Free Counselling or Low Cost Therapy – Where Can I Get It?

Free Counselling and Low Cost Therapy

Are you looking to book low cost counselling as soon as possible? You can now visit our sister site HarleyTherapy.com and book low cost, in-person therapy across the UK. Not in the UK? You can also book phone and Skype therapy wherever you are in the world.

At Harley Therapy we do appreciate that not everyone is in the position to afford a private therapist when they need one.

But that no longer means you can’t find the help you need. Psychological therapies are becoming more accessible all the time, and there are now a range of options to suit your income.

Have your heart set on working with a certain, more costly therapist? Using low cost therapy or free counselling now doesn’t rule out that option for the future. It more likely would just set a positive groundwork that you can build on. The most important thing is to not delay feeling better.

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How to Find Low Cost or Free Counselling

*These examples pertain to the UK, but other countries often have similar setups. Use the following examples as inspiration to do research on the area you live.

Government Provided Health Services

The National Health Service (NHS) offers free counselling and psychological services for UK residents. If you are too private to ask your GP for a referral, or put off by rumours of long waiting lists, you’ll be pleased to hear that they have recently introduced IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapy). It reduces wait times and means that in some cases you can refer yourself. Find links to services in your area here https://www.iapt.nhs.uk/services/

Government Supported Charities

MIND is one of the UK’s leading mental health charities offering free advice and information about mental health. In some areas it also offers therapeutic services. It’s best to get in touch with your local MIND branch to find what’s on offer. https://www.mind.org.uk/help/mind_in_your_area or call 0300 123 3393

ReThink is another UK mental health charity that offers telephone advice on mental health. They can tell you about support groups in your area. https://www.rethink.org or call 0300 5000 927.

Workplace Schemes

If you are working for a large firm, it’s likely there is a free counselling service or Employee Assistance Programme. You can enquire with your employer or Human Resources team, who are obligated to protect your privacy.

School Counsellors

Schools, colleges, and universities in the UK will have free counsellors available to students. Look into what is on offer.

Medical Insurance

Check your health insurance. In the UK policies with companies like PruHealth, AVIVA, and Cigna often entitle you to private and free counselling sessions with a recognised provider. You may need to be assessed by a psychiatrist or GP before a referral to a psychologist or psychotherapist is given. So call the insurance company to get details.

And while you are at it, check for any excess you may need to pay. Recently BUPA and AXA have capped their fees. This means that many well-regarded therapists will not accept BUPA and AXA clients because their fees are not fully covered by what these insurers now offer.

Community Services

Your local area is likely to have a number of community groups and charitable services that can help with psychological issues. These include drug and alcohol services, women’s centres, and 12-step groups. Try checking your local council’s website for mental health information. Or search the internet for ‘mental health services’ or ‘free counselling’ along with the name or post code of your area.

Low Cost and Sliding Scale Therapists

What a counsellor or psychotherapist charges is entirely up to them. With some good research it’s possible to find someone in your price range. Or find an accredited therapist that takes on a certain number of clients at reduced rates. Called ‘sliding scale’, they charge you according to your income.

Here are some websites that allow you to search for local accredited therapists in the UK.

Counselling and Psychotherapy Schools

In an ideal world it’s best if you can find a therapist with the minimum of five years experience, and who has a track record of dealing with issues similar to yours. That aside, most counselling and psychotherapy schools offer low cost therapy appointments with their senior year students who are under their supervision of experienced practitioners. You might find it is a setup that works for you.

Guided Self-Help

In 2013 the new “Books on Prescription” scheme launched across England. Now many GPs can recommend one of 30 self-help books to you, often about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The books are all available to borrow from your local library.

You can also browse through our self-help section which includes recommended therapy books to get you started.

Things to Consider When Booking Free Counselling or Low Cost Therapy

The wait time.

Be realistic about whether your issues need addressing sooner rather than later. Don’t forget that emergency services are available if needed – see our article on Facing a Mental Health Crisis.

Your privacy.

It might be a concern for you that if you seek free counselling through the NHS or via your employer it will be visible on your health or work records. It’s a shame that some stigma does persist around psychological difficulties, and my mission personally is to help stamp out such stigmas for good! But it is up to you what you feel comfortable with on this front.

Finding the right match.

It’s hard to tell from an internet search if a therapist is the right one to assist you. Ideally you have been referred by friends or acquaintances, but often the only other option is to search the internet for any reviews they might have.

It’s also your right to ask for their qualifications and make sure they are registered as a therapist, either with the BACP or UKCP. Keep in mind that if a therapist or service doesn’t end up being right for you, it doesn’t mean that the next one won’t be. Try not to judge all therapy based on one experience, but keep trying different resources until you find the right fit.

The therapist’s level of experience.

Sometimes low-cost private therapy or free counselling entails working with a practitioner who is newly qualified or a trainee. Don’t be afraid to ask if the therapist has experience working with your particular issue. Again, my recommendation is that ideally they have at least 5 years of practise.

Your attitude.

Don’t assume that just because the therapy on offer is low cost it’s of a low standard. Charitable and government-funded organisations often have a very rigorous recruitment process, and the free counselling provided is likely to be of a high quality. And remember that while it may be affordable for you to attend, it is likely subsidised, or staffed by therapist volunteers who are really passionate about what they do.

Ready to book phone or Skype therapy today? We offer several low-cost counsellors on our new platform, harleytherapy.com.


Have you personally tried free counselling or low cost therapy? If so, how did it work for you? Do you have any recommendations not listed here you’d like to share so others can benefit? Do comment below, we love hearing from you.

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