According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CAMH), one in five people in Canada has a mental health problem at some point in their life, but only 30 percent 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 diagnose mental illness, prescribe medication and open the door to access counselling services if necessary.

2. Look for a therapist who has a sliding scale
An option if you’re limited financially is to ask about a sliding scale.  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 are programs that companies use to provide 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. Try group therapy
With the restrictions of social gatherings in mind, if it's appropriate to gather in small groups and you feel comfortable, group therapy is often a much more cost-effective than one on one sessions and sometimes can even be free. Typically, group therapy brings together eight to 12 people who are struggling with similar issues. Group therapy offers many advantages, including finding a safety net, helping you relate to others and realizing you’re not alone.

6. 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 resources to make therapeutic techniques more accessible to people who would otherwise not be able to access treatment and are low cost or most often free.

  • 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, sleep, focus and anxiety.

7. Phone coaching
The Canadian Mental Health Association has a service called BounceBack that offers phone coaching to those experiencing low mood, depression and anxiety. A referral is needed from your primary care provider, and once submitted, you will have three to six coaching sessions that are designed to teach you skills to help cope with unhelpful thinking patterns. BounceBack also has online videos to learn tips for managing mood, sleeping better, building confidence, problem-solving and healthy living.

8. 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