As a mental health professional, it upsets me to hear from people who are unable to find affordable mental health care. In my own practice, I have decided to reserve some spots on my schedule for clients who are referred to me through the Open Path Psychotherapy Collective (Open Path). Open Path is a nonprofit, nationwide network of licensed mental health professionals who have agreed to offer psychotherapy at a deeply reduced rate as part of their commitment to increasing access to mental health services to individuals, couples, and families. While more than 36,000 people who are uninsured, or underinsured, have benefitted from participating in Open Path since 2012, there are still many more who have difficulty locating providers who offer affordable services.
While this blog focuses on services that are available in the Washington, DC metro area, many of the same resources may also be available in your local community. For readers in the DC area who are seeking free, or reduced cost mental health services, consider the following options:
Pro Bono Counseling Services
In Maryland, the Pro Bono Counseling Project matches uninsured or under-insured adults, teens, and children with a statewide network of hundreds of volunteer licensed mental health professionals who provide free individual, couples, or family therapy at no cost. You can find pro bono mental health counseling services in your community by performing a google search for “pro bono counseling [and the name of your city].” You can also try asking therapists who advertise that they offer a sliding scale fee for their services whether or not they offer pro bono services. Even if they do not, they may be willing and able to refer you to another local resource who does offer low-cost, or free services.
Private Practice Therapists
Many licensed mental health professionals participate in health insurance provider networks, while some only accept private pay. There are some private practice mental health professionals who offer clients a sliding fee scale that is typically based on annual income and household size. Private practice therapists (including me) advertise their services in online searchable databases, such as, Psychology Today, Goodtherapy, Therapyden, and Therapy Tribe. Private practice therapists who offer a sliding fee scale will highlight this in their profiles. These databases are also a good option to find a therapist who participates in your health insurance plan.
Community Clinics Operated by Universities
In addition to Open Path, you may be able to find free or low-cost services through a local university. Universities who operate graduate programs in psychology, marriage and family therapy, or professional counseling, may operate community clinics where their students can gain clinical experience. While some consumers may balk at receiving assistance from a graduate student, I urge you to keep in mind that the students who are practicing in these clinics have already completed a substantial portion of classroom training, and are working under the supervision of seasoned, licensed mental health professionals.
In Washington, DC, adults, teens, and children, can receive low-cost individual, couples, and family counseling at one of my alma maters, the George Washington University. George Washington’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling students offer therapy at the Community Counseling Services Center. George Washington’s doctoral program in Psychology operates the Meltzer Center, where Ph.D. students in Clinical Psychology offer low-cost therapy for individuals of all ages. In Northern Virginia, graduate students who are studying marriage and family therapy offer quality, affordable, mental health services to individuals, couples, and families at Virginia Tech’s Center for Family Services. In suburban Maryland, graduate students in the University of Maryland’s marriage and family therapy program provide affordable therapy for individuals, families, and couples at The Center for Healthy Families.
Post-Graduate Training Programs
Though they tend to be concentrated in major urban cities, one often over-looked source for finding affordable therapy are post-graduate training programs. These programs are usually based at a private, nonprofit, organization, and train mental health professionals who have already graduated, in how to perform a specific type of therapy. The professionals who participate in these programs are usually licensed and may have years of experience as a therapist, while others are new to their profession. What they have in common, however, is a desire to find clients with whom they can practice what they are learning, while they are under the supervision of another licensed mental health professional who has thousands of hours of experience.
In the Washington, DC metro area, there are several post-graduate training programs that offer affordable therapy, including:
Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy + Psychoanalysis: Maintains a list of therapists, located in Washington, DC, suburban Maryland, and Baltimore, who are completing one of the institute’s training programs who have agreed to accept reduced fee referrals.
Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis: Offers referrals to individual therapists who are training to become psychoanalysts, and who are willing to offer a reduced fee rate for services or provide you with the documentation to seek reimbursement from your insurance provider for their services.
Meyer Treatment Center at the Washington School of Psychiatry: In the interest of transparency, I completed 3 years of post-graduate training at the Washington School, and treated clients at the Meyer Treatment Center. The Meyer Center offers a sliding fee scale for individual and couples’ therapy, and also offers psychiatric care, including medication management, at a reduced fee as well.
Do not be discouraged if you are uninsured, or underinsured, and in need of mental health counseling. With persistence, you may be able to identify a provider who can provide you with the help that you need.