This article was originally published in January 2020.
According to Health Canada, 1 in 3 Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime. That’s a lot of people, and while there’s no shortage of therapists and counsellors across the country, the process of finding the right one for you can definitely be disheartening. Not only are wait times long (in Ontario, it’s often six months to one year), but rates can seem outrageous (a visit to a psychologist can set you back more than $200 for an hour), and a price tag should never be a barrier to getting help.
With that in mind, we’ve narrowed down some places that offer affordable mental health therapy and counselling across Canada’s major cities.
This unique, non-profit business—founded by social worker and counsellor Kate Scwoen—not only provides low-cost services and support by a welcoming community of counsellors, but also features a warm storefront that sells books, resources and other self-care items. (Even if you aren’t looking for counselling, a trip to this Christie Pits establishment is a must if you’re looking to help someone or yourself.) Individual counselling prices are determined by client and counsellor (based on what the client can afford, of course), and can range from $50 to $80 a session. Hard Feelings also limits the number of sessions per patient to 12, to ensure its counsellors can see as many people looking for help. (hardfeelings.org)
Affordable Therapy Network of Toronto
Like its name says, this network consists of Toronto-based therapists that offer affordable counselling. There are plenty of therapists/counsellors across the city to choose from, and this is a great resource to finding someone who works for you. These professionals offer rates as low as $50 an hour, as well as free phone consultations to ensure the right fit. (affordabletherapytoronto.com)
Gordon Neighbourhood House
In partnership with City University—a non-profit university that provides education in counselling—this Vancouver community centre offers free (yes, free!) counselling. While counsellors are interns, they are supervised, so you are in good hands. (gordonhouse.org)
Tapestry Counselling Centre
Tapestry’s rates aren’t as affordable as most of the counselling centres on this list, but it does offer some group therapy sessions for a “donate what you can” fee. If you’re budget conscious, but willing and able to pay a mid-range price, this Vancouver centre may be a good choice for you. (tapestrycentre.ca)
Serenity Now Foundation
If you’re looking for a place that welcomes walk-ins as, as well as set appointment times, Serenity Now is worth checking out. During Mental Health Week in 2018, the centre offered walk-in counselling at reduced rates, which led to a positive response that encouraged Serenity Now to keep the initiative going. Of course, there’s no guarantee that you will be seen, but there’s no harm in giving them a call with any questions beforehand. (serenitynowwellness.ca)
Living Well Counselling Services
While Living Well doesn’t have the lowest rates, it does have a large roster of counsellors that offer sliding scale appointments; each patient’s financial situation is assessed, and they are charged a fair and affordable price in accordance with that set of numbers. It may seem unfair to some, but the system ensures that each patient pays what they can afford without underpaying the counsellor. (livingwellcounselling.ca)
Community Counselling Centre
This Edmonton centre offers what they deem the “most generous” sliding scale appointment rates, ranging from $20 to $140 per hour. CCC is also known for its fairly quick turn-around when it comes to booking (usually within 1 to 2 weeks), so you can breathe a sigh of relief. (communitycounsellingcentre.ca)
Sliding scale rates are popular in Edmonton, and Insight Psychological is another centre to offer discounted prices. What really sets Insight apart though is that the majority of its counsellors offer both in-person and online sessions. So if you’re too busy, or not feeling up to making the trip one week, you can work out a time to meet on Skype instead. (insightpsychological.ca)
Insight Counselling Services
Halifax counsellor Julia Smith provides valuable tools for coping with anxiety and depression during her hour long sessions. Her rates are lower than the standard, but certainly aren’t as reduced as the rest on this list, so keep that in mind if booking. (insightmentalhealth.ca)
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Halifax-Dartmouth Branch
CMHA is great at creating a sense of community and encouraging group healing. They don’t provide individual therapy sessions at the Halifax-Dartmouth branch, but they do offer social groups that promote healing through communication, art and empathy. If you’re looking for a place to talk to others who are experiencing feelings similar to your own, it may be a great option. (cmhahaldart.ca)
Capital Choice Counselling
The reviews for Capital Choice are glowing, and it’s not just for its one-on-one counselling, but for its educational contributions. Capital Choice is all about starting a conversation and teaching people the tools to create stronger mental health. For those showing financial need, sessions with an intern counsellor can be arranged for $70 or less. Should you wish to pay more, an experienced counsellor charges $150. (capitalchoicecounselling.com)
CFS Ottawa provides all patients with the sliding scale system, so you will always be paying an amount best suited to you. That being said, if you would like to try a free service first, CFS offers walk-in sessions that are funded by a local health network. What makes it stand out, however, is definitely the groups it offers, many of which are free and specifically aid marginalized communities who are facing more barriers to mental health access. (cfsottawa.ca)
If you or someone you know is in crisis reach out to one of the following 24/7 emergency resources or call 911.
Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS): 1-833-456-4566
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
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