Single mom, feeling overwhelmed or depressed and angry? 3 things to do

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Single mom, are you feeling stressed and overwhelmed?

Perhaps not surprising, studies find that single moms are twice as likely to be depressed and anxious than partnered moms. One study of nearly 7,000 mothers in Europe found that 30% of single mothers reported symptoms of depression or anxiety compared with just 14% of partnered mothers and 37% of single moms reported high parenting stress compared with 16% of partnered mothers.

Here is what you can do:

Feeling that being a single mom makes you depressed and angry?

1. Practice self-care 

Self-care means putting your own mental, spiritual, physical and social well-being before all else — filling your cup so you can serve others in your family, at work, in your community. Read this excellent post about self-care from therapist Elizabeth Cohen, PhD

2. Take free mental health online courses

Coursera's free trial covers its Science of Well-Being course

3. Get professional help

Professional help can range from hiring a coach, seeking counseling, group therapy, psychiatric care, or other trained experts that provide the help you need.

Individual therapy has proven to improve one’s mental health, relationships, quality of life, or other measures of wellbeing.

Working one-on-one with a professional allows you to receive their undivided attention throughout each session and personalized care and focused treatment for the duration of your relationship. You also get to set the pace for your conversations and your overall progress. Plus, you have some flexibility with scheduling appointments, based on just your therapist’s and your calendar. And you may be able to develop a stronger connection with your therapist, given the privacy of individual therapy.

If you are not sure if counseling is right for you, consider the advice of Heidi Vanderwerff, licensed independent clinical social worker, and co-owner of  Kennedy Counseling Collective in Washington, D.C.:

“You should consider counseling if you aren’t functioning normally and all the self-care items that used to work for you, are no longer working,” Vanderwerff says. “If you aren’t sleeping well, feeling hopeless, noticing an increase in anger, and don’t have your usual amount of energy, counseling can provide new ways of viewing the things going on in your life, refresh self-care routines, and heal from any old hurts.”

To find a counselor near you

  • Ask a friend for a recommendation
  • A local listing near you, including Yelp, Google and
  • Call a local counseling center
  • Request a referral from your doctor, or through your health insurance

Online search for “find a therapist online”

You may prefer to seek a counselor in your community — for local, in-person sessions now for the short-term or permanently, or because you hope a counselor can help you connect with local mental health and community services.

If you find it complicated to find counseling services near you — or have to wait weeks or months to get an appointment — online counseling may be an excellent alternative. Remember, you can use both … starting with online counseling services for immediate help, and in-person local counseling at a later date, if you prefer.

Read our list of best online therapy sites, No. 1 of which is BetterHelp, based on my own experience with the app, as well as having the lowest fees, high scrutiny of counselors (only 15% of counselors who apply to BetterHelp are accepted), very low costs, and most transparent process for customer service. Check out BetterHelp now >>

Online therapy sites will also match you with a therapist. BetterHelp allows you to browse their therapist directory, or fill out criteria like gender, religion, sexual orientation, race and specialty focus areas, such as depression, trauma, divorce, family relationships, sexual abuse or eating disorders.

Note therapist's credentials, style, communication method, pricing, and whether your insurance will help pay for costs. 

You may want to narrow your therapy search by the counselor's education and credentials. Briefly, here are the most common therapist designations:

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) or Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) depending on state — they tend to be more affordable than PhDs.
  • (Licensed) Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT or MFT) specialize in working with couples and families.
  • (Licensed) Mental Health Counselor (LMHC or MHC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) depending on state.
  • Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) is a Psychologist with  have advanced education and the training to conduct neuropsychological testing.
  • Ph.D. in Psychology — again, advanced education. Ph.D. training focuses more on research and teaching, while the Psy.D. education focuses on clinical interventions.
  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can diagnose, treat and prescribe medicine for mental illness, though do not tend to provide psychotherapy.

