Sure, pretty much everyone could benefit from therapy. But not everyone can afford it. Thankfully, there’s a whole world of free or affordable mental health care out there designed to help you with just about every issue, whether that’s kicking an addiction, managing your emotions, finding a group of like-minded peers, or recovering from trauma. Even better? Some of these resources are available whenever you need them. (No need to schedule an appointment between the hours of 9 and 5.) Support groups, hotlines and call centers, websites and online forums, and even apps can be put into action when you have a crisis or just need extra support.
But finding out which resources are best for you takes some legwork. We’ve rounded up 81 of the very best affordable (or free) mental health resources. Keep this list handy whenever you need some backup.
Note: Resources are listed alphabetically by type.
Mental Health Apps
Designed by therapist Rosemary Sword, this app uses Time Perspective Therapy, a method developed to unglue us from unhelpful or obsessive thoughts. Chock-full of visual aids to encourage relaxation and self-soothing, AETAS also arms users with a time perspective inventory that helps them understand how they view the past, present, and future will either help or hinder their happiness. ($4.99; iOS)
Sometimes, all we need to de-stress is take a few deep breaths. Created by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, this app teaches users how to do diaphragmatic breathing. Features include educational videos on the stress response, logs to record stress levels, and customizable guided breathing sessions. (Free; iOS and Android)
This app works as a daily mood and thought diary. But it also has a coaching module that gives tips on sticky emotional situations, like how to ask for what you need without drama or how to successfully resolve conflict. And users get positive reinforcement when they're consistent with their entries. The app also includes a super helpful DBT reference section for more info on coping skills—all backed by research. ($4.99; iOS)
Implementing some of the many strategies of cognitive behavioral therapy, this app helps users assess their stress levels, practice mindfulness and relaxation skills, and connect their thoughts to feelings and behaviors. The end result is more calm in your everyday life and more awareness of your actions and emotions. ($0.99; iOS)
Want to kick negative thoughts, nix worry, and dial down stress? The array of engaging games, activity suggestions, and gratitude prompts makes Happify a useful shortcut to a good mood. Designed with input from 18 health and happiness experts, Happify’s positive mood-training program is psychologist approved. Even cooler? Its website links to bonus videos that are sure to make you smile. (Free; iOS)
Tracking your moods can help you fight the blues and teach you to tune into positive things. That's the premise behind this app. But as a bonus, it also allows you to compare your mood with worldwide averages, see which emotions you feel the most, and export your mood tracking data so you can share it with a mental health professional or trusted friend. ($9.99-$12.99; iOS and Android)
This mood tracker and resource locator was designed by Emory University researchers to aid in suicide prevention. The setup is simple: Users create a personal profile that includes emergency contact information, current medications, safety plans, and reminders for appointments or medications. Plus the app uses GPS to locate mental health care services nearby, should any user enter crisis mode. (Free; iOS and Android)
If you suffer from PTSD symptoms, this 24-hour tool that's linked directly with support services is a valuable thing to download. Available as an app or on the Web, PTSD Coach lets users select the specific issue they want to deal with (from anxiety and anger to insomnia and alienation), and then gives them guidance on how to lift their mood, shift their mindset, and reduce stress. (Free; iOS and Android)
If you’re a smoker, you probably already know all about the nasty health consequences. But it probably doesn’t stop you from lighting up. But this app's approach is different. It shows you the hit your wallet takes every time you get another pack. Even better: Quit It calculates how much money you save each time you don’t smoke. Think of it as extra financial incentive to kick nicotine and tobacco (and save for something far better!). ($1.99; iOS)
Think of this as a fitness tracker for your smoking habit. By monitoring your cravings over time, the places you puff the most, the triggers that lead you to light up, and the money you save by resisting a cigarette, this comprehensive app is a much better thing to have in your back pocket than a pack of smokes. (Free; iOS and Android)
How do you know what’s pushing you over the edge and reel yourself back in? SAM’s approach is to monitor anxious thoughts, track behavior over time, and use guided self-help exercises to discourage stress. SAM takes it to the next level by offering a “Social Cloud” feature that allows users to confidentially share their progress with an online community for added support. (Free; iOS and Android)
