It often seems as though every New Yorker has a shrink, due to the high-anxiety nature of the city. But in reality, for many people, mental health care is a luxury they can't afford, especially with the never-ending rise in rent prices. While respected psychologists can often command hundreds of dollars per session, New York fortunately offers an abundance of options for low-cost therapy. Independent and hospital-affiliated clinics, support groups and university psych centers all provide affordable services—often with reasonable, sliding scale fees—to people who are seeking guidance. Here are 10 places where you can get help from trained mental health practitioners, regardless of your income.
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Located in Columbus Circle, ICP boasts a staff of 150 therapists who lead individual and group sessions. Patients can specify what they’d like to work on and what kind of therapist they’re seeking in an initial meeting with an intake worker. In addition to its general services, the Institute also specializes in therapy for children, adolescents and LGBTQ-identified people, as well as in the treatment of eating disorders and trauma. For those out-of-network or without insurance, ICP will charge a sliding scale fee based on income.
The Institute for Human Identity is a pioneer in addressing the mental health concerns of LGBTQ-identified people—in fact, its founder helped lead the battle to remove homosexuality from the DSM, where it was previously listed as a disorder. Since 1973, its staff of mental health professionals—which counts Dr. Ruth Westheimer as an alum—has practiced therapy that affirms and respects the needs of LGBTQ people and their families. IHI patients pay for services, which include individual and group counseling, as well as therapy geared toward folks in the entertainment industry, on a sliding scale based on income.
The Ackerman Institute has long functioned as a clearinghouse on family therapy: For more than 50 years, it has trained family therapists and provided services ranging from couples counseling to divorce mediation to guidance in parenting. Families meet with therapists who help them weather issues like substance abuse, bereavement and illness; income-based fees make payment affordable. Ackerman has also launched a number of projects to address specific concerns, such as those of multiracial families, people with relatives impacted by the criminal justice system, children with special needs and more.
New York’s branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a grassroots mental health organization, focuses primarily on providing education via classes and free support groups. For people wary of diving into one-on-one therapy, these groups take a wide range of approaches to providing participants with a sense of comfort and support. Facilitated by trained volunteers, they tackle problems like bipolar disorder, OCD and mood disorders, but also explore emotional issues via art therapy classes, poetry workshops and even movie and board game clubs.
Founded in 1943, the White Institute brings psychoanalysis into the 21st century. Its approach is heavily influenced by Freud’s contemporary Sandor Ferenczi, who emphasized the importance of therapists expressing empathy and playing an active role during sessions. The White Institute has been formally recognized by the APA for its community outreach, and patients here will find low-cost therapy for adults, children and families, as well as special services for artists, LGBTQ people and those dealing with eating disorders, addiction and trauma.
City College has long been celebrated for its approach to higher education, as well as its dedication to serving New York’s marginalized populations. The Psychological Center shares these aims and offers affordable mental health care to the communities of Upper Manhattan. After an initial assessment, patients are paired with CUNY doctoral students in psychology, who provide individual and group counseling, family and couples therapy, and psychiatric care.
A nonprofit devoted to improving access to health care for poor and underserved populations, the Institute for Family Health operates a number of counseling centers in Manhattan and the Bronx. Patients meet with psychologists, social workers or counselors, who employ problem-solving and cognitive therapy. If psychiatric care and medication are needed, clients are referred to the appropriate doctor. IFH is affiliated with Bronx Lebanon, Montefiore and Mount Sinai hospitals, and its centers have a policy of turning no one away based on inability to pay.
This clinic’s namesake, Karen Horney, is known as the founder of feminist psychology, which departs from traditional Freudian practices by examining the role that gender plays in personality development. Horney’s humanistic philosophy—the belief that everyone has the potential to achieve positive growth and improved health—closely informs the therapy practiced here, which ranges from counseling to more intensive psychoanalysis. The Horney Clinic aims to provide affordable care to patients from all socioeconomic classes, a mission that is supported by private and public grants.
St. John’s University graduate students in psychology, under the supervision of faculty, meet with adults, teens and children at this low-cost clinic in Queens. Options include individual and group therapy, as well as specialized treatments that help people navigate challenges like marital conflicts and social anxiety.
The WSI has been around since 1960, and thanks to its sizeable and well-trained staff, it has a reputation for providing affordable therapy in a range of modes, with intake interviews that help people find the right match for their needs. In addition to one-on-one sessions, WSI offers patients traditional group therapy as well as “skills training,” a six-month course designed to strengthen mindfulness, relationships and coping skills through a combination of CBT, Zen philosophy, communication practice and stress management techniques.