Last updated May 16th 2015
So long couch, hello cellphone. Instead of undergoing psychotherapy, some people find it easier and more discreet to text-message their therapist. Enter Talkspace, a provider of online and SMS counseling, which this week raised $9.5 million, an impressive amount for a company outside investors’ usual areas of interest.
It seems that financiers like the idea of tech-era therapy: Spark Capital, SoftBank, Metamorphic Ventures and TheTime were all behind the latest funding round. That brings investment in Talkspace, founded in 2012, to a total of $13 million.
“Since mental illness affects one out of four people every year, access to proper mental health care should be made available for everyone,” Alex Finkelstein, General Partner at Spark Capital, said in a statement.
All-you-can-talk plans for $12 a year
Founded by Israelis Roni and Oren Frank, Talkspace offers affordable plans similar, if you will, to those offered by mobile phone operators: $49 per week for “unlimited messaging therapy” if you pay on a weekly basis, or $12 a week if you commit to one year. Talkspace doesn’t accept traditional medical insurance, and therapy is provided by licensed counselors, who typically hold a master’s degree. It was recently reported that IBM provides Talkspace with a technology that matches therapists to patients.
In comparison to Talkspace therapists, a one-hour session with a licensed clinical psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in their clinic costs $20-$30 in copayment for insured patients; the uninsured typically pay $100-$150 per session.
Citing shame and stigma as barriers to getting psychotherapy, Talkspace has so far been able to attract 100,000 American patients suffering from depression, anxiety, stress and PTSD. “Mental illness is a worldwide epidemic and that’s the problem we’re here to solve,” Roni Frank, co-founder and Head of Clinical Services at Talkspace, said in a statement. “By removing the barriers to entry for millions of people, we’re making it easy for people to be proactive about their mental health.”
Eliminating the stigma still associated with therapy
Talkspace also provides couples therapy via its web and mobile platforms, eliminating “the powerful stigma that is still associated with therapy” through anonymity, according to the company. In addition, its members don’t need to wait for an appointment or go through a reimbursement process, and they can request to change therapists at any time, free of charge.
To market its service last November, Talkspace installed a #PopUpTherapy installation on Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street in Manhattan, where passersby were able to pop into a therapy “bubble” to receive a quick, free 15-minute consultation with a therapist, and find out about the startup’s psychology solutions for the modern age.
Over the past couple of years, a number of online therapy services have popped up, like Blah Therapy, 7 Cups of Tea. But for some, the idea of texting their therapist is unsettling, impersonal and aloof, so this type of remote therapy is obviously not for everyone. Since success rates of Talkspace cases are not available, it remains to be seen whether patients report positive experiences after undergoing SMS therapy.
Photos and video courtesy of Talkspace