A study funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that this pro-sobriety app helped reduce heavy drinking among users by 60 percent. Step Away offers tips on maintaining sobriety, encouragement, and strategies to avoid drinking during stressful times. You’ll also be able to plug in your top drinking triggers to prepare yourself before facing down any tricky situation. (Free; iOS)
Got five minutes? That’s enough time to cultivate mindfulness, which can improve your mood, lower stress, and help you feel more compassion toward yourself and the world. Skeptical? Well, consider that mindfulness and happiness tend to go hand-in-hand. And as added incentive, this app can also improve your focus. (Free; iOS and Android)
Relying on the powers of relaxation, visualization, and positive suggestions, this pro-sobriety app has the goal of calming your mind and geting it to a less stressed place—where you’ll be less likely to crave a drink. Take advantage of the reminder feature that gives periodic chimes to prompt you to breathe and focus on the good throughout the day. ($2.99; iOS and Android)
Sure, we know that releasing negative thoughts, practicing relaxation techniques, and engaging in mindful awareness is good for our wellbeing. But that doesn’t mean we actually do it. This app can help make the process a lot easier by guiding you through proven techniques to reduce those off-kilter thoughts and emotions while cultivating a much more present mindset. Additional features allow you to identify anxiety triggers to make sure they don’t catch you off guard. ($4.99; iOS)
Bet you didn’t think you could chat with a therapist for just $25 a week. Well, Talkspace makes that possible. For that low fee, you can text message with a trained professional everyday of the week and as many times as you want. They also offer services for individuals and couples. Oh, and the best part? You can do it from your couch. ($25/week; iOS and Android)
We all get anxious only to realize later our anxieties were overblown or irrational. The idea behind Worry Watch is to nip these moments in the bud. This app enables users to track what kick starts their anxiety, note trends in their feelings, observe when the outcomes were harmless, and keep tabs on insights to stop future freakouts. To lower your anxiety even further, Worry Watch is password protected—so whatever you divulge in the diary feature is safe and sound. ($1.99; iOS)
Websites, Online Support, and Forums
People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder have a damaging preoccupation with their appearance and an obsessive focus on their physical flaws. If that sounds familiar, you might find some relief on the BDD Foundation’s website. Resources for better understanding the problem, seeking treatment, and spreading the word about the disorder are all laid out here.
Hosted by the Center for Complicated Grief, this long list of resources gives people a ton of alternative outlets, social support groups, and organizations to connect with when healing from the loss of a loved one.
Founded in 1994 as an alliance to promote and maintain LGBTQ community centers, CenterLink’s helpful services have now moved online. Check out all they have to offer—from links to health centers across the U.S. to advocacy groups and educational services.
A great resource for folks identifying all across the LGBTQ spectrum, this site includes information on everything from support to education to community organizing. One of the center’s best resources is its online volunteer-run chat room. All chats are confidential (read: no transcripts or recordings are saved). Chats are open during 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. PST during the week and between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. PST on weekends.
For anyone with borderline personality disorder, this peer run chat is the perfect online space to ask questions about BPD and its treatment, especially considering that mental health professionals often chime in. It's also a place to share experiences, discuss progress and challenges, and potentially make some new friends who get where you’re coming from because they’re right there with you.
If you’re in a place where picking up the phone seems too daunting, you can still access support through IM Alive’s virtual crisis chat. Staffed by a network of trained and supervised peer volunteers around the country, IM Alive’s goal is to empower individuals in despair, address their situation, and help them navigate the darkest and most difficult emotional times.
An invaluable space for those struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder, this site has many links, resources, and opportunities to get involved in the ongoing fight to preserve mental health. Find help, learn more about the illness, and even apply for grants here.
