A Guide to Low-Income Counseling Services

A Guide to Low-Income Counseling Services

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Are you interested in finding a therapist or counselor?

Sometimes managing the various elements of life can be overwhelming for parents and children alike. Maybe that new job you took isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, or maybe you are noticing that your children aren’t adjusting well to their new school. If feelings of hopelessness are ongoing (e.g., lasting more than three weeks) and won’t dissipate no matter how many deep breaths you take, you might be experiencing symptoms of depression.

Symptoms of depression can include mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, and lack of concentration. Not eating well (too much or too little) and stress manifesting in physical pain are also signs.

If you or your child(ren) are struggling emotionally, you might have considered counseling in the past but thought it would be too costly. Counseling is not something that only those with discretionary income can afford. Anyone can find low-cost, affordable mental-health care for themselves and their family.

Below are some suggestions to consider.

Community mental-health centers

These centers are usually not-for-profit organizations that are licensed by the state. They follow mandated protocols around using licensed practitioners and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Privacy Act. They provide services to those seeking in-person counseling and often coordinate services by completing an intake process in which they see if your insurance coverage includes counseling treatments. If you do not have insurance, they take a fee-for-service on a sliding scale (meaning they will determine what you can afford based on your income and set up a manageable payment).

Some examples of these centers include:

These centers often have group classes for specific issues, such as substance abuse and addiction, anger management, and domestic violence. The staff might have additional resources and coordinate other services s well, such as education and career counseling. Some even have medical clinics.

Some examples of these types of centers include:

Gateway Behavioral Health Services. A public-health agency in Georgia, this organization serves multiple counties with outpatient centers in Camden, Glynn, Liberty, Chatham, and Effingham counties. You can call for an appointment or walk in during open-access hours.

Bayonne Community Mental Health Center. Located in northern New Jersey, this health center has a range of outpatient services for children and adults. These services include family therapy (if you want to have counseling with your children), group therapy, and psychiatric evaluation. It also has a partial-care program, which is a day program that offers group counseling, activities, and a case manager to positively aid in your healing.

Practicum or training counseling centers

These centers are similar to teaching hospitals where graduate students, who are supervised by licensed clinicians, develop their counseling skills by working with actual clients. Located at universities or off-site facilities, these places are at the top of their field when it comes to clinical approaches. They are meticulous with pairing your case with a student who could be helpful to your needs. The idea of working with a student might sound uncomfortable, but you would have the benefit of the student as well as an entire team of clinicians dedicated to your well-being.

Some examples of these centers include:

The Bette D. Harris Family and Child Clinic. Part of The Family Institute at Northwestern University, this clinic offers therapy for as little as $5 a session. Located in Chicago, the center offers individual, couples, group, family, and children’s therapy, and more. The length of therapy depends on individual goals. If issues are resolved sooner than expected, you are not bound by a contract to remain in the program. If more counseling is needed, you are able to continue services for as long as it takes to get your issue resolved.

Ackerman Institute for the Family is considered the “Yale of Family Therapy” on the East Coast. Its “whole family” approach is a trusted process. The therapists work from a strengths-based perspective, making sure everyone in the room understands his or her own feelings and behavior patterns within the context of the family. Problems in school, bereavement, learning disabilities, family violence, substance abuse, chronic illness, and LGBTQ concerns are some of the many issues therapists confront. The institute accepts some insurance, but fees are also based on a sliding scale depending on your income.

Online therapy

This new trend allows you to speak with a therapist via phone, video chat, or even text. For some, this kind of therapy feels impersonal. For others, it’s the benefit of having a trusted “ear” at a moment’s notice. Online therapy platforms take security seriously by having secure, encrypted data, and they are compliant with HIPAA policies.

Here are some online therapy platforms to consider:

Here are some online therapy platforms to consider:

Talkspace. This is a subscription therapy service that charges on a monthly basis. There are no contracts, and you can cancel at any time. Fees range from $128 per month for its Unlimited Messaging Therapy to $276 per month for four live sessions plus Unlimited Messaging Therapy. This is not as inexpensive as some of the options above, but it is still less expensive than some other conventional therapy methods when you factor in the amount of contact you are receiving with your therapist. All Talkspace therapists are licensed, and the benefits of computerized psychological treatments have and are being continually evaluated by scholars in the field.

7 Cups. This is an online platform named after the famous Chinese poem “7 Cups of Tea” by Lu Tong. It hosts a variety of listening services, including therapy with licensed professionals. It has a free three-day trial for the platform and connects you to a therapist near you where you can have unlimited messaging 24/7 through a secured chat room. Getting started is simple, even though it seems a little strange navigating through the initial automated sign-up process. You are then connected to a therapist, and together you will decide on your chat-room routine. You also negotiate a fee for the service with the therapist. (Some therapists charge per minute for chats). You will pay for the service via PayPal, and you can cancel at any time.

You can also search for a therapist near you by using the Anxiety and Depression Association of America database or calling 211 (the Federal Communications Commission’s number dedicated to social services) for a list of resources in your area. Most therapeutic processes are short term, and many therapists ease financial concerns by offering sliding-scale fees for people who they feel need assistance. Don’t be shy, and be sure to ask if they have a low-fee or sliding-scale service.

Mental-health concerns often are overlooked. Beginning a therapeutic process can increase your coping abilities and have long-term benefits to one’s satisfaction with life. And let’s be honest: it’s good to vent to someone impartial who can help you gain insight in areas of your personal development that might be cloudy. Taking this step for you and your child(ren) is courageous.

Tanisha Christie is an interdisciplinary performing artist and filmmaker. After years of working at the nexus of arts, media, social justice, and healing, she is currently finishing her master of social work (clinical specialization) at Hunter College in New York City. A child of a Solo Mom, she loves to ride her bike to the beach.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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