Note if you have a preference of age, gender, race or religion

Many people prefer therapists with similar demographic characteristics as their own – or complimentary. For example, a friend of mine who struggled her whole life from the death of her father when she was a young child intentionally sought out a male therapist in her mid-life after decades of working with female counselors. “All my daddy issues just came pouring out immediately,” she said.

Some online therapy platforms allow you to select from various characteristics. For example, when I used BetterHelp, I could choose the counselor's gender, race, whether thy were Christian or Jewish, LGBTQ, approximate age, and a wide range of specialties and experiences. This is very unique to online therapy, since the counselor pool is so vast, when compared to seeking services nearby.

Cost of therapy

In-person therapy can cost anywhere from $60 to $200 per hour or more. Sometimes health insurance or other employee benefits covers behavioral health services, though that is increasingly less common. Some community health centers, houses of worship or other local resources may offer reduced-price counseling.

Understandably, the pricing of online counseling is often a major consideration for whether you use the service, and which one you choose.

How much does online therapy cost?

Where traditional therapy can cost hundreds of dollars each session (and God forbid you have multiple sessions in a week!), online therapy can be drastically cheaper.

Alternatively, check out our list of best online therapy sites. Our recommendation is BetterHelp, because of its low prices starting at $65/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions, a Better Business Bureau rating of A+ and a very easy process to both switch therapists, as well as cancel. Financial assistance available. Use this link to get 20% off and get connected with a therapist immediately >>

Online therapy and teletherapy sites that take insurance?

Talkspace and MDLive both work with major insurance plans.

Does Medicaid pay for online therapy?

Medicaid is a program that is run jointly between the federal and individual state governments. As such, the federal government gives each state a large amount of freedom to decide which services are covered by their Medicaid programs. This means that whether or not Medicaid pays for online therapy, online counseling, and other telemental health services will depend on the state in which you live and have coverage.

Currently, 33 states require their Medicaid plans to cover online therapy. You will need to check with your state’s Medicaid fee-for-service program to determine whether or not you are covered for online therapy. 

Online therapy sites with free therapy?

Sorry, there is no free online therapy (unless you count watching old Oprah episodes on YouTube). 7 Cups is a free peer-listening site, but its therapy sessions are fee-based.

Is online therapy worth the money?

A quality therapist who is a good match for the client, and a client dedicated to growth and change can be a wonderful experience. There are never guarantees with therapy.

Is online therapy cheap?

Online counseling platform BetterHelp is the most affordable online therapy that provides counseling for pricing starting at $65 per week for unlimited access, which is far below a typical in-person traditional therapy session, which costs $50-$200+. Other online therapy apps pricing is also typically lower than traditional therapy — though a local counselor may offer online sessions for the same price as their in-office fee.

Is there any free counseling? Seeking free mental health services?

You may find free or reduced-cost counseling near you at a community health center, through a local university's psychology department or other local resources. Some counselors offer a free phone consultation for new or prospective clients.

If you need mental health services and truly cannot afford therapy bills, here are some resources:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's helpline: 800-662-4357.
  • Find local free resources via the National Alliance on Mental Health 24/7. Text to 741741.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255 or Live Online Chat
  • If you are in crisis, you can call 911 or visit your local emergency room
  • Veterans are entitled to free mental health services for a year after separation.

Sliding fee scales for therapy: Do I qualify?

Each therapist, clinic, therapy or counseling center or online therapy platform has its own policy about whether it offers a sliding fee scale, and what the qualifications are.

How does a sliding scale work? How are sliding scale fees calculated?

A sliding scale for a therapist can be considered based on criteria including thresholds for income, whether you are a student or senior citizen, if you are on TANF or Medicaid, or otherwise struggle financially. Ask your behavioral health provider about whether they have a sliding fee scale, and how to qualify.

Do I qualify for a sliding scale fee?

It helps to start with your therapist's website, but don't stop there — call and ask about any discounts, sliding scale, free trial session, as well as group therapy. Again, each therapy resource has its own criteria, and often considers clients' needs on a case-by-case basis.

