There's no need to stress over finding free mental health care. Here are several mental wellness bolstering services and resources that don't cost a dime.

By Maressa Brown
April 14, 2020
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With so many families facing unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety, there's never been a better time to care for your mental well-being. But if it seems like mental health care will end up causing financial stress, take heart: There are free resources out there to help.

"We are in the midst of a shared traumatic experience and in these times of increased stress, our own issues become more magnified, whether that is individually or in families or couples," says Stephanie Macadaan, a Los Angeles-based licensed marriage and family therapist and creator of The Happy Couple Plan. "The closer to 'in the moment' that you can understand, process, and deal with these challenges the better. Thankfully, right now, mental health services are more available and flexible than ever due to everything being online." And plenty of these services don't cost a dime.

Check out these free mental health care resources for families.

1. Take Advantage of Individualized Offers

Certain resources might be available to you based on your residence or employer. If you're an impacted doctor, nurse, or social worker, you can register for 1,000 free months of therapy through Talkspace. To access the much-needed benefit during this emergency, health care workers should register after downloading the app from Google Play or Apple’s App Store or via the Talkspace website and provide their NPI and state of residence for verification. 

If you live in New York, you can call the COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline at 1-844-863-9314 for mental health counseling.

If you attend, work at, or even live near a university, you might be eligible for free mental health care there. And if you're currently employed, it's worth investigating whether your employer has an employee assistance program (EAP), which could qualify you for a set number of free counseling sessions and other wellness resources.

2. Check out Online Materials From Trusted Sources

Various organizations are pulling together expert information that's being offered for free online. For instance, New York University's Langone Child Study Center has put together an online resource—COVID-19 Mental Health Resources for Families 2020—in which NYU's mental health care professionals explore a variety of topics, such as "divorce, co-parenting, and COVID-19" and "helping your child manage disappointment about abrupt changes to the end of the school year."

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has released an extensive resource and information guide, which lists a wealth of individualized tips and free pandemic support resources, such as 7 Cups, Emotions Anonymous, and warmlines, which can prevent emotional support to prevent a crisis.

And if you're looking for ways to talk to kids about certain topics and activities for families, the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health has a variety of resources and guides.

3. Connect on Social Media

Talkspace, an online and mobile therapy company, has created a free therapist-led Facebook support group, where anyone—whether they're a member of the site or not—can seek guidance and receive tips and resources about their mental health as it relates to the coronavirus outbreak, directly from a licensed therapist. 

The company is also offering guidance over their Instagram Stories, which is open for questions related to the coronavirus and relevant topics (anxiety, loneliness, fear, working from home). Specially trained and licensed therapists will respond. All past Q&As are available via Talkspace’s COVID-19 Highlight.

4. Work With a Therapist in Training

Contact your local psychoanalytic training institute, which might offer free therapy, as long as you can commit to a set number of sessions. You'll be able to work with a qualified therapist who is under supervision.

5. Check out an Online Therapy Startup

A new therapy startup called Real aimed to open the doors of their first "mental health studio" in New York City this month. Because they couldn't safely welcome clients in person, they're now offering a month of free online group sessions as well as one-on-one appointments.

Meanwhile, Talkspace is offering seven-day free trials and $100 off (with code 1004U), which should cover multiple appointments.

6. Do a Mindfulness or Meditation Series

Various sites and apps host free meditation series. For an introduction to mindfulness meditation that you can practice on your own, download the UCLA Mindful App (iTunes /Google Play), stream, or download guided meditations on their site. 

And the popular meditation app Headspace is currently offering its Weathering the Storm collection for free, as well as its workplace toolkit, guided meditations, and exercises for employers and employees. (Health care workers are currently being offered Headspace Plus for free through the rest of the year.)

7. Phone a Free National Hotline for Help

These free national hotlines are set up for moments of crisis, so if you're experiencing a critical need, you can contact one that fits your situation. While they do not offer therapy directly, the workers on the helplines can help you locate free therapy resources nearby:

8. Ask About Pro Bono Services

Don't hesitate to contact a therapist you're interested in working with and asking if they might take you on pro bono. According to Psycom.net, many mental health care professionals take on at least one or two pro bono clients to serve the public. Angelle E. Richardson, Ph.D., LPC, assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University explains, "Often therapists are willing to work with clients based on their income to ensure that they can get the services that they need."

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