The main goal of this government-sponsored resource: Educate as many people as possible about the realities of mental illness in America while offering resources to those seeking help. Consider this your go-to site for a rundown on what mental health disorders look like. It also includes information on how to get help, support someone you love, or start a dialog about mental health in your community.
From education about mental illness to updates on insurance coverage, NAMI offers a slew of resources. People who want to get informed about the workings of the mind and our government’s recognition of mood and behavioral disorders will get the full scoop here. But arguably the most helpful resource is the heart-wrenching and hopeful personal stories from individuals across the country sharing their accounts of living with mental illness.
This impeccable resource enables victims of all types of crimes (think: bullying, physical abuse, stalking, and even terrorism) to secure the specific type of help they need. Individuals in need can plug in their desired assistance, from case advocacy to counseling, along with their state and county for immediate, local help ASAP.
A pioneer in the education and treatment for eating disorders, NEDA extends a wide range of support services, learning tools, and opportunities to advocate on behalf of those with an eating disorder. You can also get involved with the association's sister program, Proud2BMe, and join a community geared toward promoting a healthier relationship with food and weight.
One of the most comprehensive and trusted sources for information about mental illness, the National Institute of Mental Health's site is packed with educational tools designed to promote awareness and provide funding for research. It serves as a hub on a variety of topics: the latest news on a range of disorders, updates on new treatments, and reports on insurance coverage. And yes, you can also search for support via NIMH’s site as well.
Designed for teens and young adults with mental illness, this site offers an online outlet for people to come forward with their own stories, find support, and discuss the diagnoses they may have received. OK2Talk comes with plenty of motivational posts and mantras as well. And one quick look at the site will tip you off that, whatever you’re struggling with, you’re most certainly not alone.
You probably already know that stalking is an extremely serious issue. But you may not know what type of help to seek if you or someone you know is a victim. Here’s where the Stalking Resource Center can help. They present a number of options for anyone struggling with endless unwanted attention or obsessive behavior. From a brochure explaining what stalking is (and how to tell if you’re being followed) to tips on developing a safety plan, this site should be the first stop for anyone in need of assistance.
This government-sponsored resource is chock-full of data, research insights, grants, and educational tools about substance dependencies and mood or behavioral issues. But SAMHSA also offers many resources for people suffering from these issues.
Are you a young person seeking support for an identity that falls along the LGBTQ spectrum? This site, an endeavor sponsored by the Trevor Project, is an excellent safe haven to connect to other young gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans*, or queer people. You’ll also pick up news about LGBTQ issues and get tips for joining in the community, wherever you live.
Hotlines and Call Centers
If you've been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder—or you have a hunch you or a loved one may be displaying symptoms of BPD—the social workers staffing the Borderline Personality Disorder Resource Center’s hotline can arm you with all the information you need about local resources and provide immediate over-the-phone counseling.
With the primary aim of keeping you going even in the darkest of times, this suicide prevention hotline is available 24/7 to offer a compassionate ear—no matter what you’re dealing with. Pour your heart out to a skilled staffer without fear of being judged, and if you’d like referrals to local mental health care services after your call, hotline representatives can set you up.
If you’ve recently been the victim of a disaster (whether caused by nature or man), this is your go-to contact for all things related to counseling and relief. The trained counselors staffing the Disaster Distress Hotline provide help to those suffering in the wake of hurricanes, floods, wildfires, droughts, and earthquakes as well as incidences of mass violence or health epidemics (like the Ebola crisis). The call center is also open to friends and family members of victims. An alternative way to connect: Text "TalkWithUs" to 66746.
Need to talk to someone who gets it when it comes to coming out, being bullied for your sexual orientation, or navigating same-sex relationships? Look no further than the GLBT National Help Line, run by peers and allies of the LGBTQ community. This hotline is ready to hear your concerns and can connect you to the GLBT National Help Center’s massive list of resources for LGBTQ-friendly services and organizations near you.