Online therapy platform BetterHelp typically offers a 15% discount for those who feel they otherwise cannot afford therapy.

How does online counseling work?

How does online counseling work?

Many therapists you might find “near me” offer online counseling via Zoom, FaceTime or Skype — especially during the coronavirus quarantines. Ask your counselor if they offer online counseling, whether for the occasional session when you are traveling, or for your own ongoing convenience.

Otherwise, counseling from the online platforms typically involves creating an account, being assigned a counselor, and working with him or her via chat/messaging, phone or video sessions — not unlike traditional therapy as you know it. Some counseling apps also have group sessions, online education and other virtual tools.

Is online counseling effective?

There are troves of data that find that behavioral health counseling is effective, and a growing body of research that finds that online counseling is effective. The key is to find a counselor that you trust, connect with and will support you to make changes you need and desire.

How do you know if you need therapy?

Why do you need therapy?

In short: You need counseling if you want to go to counseling. A skilled professional counselor can help you better understand yourself, build more meaningful relationships in your life, and find deeper happiness.

If you are struggling with serious issues like addiction, eating or sleep disruptions, abuse, withdrawal from daily life, feeling numb, delusional or suicidal thoughts, definitely seek out professional counseling, says Michelle Pargman, a licensed clinical mental health counselor in Jacksonville, Fla.

“However, there is no problem too big or too small to seek out therapy,” Pargman says. “You don’t have to wait for a crisis, or for a time that it gets ‘bad enough.' If someone feels that they prefer not to ‘burden' friends/family and they simply are looking for an outlet, that is a perfectly fine reason to seek therapy.”

Types of therapy: What kind of therapy do I need?

In a Vox article, psychologist Juli Fraga makes these recommendations for types of mental health therapy:

If you’re dealing with break-up grief consider meaning-centered therapy.

If you’re dealing with depression, consider accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP), or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

If you’re dealing with childhood trauma, consider expressive arts therapy or EMDR.

If you’re dealing with anxiety, consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychoanalysis.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a popular approach to treating depression, sleeplessness, family drama, substance abuse, stress, anxiety, relationship problems. Instead of delving deep into your past, CBT focuses on your current life, and works to change your perceptions and behaviors now.

A Boston University study found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in treating mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders, among others.

All the online therapy sites reviewed above offer cognitive behavioral therapy.

CBT benefits

A Boston University study found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in treating mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders, among others.

CBT and other types of therapy can be used in partnership with prescription drugs, or pharmacotherapy. If your therapist or a medical doctor or psychiatrist writes you a prescription, there are online pharmacy options that are safe and affordable.

Adlerian therapy

The basis of Adlerian therapy is that each of us have a strong desire to be part of and connect deeply with a larger community —  innate feelings that can be used to propel each of us to greater success. This therapy examines birth order, social factors and your parents’ influence on you. Ultimately, you’ll be encouraged to develop new thoughts on your personal situation.

Research has supported the use of Adlerian therapy to facilitate positive changes, a University of Boise study showed.

Adlerian therapy can help you gain a sense of belonging, and can include play therapy for adults as well as children, a University of Northern Iowa study found.

Art therapy

In art therapy, you’ll create and review pieces of art to explore your emotions, boost self-esteem and become more self-aware. It is ideal for those who want to improve their overall level of function. 

Art therapy can include playing or listening to music, evaluating or viewing visual arts, participating or watching movement-based creative expression, and reading or writing. A Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine study says playing or listening to music, viewing artwork, creating visual art, participating or watching movement-based creative expression, and reading and writing are effective forms of art therapy.

Art therapy is useful for stress reduction in various age groups as well as alleviating mental health issues, and can help professionals avoid and respond to burnout, according to research from the University of Haifa.

Gestalt therapy

Not all therapy involves looking back to evaluate your childhood. Gestalt therapists believe that people want to find solutions to their own problems. A Gestalt therapist will guide you to understand what's happening in your present life — opposed to what you perceive to be happening based on past experiences.

