Can you get free therapy? The answer is yes – sort of. There are many places to get low cost psychotherapy but there are also many ways to get support around self-growth – for free. First I need to share how I am defining “therapy” versus “psychotherapy.” Psychotherapy is when you meet one-on-one with a licensed therapist (PhD, MSW, LMFT, LPC, etc) who helps you recognize your thought patterns, diagnoses mental illness and provides treatment in the form of talk therapy – perhaps utilizing some body therapy as well.
“Therapy,” as I am defining it, takes place any time you gain perspective about your thoughts, actions or reactions. Therapy is also happening when you assess your goals, reflect on your past or work to define your path forward. This kind of therapy happens through talking, reading, writing, dancing or meditation. Therapy is making the decision to move toward healing. It is seeking help; being open to solutions and knowing that relief is on its way.
So where can you find support as you actively work to gain perspective? I have listed a few of my favorite suggestions where I have found inspiration, healing and space for quiet reflection for myself and for my clients.
Yoga classes. Whether at a recreation center or at a fancy yoga studio, yoga classes can be a wonderful place for introspection, reflection and learning about how to set an intention. While these classes are not free I am including this in my list because most people at a yoga class are there for a workout and the therapy is an unexpected bonus. In many classes the teachers will tell you to set an intention for yourself (an emotional, professional, interpersonal or physical goal) and then they will teach you how to focus your mind in order to corral your wild thoughts through the use of your breath and movement. You might be surprised by the insights that unfold from within when you spend an hour just breathing. During this hour your mind is sharply focused on poses but it is also softly focused on the intention you set.
AA, Al-Anon, Alateen and ACOA. These are a wonderful resources. Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Alateen and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) provide free groups (donations gently suggested) to support and educate people suffering with addiction as well as their family, spouses, children and loved ones. Most of their groups are “open” meaning that you can go and listen without fear of being called on to talk or tell your story. The Al-Anon groups focus on boundary setting in relationships. This idea is terribly, terribly important and many of us are in need of tutorials, examples and support as we work to set our own boundaries. And addiction takes many forms which means that more of us qualify as being in a relationship with an “addict” than we might want to admit. I encourage many clients to check out the information available on Al-Anon’s website as well as to attend a group in order to learn to set healthy boundaries.
Facebook Pages. Facebook is a powerful tool to bring communities together. If you search for support groups for depression, marital issues, anxiety or neck pain you will find many wonderful resources. You might also find some bogus sites that are trying to sell you pants – but with some research you will find some fantastic communities. Many of these Facebook pages are private – meaning that you will need to apply to become a member. Once connected however, this is a great way of finding support and resources as well as connecting with people globally who are wrestling with similar issues.
Website Newsletters. Many websites offer daily or weekly newsletters about their product or message. As you research and look for inspiration you might find that authors are happy to push information to your inbox. Many will try to sell you products or services but many couch their sales pitch in really useful, inspirational and reflection-inducing articles. A few of my favorite include Daily OM and Screamfree (if you have worked with me you will have already heard about these).
Daily OM offers inspirations, lessons and homework exercises on personal growth. Some lessons can be a bit woo-woo in nature (communicating with ancestors to change the flow of energy in your life) and might not fit in with everyone’s world vision. However, many of their offerings are filled with practical idea that can deeply impact your view of the world, your vision of your potential and even offer small changes that you can make to your posture that will help with back pain.
Screamfree Parenting and Screamfree Marriage are two products on the Screamfree website. Hal Runkle has written many books about how to pause before you react to your kids or your spouse. The idea is that when you pause before taking action you have the ability to choose what you say and do instead of reacting in a state of auto-pilot. This auto-pilot is usually whatever bad habits were taught to you but your parents. So many of us feel that our auto-pilot is set and cannot be changed – we feel out of control or powerless when we are flooded with anger or anxiety. Screamfree’s message is one of hope – that we can change our auto-pilot if we can find a way to pause. I also really like that this website sends out brief daily emails filled with reminders of how to use their tools. I think we all change slowly and we need something each day to remind us of who we are trying to become and of the better self that we are trying to be in the world and in our relationships.
Daily or Weekly Journals or Planners. Panda Planner are one example of a daily journal or planner. It has sentences fragments that you complete each day to guide you to set your intentions and remind your of your daily focus. All of these will put you in a healing frame of mind. The goal is to fill it out first thing in the morning – before you start your day. It is amazing what setting expectations can do when used cumulatively. You don’t need to purchase a planner for this – you absolutely can use a blank notebook or your computer. However, I find that it is easier if the questions and sentence fragments are already set up for you. It a gentle push in the positive growth direction.
Low Cost Psychotherapy. I realize this listing is not about free therapy but I wanted to include a blurb for “psychotherapy” as well. A wonderful place to find quality low-cost psychotherapy is to go through universities or post-graduate institutes that are training psychotherapists. Many of the therapists on staff are graduates and not current students and many are experienced therapists who working on obtaining advanced degrees or certifications in specific theories or techniques. These therapists are also highly supervised which results in quality care.
Here is Boulder we have the Naropa University which is a wonderful place to for healing. When I was practicing in Washington, DC I referred many people the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis (ICP&P). ICP&P has a wonderful referral network for low cost therapy. It may take a little searching but fantastic low cost therapy is available.
There are many avenues to healing and there is no “one size fits all” for personal growth. You might need to try many different avenues of healing before you find relief. Don’t let your financial resources stop you from moving forward in your life or from seeking help. There are so many ways to experience healing, relief and growth and the right one is just a click away. Have faith, do your research and please reach out if you have any questions.
Ashley Seeger, LCSW is a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colorado and and has over 17 years of experience helping people shift their perceptions to allow more love, joy and success into their lives.