If you’re under 21 and looking to speak with a peer counselor who really understands issues related to gender or sexual identity, this is the number to call. Similar to the national help line, this version for youth lets young LGBTQ-identified individuals dial in to talk about hardships faced in their day-to-day lives. Callers can also access a ton of resources to help bolster them well into their 20s and beyond.
Domestic violence or sexual assault can happen to anyone. If it's happened to you and you identify as LGBTQ, this hotline can help. It's free and confidential and offers you the opportunity to speak with a counselor and to obtain information about safety plans, safe houses, legal resources, and additional crisis intervention options.
Trichotillomania is a disorder involving compulsive pulling of the hair and can also be accompanied by obsessive skin picking. If you're suffering from this behavioral issue, it can seriously help to speak with people who can relate and share coping mechanisms. Use the link above for an email that will give you access to the confidential telephone number and call times.
Need more info on eating disorders? Looking for treatment for yourself, a friend, or a loved one? ANAD’s national helpline is here for you. Whether you’re looking for immediate counseling or recommendations for treatment and support, this is the number to call. Folks who prefer to connect with a volunteer or counselor but aren’t in the mood to pick up the phone can take advantage of ANAD’s services via email.
If you've been the victim of any type of crime, this toll-free, confidential help line can connect you with the resources that best address your current situation—from directing you to specific counseling centers and resources to connecting you with legal advice. Whatever the crime, this hotline is a trustworthy first step in getting you the assistance you need, STAT.
Trained domestic violence advocates are available to help those trapped in dangerous home situations 24/7. To receive immediate counseling free of charge and gain access to local resources that can assist you in implementing a safety plan and seeking refuge, call The National Domestic Hotline’s toll-free number ASAP.
Need some help figuring out where to go and who to turn to when dealing with an eating disorder (your own or someone else’s)? Call a trained NEDA representative at this hotline and they’ll hook you up with information about eating disorders, treatment options, and referrals.
Whether you’re a victim or a witness to a crime (or even if you’re a criminal justice or mental health professional seeking services for a client), NOVA’s hotline can help you. Though the association doesn't offer counseling, NOVA representatives can connect you within minutes to a counseling hotline that best fits your needs. They also provide information about crime and crisis recovery as well as referrals to victim advocacy.
You don't have to suffer in silence if you’ve been sexually assaulted. This hotline can offer counsel and link you to resources that can help you navigate this traumatic situation. The group's website also hosts a free and confidential online chat, if that’s easier than picking up the phone.
Maybe you want to connect with others who can relate to the obsessions or compulsions that are weighing on you, but you can't attend in-person meetings. That’s where this call center can step in. The conference call can help lift you out of isolation and link you up with peers who know exactly what you’re going through. Modeled after AA, OCA’s conference calls follow the basic format of a 12-step meeting. Visit the group's website for times of calls and additional resources related to OCD.
Staffed by rigorously trained volunteers, this 24/7 suicide prevention hotline is free of charge and here to help by lending a compassionate, non-judgmental ear when you’re in crisis. This is the ideal resource for anyone who can’t afford therapy but desperately needs to talk and be heard. Call the Samaritans morning, noon, or night if you’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or isolated and can’t turn to family and friends.
For LGBTQ youth who need help grappling with urges to self-harm or thoughts of suicide, this number can literally be a lifeline. Available free of charge and at all hours, this number is manned by a trained staffer ready to field your call and let you open up about whatever issues you’re facing. Not into phone calls? Text “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200 to connect with a skilled support line responder.
Another 24-hour helpline, this crisis call center gives Nevada residents support for emotional distress—whatever the reason—and connects them with resources throughout the state that they can take advantage of. Pick up the phone when you need to talk or text "ANSWER" to 839863 to connect.
