, and perhaps even an online community you can connect with!

Reach out for support, and notice who in your life it would feel safe to talk with. “Just talking things out” is not at all the same as good therapy, but good connections and having places to talk things out can help you to move forward — and you never know what resources or connections you’ll find by reaching out.

In short — keep looking, and keep moving forward as best you can. Finding low cost counseling with a qualified therapist isn’t super easy — but it isn’t impossible either. Listen to your intuition. Keep working at it. And know that, with or without a counselor, your drive for healing will help move you into positive directions — just keep moving forward.

To learn more ways to move forward, both in therapy and in life, sign up for my newsletter and subscribe to my Youtube channel on the right!


Author: Michaela Lonning

I'm a counselor in Corvallis, Oregon, and I work mostly with intelligent and sensitive people who are struggling with a sense of connection to themselves or in their relationships. Near Corvallis? Come see me. Not near Corvallis? I work with clients around the world via Skype: Come see me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *