National Eating Disorders Association

How to Find Affordable Mental Health Support in College

Laura Porter

Professional support for an eating disorder can be expensive, so as you transition into college, it’s important to know what resources are out there to help you find support that fits your budget. While your school’s counseling center can be a great resource to start seeking support, many counseling centers aren’t designed to provide long-term support for students. 

We’ve put together a guide for college students to help you explore affordable options for therapy and support services (both on- and off-campus) to ensure that no matter what your situation, you can get the help you need.

On-Campus Resources

The counseling center can be the best place to go to start your search. University counseling centers offer free or low-cost individual therapy, even if there is a limit to the number of sessions. The center can also help you once you reach the limit of sessions or if you decide you want to see someone outside of the school. Most should have a list of therapists in the area with whom you can work. Make sure to ask for this if you decide to seek outside support. Also see if they have a list of people who are “in-network” with your insurance--this means that they take your health insurance, which helps reduce the cost for you.

Another helpful option that counseling centers offer is group therapy sessions. Many colleges offer free group counseling on various topics. See if your counseling center offers one on eating disorders and, if they don’t, don’t be afraid to recommend that they create one! 

Some universities also have teaching hospitals, where students studying to be licensed clinicians gain experience by providing individual counseling sessions at low--or no--cost. Ask the counseling center if there is a program like this on your campus and explore it further.

Finding Treatment

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that affect everyone differently, and finding a therapist who specializes in eating disorders is crucial to the recovery process. A therapist who understands eating disorders can help you understand the underlying issues related to your disorder and it’s paramount that you can feel comfortable with this person’s knowledge. Luckily, there are a number of resources that can help you find a therapist who works specifically with eating disorders, support groups and treatment programs.

ConnectED: Created by the ladies at Recovery Warriors, this site (also available in the Rise Up + Recover app) helps you find a therapist, group or treatment center in your area. Just type in what type of treatment you’re looking for and your location, and ConnectED searches providers in your area, letting you contact them directly through the site.

ED Referral: Similar to ConnectED (although less user-friendly,) ED Referral lets you look up treatment in your state and narrow down by city. Also check out this page on free eating disorder support groups to find additional resources in your area.

As always, if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, NEDA is here to help. Call the NEDA Helpline at 800-931-2237 or text 'NEDA' to 741741 in a crisis.

A note on sliding scale: Some therapists offer treatment where you pay on a “sliding scale,” meaning that they can “slide” their rates down based on how much you're able to pay. If you're struggling to find a therapist who takes your insurance or offers low-cost sessions, ask them if they offer this option. 

Don't be afraid to ask for what you need. Talking about fees can feel uncomfortable, but it's a way of advocating for yourself to make sure you get the treatment and care you deserve. 

Laura graduated from The George Washington University in 2016 with a B.A. in political communication. During her time at GW, Laura served as the president and founder of the student organization Students Promoting Eating Disorder Awareness and Knowledge at GW (SPEAK GW) for two years, was an active member of GW Students for Recovery, and was a communications intern at Active Minds Inc.