How to access help if you can’t afford counselling or therapy

If you’re struggling financially and find yourself at a crisis point in need of support, you may not see therapy as feasible due to costs. Fortunately, there are some affordable and free alternatives available in the UK which I share with you below outlining the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Mental Health Charities and Universities

Many mental health charities across the UK such as MIND, offer cheap and free therapy. You can search and discover many others through the mental health database Hub of Hope. Very often the therapists are student therapists who will have gone through rigorous training and completed the required assessments in order to gain their fitness to practice certification.

Some universities offer free talk therapy, again by way of student practitioners. In Manchester, Salford University offers this service and their self-referral form can be found here. You can expect up to 20 weekly sessions and the therapist will be closely supervised by an experienced practitioner while they work with you. Generally, you are unable to request a specific therapy type or approach as you will be assigned a therapist based on availability.

Employee Health Insurance

Many employers offer health insurance such as BUPA which often include free or subsidised mental health support for employees. Your issues do not have to be work-related in order to access help, so talk to your manager or someone you trust to arrange a consultation directly with a specialist for therapy sessions.

Fortnightly sessions

There is good reason for therapy sessions being held weekly and not monthly or fortnightly, especially at the start of a course. Trust and healthy attachment must be developed between client and therapist, which takes commitment and regularity, for effective therapy, growth and healing. However, fortnightly sessions is still a viable option as it can offer specialist support when financially restricted and the above suggestions are not suitable to your circumstances.


Talk therapy or counselling is available in England and does not require a referral from your GP. You can search for your local therapy service provider here. While NHS counselling service is free, it is often limited to CBT and guided self-help. These can be helpful for more common symptoms like stress and mild anxiety, however, they’re not sufficient for more severe symptoms and disorders such as Complex PTSD and EUPD/BPD.

Sadly, only 11% of the NHS budget is spent on mental health services causing other downsides; the typically long wait to be seen – 6 months from personal experience, others longer means it’s impossible to get help at the most critical time. It is also time-limited. Expect around 6-8 sessions which is not enough for the treatment of more severe cases.


Samaritans provide accessible non-judgemental support when you need someone to talk to. They provide a free walk-in service, available across the UK where you can speak to a volunteer, plus a 24 hour helpline you can call or an email service if you find writing your thoughts down easier: The volunteers are not trained counsellors or therapists though, so can only offer a listening ear and guidance to self-help and other services.

Self-help therapy books

While no substitute for therapy, reading the right book at the right time can prove to be hugely beneficial and therapeutic. There are countless books on mental health and specialist topics that can provide the psychoeducation you may need. I often compliment my own therapy with suggested reading as it helps to strengthen the foundations of what I learn in my sessions. The right book can prove to be an invaluable tool for learning about yourself and ways to alleviate symptoms and managing distress in healthier ways.

The self-help book market is oversaturated though and finding the right book can be an onerous task, especially if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.

The best course of action is focusing on the symptom(s) you want to soothe and search for books that have a clear focus on this topic, rather than a generalised book on ‘how to be happier’ for example. Also, ask around for recommendations and read reviews online. You can always get in touch with me for suggestions, however, keep a lookout for an upcoming post featuring my favourite books.


I’ve included this section as in a similar vein to self-help books, podcasts are a great way to broaden your knowledge of mental health topics while on the go. They’re easily digestible and accessible across platforms, whichever device you are using. Shows can range from broad to specific topics so search in your favourite app and see what is available. A couple of podcasts I like that cover a variety of subjects on mental wellbeing with actionable takeaways are The Adult Chair by Michelle Chalfant, and The Overwhelmed Brain by Paul Colaianni.

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