According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CAMH), one in five people in Canada experience mental health issues at some point in their life, but only 30 per cent seek help. Unfortunately for some, professional therapy can be outside of their financial reach. If you can’t afford therapy, here are some options for you:

  1. Talk to your family doctor
    When not in crisis, visiting your family doctor should be your first step in dealing with mental illness. Your doctor can run tests for conditions like anxiety or depression and help you navigate the mental health system if needed. Family doctors can often help diagnose mental illness, prescribe medication and open the door to access counselling services if necessary.
  2. Look for a therapist who offers a sliding fee scale
    An option if you’re limited financially is to ask about a sliding scale of fees. Some therapists will work with you to set a fee that works with your situation. Try contacting therapists directly to ask if they offer a sliding scale or search online for therapists in your area who offer sliding scale payments.
  3. Check out your EAP
    Many companies have an employee assistance program (EAP). EAPs provide access to outside counsellors, resources and referrals to assist employees and their family members. EAPs are confidential and will often have a 24-hour crisis line and access to mental health professionals.
  4. Resources at your school
    Many students will feel challenged during their post-secondary education and look for a place to get help. Most colleges or universities offer some form of counselling or mental health support for students, faculty and staff. While most services require appointments, there is immediate help if you are in crisis.
  5. Find an app
    Mental health apps are not a replacement for professional care, but they can provide you with coaching or suggestions to help with your situation. Apps offer a wealth of low cost or free resources that make therapeutic techniques more accessible to people who would otherwise not be able to access treatment.
  • Breathe2Relax walks users through exercises to help reduce stress, stabilize mood, control anger and manage anxiety.
  • Buddhify meditations are categorized by what you’re doing or how you’re feeling.
  • Calm is the perfect mindfulness app for beginners, but also includes hundreds of programs for intermediate and advanced users.
  • Optimism focuses on self-tracking as a tool for coping with mental illnesses, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and PTSD. The app helps users find patterns in their mood, creating a way to identify triggers.
  • What’s Up uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) methods to help you cope with depression, anxiety, stress and more. The tracker helps the user track habits to maintain good habits and break those that are counterproductive.
  • Mind Shift is designed for young adults with anxiety. Instead of avoiding anxiety, the app helps you change how you think about anxiety and how to face challenging situations.
  • Headspace makes meditation simple. Learn to meditate with themed sessions focused on everything from stress and sleep to focus and anxiety.
  1. Phone coaching
    The Canadian Mental Health Association offers BounceBack, a phone coaching service for those experiencing low mood, depression and anxiety. To use the service, you need a referral from your primary care provider. Once submitted, you have access to three-to-six coaching sessions designed to teach you skills to help cope with unhelpful thinking patterns. BounceBack also has online videos with tips for managing mood, sleeping better, building confidence, problem solving and healthy living.
  2. Call a helpline
    If you are in immediate need, call a helpline:

Crisis Services Canada, at 1-833-456-4566 (or text 45645)

Centre for Suicide Prevention, at 1-833-456-4566

Canada Drug Rehab and Addiction Services Recovery, at 1-877-746-1963