Free & Affordable Therapy in Alberta
Updated: Aug 30
With rising stress, it can feel hard to even get through your day. Sometimes, getting help can feel out of reach. As more people talk about and recognize the importance of mental health, finding help gets a little bit easier, with new programs being offered every day. 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. In Alberta, we have a multitude of free and affordable counselling, therapy, and psychology services.
Crisis and Distress Services
There are many free local resources offering confidential, immediate or short-term crisis interventions for people in distress. Many are anonymous, so if you are in need of help or are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self harm, please reach out:
Alberta Helpline (211) - 24/7 phone, text and chat info & resources
Health Link (811) - 24/7 nurse advice and general health information
Family Violence Info Line (3101818) - 24/7 phone/chat for support, information or referrals
Mental Health Help Line (18773032642) - 24/7 anonymous phone support, information and referrals
Edmonton Distress Line (17804824357) - 24/7 phone
Distress Centre Calgary (4032664357) - 24/7 phone and daily text, chat & in-person counselling services
Kids Help Phone (18006686868) - 24/7 anonymous phone support
Alberta Health Services also has a list of resources for help in tough times with a wide range of support 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. They can 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, some hospitals offer out-patient mental health services, and Primary Care Networks offer free therapy services. 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 supports, including one-on-one help from mental health professionals, access to social services, and workshops.
In 2020, the Government of Canada launched Wellness Together, a free online mental health support providing access to resources, skill-building, assessments, and counselling. Alberta Health also partnered with Togetherall, a free anonymous digital community for judgment-free support and access to resources for a variety of common mental health struggles.
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. A few include:
Calgary Counselling Centre - Calgary individual and group counselling
CASA - Edmonton kid, teen, and family counselling
CCASA - Calgary and area sexual assault crisis support, counselling, and education
Catholic Family Service - Alberta online counselling & Calgary group and family programs
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
Momentum Counselling - Edmonton individual, couple, and group counselling
Skipping Stone - Alberta affirming counselling, skills building, and resources for trans and gender-diverse youth, adults, and 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 and programs for the prevention and treatment of family violence
YWCA Edmonton - Edmonton individual and family counselling and programs for the prevention and treatment of family violence
With financial support, government and non-profit organizations can 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 therapists pay for their own business costs and typically charge for services in alignment with their association’s fee schedule. Private practice therapists often have more freedom, control, and flexibility to work with clients from their own unique approach, and offer more individualized care. Insurance can help you pay for therapy, however, private clinics and solo therapists often have free and affordable options for short-, medium- and long-term treatment.
Private practice therapists sometimes offer lower fees or sliding scale fees to increase the capacity of all people to access high-quality mental health treatment. 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 find out if they offer sliding scale fees and how much sessions would cost.
Some public and private therapy clinics also offer reduced fees when working with practicum students who are obtaining their Masters of Counselling and are not licensed yet. Students operate under the same codes of conduct and ethics all therapists follow, are supervised by a registered professional therapist, and are monitored by their school institution.
You may also 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. To learn more about your employer’s EAP Program, reach out to your human resources department.
Choosing a Service
There are many important factors to consider when choosing a mental health service. Your ability to pay is one of many considerations, 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 comfort and safety
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, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website.