Addiction Support Groups
The granddaddy of support groups, AA has been helping alcoholics since 1935. Founded by two former drinking buddies, the program was loosely modeled on a popular religious movement bent on owning your errors, assessing your character, and making amends. Today it boasts over two million members worldwide and welcomes folks of any age and all political, sexual, and gender orientations. No dues or fees required.
Sometimes the issue is not your drinking, but a friend's or family member's whose issues with alcohol have disrupted your life. Al-Anon supports individuals affected by others’ alcoholism and even offers a specialized program for teens (Alateen).
Started in Los Angeles in 1982, Cocaine Anonymous counts around 30,000 members across the globe. Like its name implies, CA is modeled after the 12 steps and peer-support design of AA. People wrestling with addictions to other substances in addition to cocaine are also welcome to address that here. Meetings are free and open to all. The only requirement: You want to stop using.
Crystal Meth Anonymous was also born out of AA. After witnessing an upsurge of crystal meth addicts joining AA to get sober, one former addict began this offshoot in 1994. He figured meth addicts could benefit from a 12-step model, but they needed their own tailored version of support. Turns out, that hunch was right, as today you can find over 600 CMA meetings worldwide.
Dual Recovery Anonymous offers a specialized 12-step program for folks grappling with chemical dependencies on top of emotional and psychological disorders. Similar to other 12-step peer support programs, the only requirement for entry is a desire to get sober and, in this case, a desire to manage your mood.
The 12-step system doesn’t just apply to substances. People who find themselves frequently in debt or otherwise stressed by excessive gambling habits have made good use of this support group. And it's no newcomer; it’s been on the scene since 1957.
LifeRing doesn’t involve any official “steps.” And there’s no need for sponsorship here, either. The organization does, however, provide forums and face-to-face meetings to help people who wish to be sober design their own recoveries in a way that makes sense for them.
Sure, pot is now legal in some states, but like other legal substances (ahem, alcohol) that doesn’t mean it won’t trigger addiction issues. If your tokes are getting in the way of your life, these national meetings can help bring back some balance.
Designed for drug addicts grappling with all types of chemical dependencies, NA models itself after, you guessed it, the traditions and steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. And it’s been in the business of keeping folks around the world drug-free since 1953.
Similar to Al-Anon and Alateen, Nar-Anon offers support to the family members and friends of people struggling with addiction. Meetings give a safe space for people to sort out their feelings and make sense of their loved one’s addictive behavior and its impact on their lives.
Yes, you can get hooked on the highs associated with food. And if you are, you’re not alone: About 11 percent of us are addicted to food How Prevalent is “Food Addiction”? Meule, A. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2: 61. . Thankfully, there are over 6,500 OA meetings across the globe designed in the 12-step spirit of AA to help people manage compulsive eating habits and cultivate a healthier relationship with food.
We’re all for a healthy and happy sex life. But sometime people use sex to self-medicate, self-destruct, and, in the process, wreak havoc on their own and others’ wellbeing. Researchers estimate between 3 and 6 percent of the population is at risk Prevalence of the Addictions: A Problem of the Majority or the Minority? Sussman, S., Lisha, N., Griffiths, M. Evaluation and the Health Professions, 2011 Mar; 34(1): 3-56. . Men and women can learn to manage their behavior, gain insight into their impulses, and start their recovery through peer support with 12-step SAA meetings hosted across the globe.
66. Secular Organizations for Sobriety
An alternative to AA, this support network is for anyone seeking sobriety. SOS backs individual empowerment while also declaring a strong respect for science and healthy skepticism surrounding treatment. Meetings are held across the U.S. and abroad.
Twelve-step programs not your thing? No problem. SMART recovery offers another alternative to AA and its offshoots. Modeled after research-based cognitive behavioral therapy strategies, SMART meetings do not require you to identify as an addict or alcoholic. It’s also less steeped in spirituality and puts greater emphasis on empowering members. The group isn't exclusively for alcoholics; SMART doors are open to individuals struggling with all types of addictions.
