Image: Sara Zollino / Flickr
These apps and digital platforms offer affordable, online therapy options for the LGBTQ community.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), LGBTQ individuals are three times more likely than others to experience some kind of mental health condition. From coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation and gender identities to encountering fears associated with coming out or discrimination, those in the LGBTQ community can find it challenging to find resources or support that fit their needs or understand their struggles.
Access to mental health treatment – let alone therapy – is difficult and often costly, but the recent proliferation of mental health apps opens up broader questions about the emerging role of new technologies in mental healthcare and their potential to democratize treatment. Whether or not these apps offer any therapeutic benefit is up for debate; some critics say they can’t replace in-person psychotherapy. What these digital services do offer is accessibility and inclusivity, qualities which render them valuable to populations who feel unwelcome in more traditional medical settings.
A number of apps and online platforms have been created specifically for the LGBT community. If you want to find affordable, LGBT-friendly mental health resources, here’s a list of the 10 most-affordable online therapy options you can look into immediately:
Text “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200
The Trevor Project, known for its crisis intervention hotline for LGBTQ youth, also offers crisis and suicide prevention services by text and through its social network, TrevorSpace. In addition to offering online chat functionality, The Trevor Project website features a support center offering deep reading on a variety of topics, from articles about coming out to advice for those struggling with depression or contemplating self-harm. The support center is also where you’ll find a great series of videos about “lifeguards” (that is, people trained to help at-risk LGBTQ teens).
Back in May, The Trevor Project also announced a new partnership with Facebook. The two organizations are partnering to provide Facebook users with the ability to access mental health resources from The Trevor Project while using Facebook Messenger. The collaborative project is slated to roll out over the next few months.
Verena, an app created by 15-year-old Amanda Southworth, offers tools for people in the LGBT community who need help feeling safe, or as Southworth calls her app, a “security system for the LGBT community.” The app helps users locate police stations, hospitals, shelters, and other safe havens during emergencies and times of need. Users can also designate a list of contacts for Verena to alert in an emergency.
As a developer and LGBTQ ally, Southworth is conscious that some members of the LGBT community aren’t out or open about their identity. To accommodate people who desire privacy, Verena contains clever UI/UX features which users can engage to conceal Verena’s real purpose from intolerant and/or nosy friends or family members.
The online therapy service Talkspace has embraced the LGBT community and its ‘gay-friendly’ brand affiliation since its early days in 2016. On the Talkspace website the homepage footer features links to separate pages describing the services and population groups to which the app caters, with a tagline inviting LGBT individuals to “connect with a therapist who understands your world.”
By recognizing the psychosocial needs and mental health concerns which are especially relevant within the LGBT community, as well as acknowledging the obstacles which queer individuals face when seeking therapy, Talkspace creates a safe therapy environment that is affordable, convenient, and inclusive to all. In the aftermath of the tragic shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Talkspace launched an annual initiative to donate 500 months of free unlimited messaging therapy to individuals who qualify.
It’s important to note, though, that while many have lauded Talkspace for aligning itself with the LGBT community and for providing a safe space online for queer individuals to access therapy, some medical professionals are more critical of the platform. A piece published by The Verge last December investigated allegations that Talkspace engaged in “ethically questionable practices.” Therapists formerly employed by Talkspace are quoted in the piece, criticizing the company’s policy of patient anonymity “for impeding their ability to report dangerous situations.” Many criticisms of the platform, to be sure, are a result of the app existing in a legally murky regulatory territory. We acknowledge those issues and also believe that Talkspace nonetheless succeeds in its aim of being one of the top LGBT-friendly mental health resources.
Founded in 1994 as an alliance to promote and maintain LGBTQ community centers, CenterLink’s helpful services have migrated to a new home on the web. Although the website doesn’t offer therapy in and of itself, CenterLink serves as an excellent resource hub. From links to LGBTQ health clinics throughout the U.S. to information on advocacy groups and educational services, CenterLink is where gay and straight folks alike can find a plethora affordable LGBT-friendly mental health resources.
The Crisis Text line is a nonprofit organization that offers people free and instantaneous connection to a licensed mental health care professional via text message. Similar to crisis hotlines, the Crisis Text line offers people the opportunity to reach out to people who are equipped to offer support and guidance 24/7.
It’s worth noting, however, that this free service is designated for people who are in crisis. It’s not a substitute for regular, consistent therapy sessions.
A great resource for folks identifying across all ends of the LGBTQ spectrum, the GLBT National Help Center includes information on everything from mental health support resources to educational materials and community organizing. One of the center’s best resources is its online volunteer-run chat room. All chats are confidential (read: no transcripts or recordings are saved).
Previously featured on The CheckUp, QSPACES, helps to connect people to LGBTQ-friendly healthcare providers. Founders Nic Anthony and Catherine Hofman started the company after discovering that many of their friends and community members were predominantly using social media outlets to share details about LGBTQ-friendly healthcare providers.
On QSPACES, users can find, rate, and review healthcare providers on their level of LGBTQ-friendliness, competency, and overall care. If you’re looking for an affordable LGBT-friendly mental health resource, the platform will help you find a nearby licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or other mental health professional.
Another company previously featured on The CheckUp, MyTransHealth helps members of the trans community to find healthcare providers that can deal specifically with the needs of transgender individuals. Similar to QSPACES, MyTransHealth provides a valuable resource through which you can find trans-friendly healthcare providers. The location-based website connects trans individuals with trans-friendly mental health professionals to provide therapy services.
Gaylesta has a handy referral service for providers with a range of training and experience specializing in the LGBT community. You can search by location, specific issues (including bipolar disorder, HIV/AIDS, abuse, and ADHD), and techniques (from psychoanalysis to drama therapy).
GLBTNearMe uses GPS technology to direct users to nearby social and support centers catering to the LGBT community. The database boasts more than 15,000 LGBT resources across the country, from community centers and youth groups to LGBT-friendly healthcare centers.
Mental Health Therapy & Treatment Lacks Accessibility
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or struggle to cope with the stress of everyday life, you’re in good company. Most people can benefit from speaking with a therapist or mental health professional. Unfortunately, getting help isn’t as easy as scheduling an appointment for a consultation.
Managing your mental health is complicated, and in the U.S. the process involves a lot of hurdles. From determining the provider (a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a social worker, or another kind of counselor) who is best-suited to your needs to setting aside funds for treatment (many psychologists and psychiatrists do not accept insurance), securing effective and affordable mental healthcare seems like an impossible task.
Affordability: The Biggest Roadblock to Therapy
That our healthcare system is fraught with obstacles and red tape is especially frustrating, considering that time is of the essence when you’re in crisis or are managing mental illness. Moreover, psychotherapy isn’t affordable for most Americans.
The average therapy session costs $75 – $150 an hour and upwards of $200 – $400 in cities like New York or San Francisco. Weekly sessions throughout the course of a single year can amount to a five-figure expense. If the stigma of admitting weakness prevented people from seeking help several decades ago, the prohibitive cost of therapy is what currently prevents people from seeking treatment for mental health.
The bottom line? Even the most proactive patients are deterred by the confusing landscape of different providers and a high percentage of doctors who won’t accept insurance. The cost of mental health services is simply too high; most Americans can’t afford such care. Wealthy people who can afford care have a much greater range of private options available to them, not to mention they can shop around to find somebody with whom they have a good relationship (the most important factor predicting success in therapy).
We’re hoping this list of affordable LGBT-friendly mental health resources can help those having issues accessing the therapy they may want/need – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.