A study out of the University of Florence found that research on the effectiveness of Gestalt therapy is lacking. However, practitioners argue that Gestalt therapy can help you recognize negative thought patterns. What you know, you can change.

Jungian therapy

Jungian therapy involves exploring your mind using activities such as word association, journaling or dream interpretation. Founder Carl Jung believed that repressed memories and experiences, along with our collective unconscious, impact our emotional health. 

A report out of the Catholic University of Applied Sciences found that Jungian therapy can enable patients to ease clinical symptoms of mental health disorders (and overall mental health challenges) enough to be able to discuss their psychological health objectively.

Benefits of Jungian therapy include relief from everything from depression to addiction.

Solution-focused therapy

Also known as Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), this therapy uses mind mapping or art therapy to guide you in coming up with solutions to mental health conditions as well as overall challenges.

A report out of Case Western Reserve University found solution-focused therapy requires fewer sessions than other forms of therapy.

Group therapy

Group therapy is when one or more therapists work with a group of people at the same time in a collaborative effort to support and improve each individual’s wellbeing. Typically, the group members have shared experiences and/or similar issues, but some groups may have diverse backgrounds or concerns.

The size of the group may vary, depending on the type of therapy and the strategy of the therapist, though in general, according to the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA), groups of five to 10 are typical.

A decade ago I found myself in a unique, dramatic situation that none of my friends or family understood: My young, healthy husband fell off a cliff and suffered a traumatic brain injury and PTSD, and his personality and mood changes rendered him an altered person.

After months of my own trauma, grief and loneliness of being in a very unique situation as a young mom with an impaired husband, I found a support group for loved ones of those suffering from TBI. That monthly support group changed my life, and I have since extolled the benefits of group therapy to others in difficult situations.

For me personally, the advantages of group therapy include:

  • Immediate comfort in knowing I was not alone, or crazy, or at fault
  • Being challenged to address my own lack of boundaries
  • Humility in sharing my experience with others of all kinds of backgrounds and personal experiences of their own
  • Practical advice and tools
  • Long-standing friendships that grew out of the bonds formed in those sessions. I am still in touch with two friends from my group therapy today.

This post outlines frequently asked questions about group therapy, and where to find group counseling sessions to meet your needs.


Psychoeducation is the practice of educating a person with a mental health condition on their challenges, so they can better manage their diagnosis and prognosis. Psychoeducation typically applies to people with diagnosable mental health illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, psychoeducation is can be applied to all kinds of behavioral health. For example, my therapist helped me understand why I could feel so anxious in a romantic relationship by explaining the brain's reaction to real and perceived threats (in my case: fear of being hurt and being abandoned, based on my own past experiences).

Studies have found that psychoeducation is effective in getting patients to be compliant with taking medication, including one study in Germany that found that schizophrenia patients who received education about their condition were more compliant with their medication, and spent fewer days in in-patient care.

Psychoeducation can include a therapist educating a client on their condition, a psychiatrist explaining how medication interacts with the body and brain, education for family members of those afflicted with mental health or behavioral health challenges, as well as classroom information for children with behavioral issues.

Psychoeducation can also include formal classes, psychoeducational groups, online support groups and self-help groups.

Learn more about when to consider family therapy — and how to find quality counseling.

Seeking family counseling near me? Consider online options instead

The ease and convenience of scheduling a therapy appointment online can benefit a family with schedules hard to align.It can also be more convenient as you can use almost any device to video chat, call, or text with a therapist. Studies find that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy.

Bottom line: Is online therapy right for me?

As a single mom, your children depend on you — and that can be a big weight to carry. Emotional setbacks are nothing to feel ashamed of. Nearly 60% of adults know someone suffering from mental illness, based on a survey by the American Psychological Association.

If you are unsure, thankfully online therapy is very affordable, and our partner BetterHelp offers a 20% discount for new clients. founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

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