Fewer than half the people struggling with mental health issues receive the services they need. OpenCounseling is transforming mental health by giving people the information they need to find affordable treatment where they live.
At OpenCounseling, we believe that financial and geographic barriers keep far too many people from getting the care they need. People who are already feeling vulnerable are often discouraged when they try to get help but can’t find a local therapist who accepts their insurance plan or offers affordable rates. This can turn people away from therapy when they need it the most.
It doesn’t have to be this way. While we believe America needs to invest more in mental health care, we know many affordable options already exist that are unfortunately hidden from view. The internet can be an amazing tool for building community and sharing information, but it hasn’t been used to its full potential to serve the public good. We believe information about these options should be more widely available and that it shouldn’t be hard to find for the people who need it most. We want to make it easier for people to find and use local mental health resources.
In the mid-2000s, OpenCounseling founder Mark Pines was working as a therapist in Orange County, California, when he noticed a pattern. He took many calls from potential clients who wanted to learn more about his practice, but not everyone who called was specifically interested in setting up an appointment with him. Each month, several people would call to ask if he knew where they could find free or low-cost counseling.
In fact, he did, and he was glad to help. As a therapist, he had inside knowledge of mental health resources in the area, including programs and facilities that offered affordable counseling. From university training programs to community non-profits, people in Orange County had many options for affordable therapy. The problem was that no one knew about them.
Mark realized he could make this information more readily available by putting it online. In 2009, he created a single-page website listing affordable counseling providers in Orange County. Within a year, the site was receiving 1,000 visitors a month. As the page became an important local resource, Mark realized he could help more people by researching and compiling similar lists for other states. He expanded OpenCounseling to cover all 50 states and five other countries. OpenCounseling currently helps over 150,000 visitors each month find counseling they can afford.
From the beginning, OpenCounseling’s mission has been to connect people with local therapists they can afford. Early on, we focused on a limited network of resources. These included charitable networks, therapists with sliding-scale fees, and university programs that offered counseling sessions with student therapists for free or for minimal cost.
As the site gained more visitors, we realized we could do even more. OpenCounseling could be a central hub for information about access to mental health care and an important voice in media coverage of the topic. Our staff started granting interviews to the media and partnering with other sites with a similar mission. OpenCounseling is now run by a staff of researchers and writers who provide more useful information relevant to OpenCounseling’s mission.
From 2019 to 2021, we engaged in a massive project to make OpenCounseling even more comprehensive by covering the American public mental health system. Our team was inspired to take on this project after they discovered that information on publicly-funded mental health care was even harder to find than information about affordable care in the private sector.
For all the mental health topics covered on the internet in great depth, there were no sites offering straightforward information about how to access the public mental health system. Instead, people had to navigate a maze of confusing and often out-of-date websites, many of which led to dead ends and 404 errors.
By Summer 2021, the OpenCounseling team had published pages on every state’s public mental health system (as well as pages for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia). Completing this project required reading hundreds and hundreds of pages worth of information. Each page provides an overview of the state’s system, how it works, who is eligible to receive care through it, and where they should call to access services.
With this project complete, the team hopes to build on the knowledge gained from it to cover larger issues of access to mental health care in America. OpenCounseling also hopes to become even more of a voice and an advocate for people who are seeking but having trouble accessing the mental health care they need.
We care about spreading the word about accessible mental health. This includes non-profit, state-funded, and online counseling. We welcome journalists to contact our CEO, Mark Pines.
Mark Pines MA LMFT
Founder and CEO
Mark Pines is the founder and CEO of OpenCounseling. Mark started OpenCoun-
seling after practicing as a therapist for several years and recognizing the need for
affordable counseling. He built the site with the hope that everyone who needed
help, would get it.
In addition to heading OpenCounseling, Mark is also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Long Beach, CA.
Stephanie Hairston is a freelance mental health writer who spent several years in the field of adult mental health before transitioning to professional writing and ed- iting. As a clinical social worker, she provided group and individual therapy, crisis intervention services, and psychological assessments. She has also worked as a technical writer for a medical software company and as an editor for a company that appeals denials of insurance coverage for behavioral health treatment.
Ron works with OpenCounseling and has been medical writer and researcher for almost 15 years. She holds dual degrees in communication arts and pharmacy.
Jennifer is a mental health writer and social worker. She has worked at a number of state and non-profit organizations providing counseling, training, and policy development.
Eric Patterson is a licensed professional counselor from the Pittsburgh area who aims to help his clients improve their mental health and lead better lives. For the past 5 years, Eric has written extensively on the topics of mental health and ad- diction for various print and online sites with the goal of providing accurate and engaging content. Outside of work, Eric loves spending time with his family, listing to indie rock music, and going for long runs in the summertime.
Jason Simpkins is a mental health writer and a clinical social worker in Michigan. He is dedicated to the mission of making quality mental health care available to everyone.