Women For Sobriety is based on the belief that there’s a bit of a gender divide when it comes to getting clean. Rather than emphasizing humility and lack of control over your drinking habits, WFS aims to bolster women’s self-worth, personal responsibility, and problem-solving skills. And instead of 12 steps, WFS offers a variety of strategies to practice acceptance and avoid getting strung up on the past. Groups can be found in the U.S. and Canada. Ladies only, please.
Other Support Groups
If you’ve lost someone you love to suicide, AFSP support groups will give you a place to discuss your feelings and manage grief in the company of others who get it—because they’ve been there too. While some meetings take place during a set time span, others are ongoing and open to attendees showing up as frequently as they wish.
ADAA offers an extensive, searchable list of free or affordable resources that cater to specific anxieties, phobias, and mood issues. The organization also offers resources for general support for faulty thinking and behavior patterns, relationship problems, and self-esteem issues.
If you struggle with low self-esteem and find yourself frequently sucked into relationships where your needs remain unmet or minimized, this support group can help you set healthy boundaries. CoDa meetings are modeled after AA’s 12 steps and seek to empower individuals to break free from self-destructive habits and develop healthier relationships.
This alliance offers over 700 national groups with peer support. It’s a judgment-free discussion zone where you can open up about life’s challenges brought on by living with depression or bipolar disorder. The best part? All groups are totally free.
Even if you don't have an addiction, you can still apply the 12-step model to manage negative thinking, self-esteem issues, loneliness, and other destructive feelings with the support of over 1,000 EA meetings worldwide. (And if you are wrestling with substance or behavioral addictions, you’re still welcome to attend.)
The GLBT National Resource Database offers over 1,000 support services for people of all genders, sexual orientations, races, and ages. Plug your zip code into their handy local resource finder and voilà: You’ll be connected to an affordable (if not entirely free) support group catered to your needs that's close to home.
These eating disorder support groups come in a few different formats. Most are led by a psychotherapist, while others are run by a nutritionist. All are free. The main goal of these programs is to offer a safe space for people struggling with disordered eating to openly discuss their turmoil and receive guidance on how they can heal. To find the closest one to you, click your state on ANAD’s support groups page.
Like ANAD, NEDA offers an extensive list of support groups for individuals with eatingd disorders. All you have to do is plug your state into their search engine and find groups nearby. For those who want more personalized peer support, check out NEDA Navigator, a program that connects individuals looking to overcome disordered eating with a person who’s been there and can act as a guide during recovery.
If you’re a friend, family member, or parent of someone who identifies anywhere on the LGBTQ spectrum, PFLAG is your go-to resource for all things related to education, advocacy, and social outreach. PFLAG can also help those struggling to come to terms with a loved one’s sexual or gender orientation. Plug in your hometown to their search engine to find a local chapter.
At some point in our lives, all of us will have to wrestle with the many stages of grief. But it helps if we’ve got people to talk to about our loss—especially someone in the midst of a similar grieving process or someone who have come through to the other side. Heal Grief’s support services extend across the U.S. and can be found, organized by state, via the drop down menu on the group's website.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects millions of people across the globe. About 2.3 percent of Americans have the disorder An Epidemiological Perspective of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents. Fogel, J. The Canadian Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Review, 2003 Mar; 12(2): 33-36. . Thankfully, there’s a ton of support out there, and it’s likely closer than you think. Check out the listings on the International OCD Foundation’s website to find a group near you.
The Sidran Institute offers services for all kinds of people grappling with PTSD, from military vets to white-collar workers. Trauma can trigger a huge amount of emotional suffering, and without help, some people can be debilitated by their symptoms. If you're wrestling with these shockwaves, contact Sidran to get more info on support groups.
Trichotillomania is an obsessive compulsive disorder where sufferers compulsively pull out their hair or incessantly pick at their skin to the point of bruising. Symptoms can be damaging, but so can the isolation people feel with this disorder. This organization's support groups can help people manage their impulses, find better coping skills for their anxiety, and find company in their struggle.