Free and Affordable Therapy in Alberta

Free & Affordable Therapy in Alberta

Find information on free and subsidized counselling in Alberta and sliding scale fees for private therapy.

Mental health is just as important as physical health - making sure you keep your mind, body, and emotions healthy can help make your life better as a whole. Caring for your mental health does take time, attention, energy, and effort, but it doesn’t have to cost you more than you can afford.

Is there free therapy in Alberta?

Yes, Alberta’s public healthcare system offers a wide variety of free services, including counselling and therapy. There are also many non-profit organizations offering free or low-cost counselling subsidized by government funds and private donations. You can find many local resources offering free mental health support or counselling on this page.

Is therapy covered by Alberta Health Care Insurance?

Sometimes mental health therapy and counselling is covered by your Alberta health care, but mostly for crisis, short-term, or acute psychiatric programs, offered by the government and AHS (see below). When private mental health therapists practice outside of publicly funded programs, they are no longer funded by the public. Alberta Health Care Insurance does not cover private therapy or psychology services. 

How is private therapy different from government or non-profit services?

Government and non-profit services are often restricted to specific approaches like CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) or DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), and for limited time frames (1 - 6 - 12 sessions). Private therapists often have more freedom, control, and flexibility to work with clients from their own unique approach, and can offer more individualized care for a longer time frame.

How do I choose a therapy service?

There are many important factors to consider when choosing a mental health service, including:

  • the urgency of your situation and how quickly you need support

  • whether you are open to in-person or online therapy

  • the severity of your concerns and the potential duration of treatment

  • your past experiences accessing mental health services

  • the level of education and training you want in your therapist

  • the type of care you are looking for

  • your ability to pay

  • your comfort and safety

What are my options for free and affordable therapy in Alberta?

1. Crisis and Distress Services

2. Government/AHS Services

3. Non Profit Services

4. Private EAP Services

5. Private Subsidized

6. Sliding Scale Therapy

1. Crisis and Distress Services in Alberta

Find free local resources offering confidential, immediate or short-term crisis interventions for people in distress here.

2. Alberta Government/AHS Mental Health Services

Alberta’s public healthcare system offers a wide variety of free services, including short- and long-term counselling. Some are available for walk-in, while others require a referral.

 

Alberta Health Services offers free walk-in counselling at certain locations for help with a variety of mental health concerns, including stress, grief, parenting, relationships, depression, and anxiety. The onsite counsellors use a team approach and focus on helping people make changes in their lives by learning what their strengths are. These sessions are completely confidential and are 50 minutes. Wait times can vary, as clients are seen in priority of need.

 

Access Mental Health offers free crisis, addiction, and wellness counselling. Service areas across Alberta are divided by regions, so check the website to contact your local area. 

 

Some physicians and psychiatrists offer mental health care covered by Alberta Health, and some hospitals offer out-patient mental health services. Ask your doctor or a walk in doctor for a referral.

 

Primary Care Networks are groups of family doctors who work alongside nurses, mental health therapists, pharmacists, social workers, and other health professionals to meet the everyday health needs of local communities. They offer a variety of free supports, including one-on-one help from mental health professionals, access to social services, and workshops. Find information about your local PCN here:

In 2020, the Government of Canada launched Wellness Together, a free online mental health support providing access to resources, skill-building, assessments, and counselling.

 

In 2020, Alberta Health partnered with Togetherall, a free anonymous digital community for judgment-free support and access to resources for a variety of common mental health struggles.

Alberta Health Services also has a list of resources for help in tough times with a wide range of support services.

Some municipalities partner with the Government of Alberta to offer mental health services, including:

3. Non-Profit Mental Health Services

There are also many non-profit organizations sponsored by government funds and private donations offering subsidized mental health counselling for free or a reduced cost. Typically, these programs are for short- to medium-term treatment. Visit each site for more details:

  • Calgary Counselling Centre - Calgary and Alberta individual and group counselling

  • CASA - Edmonton kid, teen, and family counselling

  • CCASA - Calgary and area sexual assault crisis support, counselling, and education

  • CIWA - Calgary individual and group counselling and education for immigrant women

  • Community Connect YYC - Calgary counselling from various providers

  • Counselling Alberta - Alberta individual online counselling

  • JFSC - Calgary mental health support line and brief counselling

  • Kindred (formerly Catholic Family Service) - Alberta online counselling & Calgary group and family programs

  • Momentum Counselling - Edmonton individual, couple, and group counselling

  • SACE - Edmonton and area sexual assault crisis support, counselling, and education

  • Skipping Stone - Affirming counselling, skill building, and resources for trans and gender-diverse youth, adults, families

  • The Canadian Mental Health Association - Alberta mental health services & resources

  • The Family Centre - Edmonton individual, family, and group counselling

  • YWCA Calgary - Calgary individual and family counselling programs for prevention and treatment of family violence

  • YWCA Edmonton - Edmonton individual and family counselling programs for prevention and treatment of family violence

 

4. EAP/EFAP Mental Health Services

You may have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) with your employer. These programs are offered through various organizations and provide access to brief online and in-person mental health services (4 - 6 sessions). To learn more about your employer’s EAP Program, check your employment benefit package or reach out to your human resources department. Some providers include:

5. Accessing Community Subsidized Private Therapy

Some cultural or faith communities may cover or co-pay members’ private therapy to support their wellbeing. If you do not have insurance coverage or the ability to pay for therapy and you belong to a cultural, faith, or church community, you might inquire whether they can assist your healing journey.

The Lionheart Foundation provides financial subsidies to individuals seeking treatment with their directory of therapists.

Some grants also exist to help pay for therapy with your own therapist, including the Breaking Free Foundation in Calgary.

6. Sliding Scale Fees from Private Practice Therapists

With financial support, government and non-profit organizations can easily offer free and low cost services. When mental health professionals practice outside of publicly funded programs, they are no longer funded by the public. Our provincial health coverage (Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan) does not cover private therapy or psychology services.

 

Private practice therapists pay for their own business costs and typically charge for services in alignment with their association’s fee schedule. Private therapists often have more freedom, control, and flexibility to work with clients from their own unique approach, and offer more individualized care for longer terms. Many Canadians have insurance for private therapy - you can read more about paying with insurance here. If you don't have coverage or have used up your coverage, you can still access support.

At Therapy Alberta, we offer sliding scale fees to increase the capacity of all people to access high-quality mental health treatment. Offering lower fees reduces the barriers clients face to accessing private therapy services. Sliding scale fees are based on your household income, financial situation, and ability to pay. Since rates can vary, it’s best to reach out to the therapist you hope to see to discuss your fee. Read about our therapists here.

Reaching out for therapy can be hard - you are not alone. If you have questions or need any assistance in your search for mental healthcare or a therapist, please contact us here.