• 02/23/2023

What to Do When You Can’t Afford Therapy: 5 Tips

what to do when you can't afford therapy

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America’s mental health crisis continues to grow. More than half of all individuals don’t get the treatment they need — the number soars to 60% among youth. If you can’t afford therapy, you aren’t alone in not knowing what to do.

Multiple factors present barriers to care. Economic woes take the forefront, with many Americans, either uninsured or underinsured, unable to access treatment despite insurance coverage because of onerous copays and deductibles. Other conditions include insufficient time to seek care amid other obligations and distance from the nearest treatment facility among some rural residents and those with transportation challenges. 

While there’s no substitute for professional care, there are proactive measures you can take to protect your mental health and heal from trauma. It can be a long, challenging road — but you can do it. Here are five tips for what to do when you can’t afford therapy. 

Locate Free Support Groups 

Therapy can cost anywhere from $65 an hour to $250 or more. Even most apps ring in at over $50 a week, much more than many can afford. However, you do have free resources available in the form of support groups. 

These resources come in two flavors: asynchronous and synchronous. Asynchronous models typically consist of message boards where you can communicate with others in the community. Synchronous meetings gather at specific times, typically for an hour. However, some groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, have multiple online sessions running nearly every hour of the day or night. 

What are your options? Here are a few of those dedicated to mental health, although you can also seek resources for rare diseases:

Utilize Free Resources 

Thank goodness for technology. It puts better mental health at your fingertips when you can’t afford therapy. Websites like Psychology Today and the American Psychological Association provide science-based information that lets you learn about various disorders and their treatments. For example, there’s no reason you can’t train yourself in basic CBT techniques

YouTube is a surprisingly rich resource, although you have to be careful what channels you select. However, channels such as Doc Snipes and Dr. Daniel Fox break down complicated psychological concepts in ways you can readily understand. Look for licensed individuals who use quality information from reputable sources. 

While many therapy apps charge a weekly subscription fee, you can find free versions. Here are some of the best to download to your cell:

  • PTSD Coach
  • MindShift: Best for anxiety 
  • eMoods Classic: Best for bipolar disorder
  • Depression CBT Self-Help Guide
  • Woebot: Best for daily journaling and symptom tracking

Take Care of Your Physical Self 

You cannot divorce your brain from your body. In his landmark book “The Body Keeps the Score,” Bessel Van Der Kolk explains how you have neurons not only upstairs but throughout your body. Trauma gets trapped in these areas and taking a holistic approach can accelerate recovery. 

Furthermore, you need to set the right environmental conditions for brain healing to occur. What should you do? 

1. Diet

Your diet is the biggest physical improvement you can make to nurture your mental health. Let’s start with what to avoid. You should pass on ultra-processed foods laden with white flour, sugar, unhealthy fats and additives as much as possible. Research shows that consuming such products spurs inflammation, which contributes to poor mental health outcomes. 

What should you eat? Your best bet is a diet rich in plant-based whole foods close to their natural forms. If you eat meat, do so in moderation and emphasize lean cuts like chicken and some grass-fed beef. In particular, strive to get more of the following foods in your diet: 

  • Fatty fish: Fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help you maintain optimal neurological health. Strive for at least two servings a week. Seafood is also a wise choice. 
  • Nuts and seeds: These are high in the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc, all crucial for peak neurological functioning. A single Brazil nut contains your full day’s RDA of selenium. Eat these instead of salty, processed chips. 
  • Deep, leafy greens: Greens are a healthy source of antioxidants to help prevent oxidative damage to brain cells. 
  • Colorful fruits and veggies: Different hues correspond to various nutrient profiles. Eating the rainbow ensures a solid consumption of everything you need. 

2. Exercise

Mental health disorders like depression can make working out feel like the last thing you want to do. However, getting moving bathes your brain in positive neurochemicals called endorphins that make you feel good. It also has a beneficial effect on your serotonin and dopamine levels and helps to mitigate some of the excess cortisol often involved in anxiety disorders. 

If you can’t bring yourself to work out, try this trick: promise yourself you’ll only stick with it for five minutes. Chances are, you’ll feel like completing your workout by that point. However, be gentle — if you’re still not feeling it, it’s okay to take a break and try again tomorrow. 

3. Sleep 

Sleep is paramount for people with mental health conditions like borderline personality disorder. Adequate rest helps curb some of the impulsivity and moodiness that leads to adverse behaviors that make a bad situation worse. 

However, many people with mental health issues struggle to get adequate slumber. Try the following tips to encourage better sleep hygiene: 

  • Keep consistent: Strive for the same bed and wake-up time everyday to train your circadian rhythms. Lay down even if you don’t feel tired and force yourself to get up until it becomes easier. 
  • But don’t malinger: Staying in bed tossing and turning can make sleep harder by creating anxiety. If Zzzs prove elusive after 20 to 30 minutes, get up and do something quiet, like reading a novel. 
  • Ban electronics: The light from these devices disrupts melatonin, a vital sleep hormone. 
  • Make it comfy: Your bedroom should be a sanctuary reserved for sleep and sex only. Do your work elsewhere and deck out your space for ultimate comfort. 

Adopt a Yoga Practice 

Yoga is one of the ultimate practices to adopt to help you heal from trauma and foster positive mental health. Remember how you have neurons throughout your body? Yoga gently stretches these areas in conjunction with deep breathing that activates your parasympathetic nervous system, your rest and digest side. It allows for the flow of life-giving oxygen and other nutrients to spur healing. 

Additionally, yoga teaches you how to breathe through the discomfort. Holding challenging poses as the Marichyasana series acts as brain training for overcoming tough times without giving up. It restores your sense of agency, your deep core belief that your actions can make a difference in your reality. Many people with mental illness struggle with a depleted agency, making them feel helpless and hopeless. 

Start and End Your Day With Breath and Mindset Work 

Your first waking moments set the tone for the entire day. If you roll out of bed thinking, “Oh, no. Here we go again. Another day in the trenches,” you’re setting yourself up for a lousy attitude before your feet hit the floor. 

Instead, begin each day with some deep breathing and mindset work before you get out of bed. After all, you woke up — and the next 24 hours are filled with possibilities. Take a few moments to focus on those things that make you feel grateful. Are you having trouble? YouTube is once more a fabulous resource of guided meditations you can do in just five to ten minutes to realign your thoughts to the positive. 

What to Do When You Can’t Afford Therapy 

The mental health crisis in America is real and growing. Far too many people can’t access the professional support they need. 

However, you can take proactive steps to heal without a therapist’s guidance. Follow the above guide for what to do when you can’t afford therapy. 

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