The decision to start seeing a therapist can be a daunting one – and that’s before you even get into what type of therapy you need and finding a local therapist within your price range.
Therapy marketplace Timewith is looking to change that by demystifying the process of starting counselling and making it more accessible.
Putting its money where its mouth is, it’s just launched an initiative offering 1,000 free private sessions to help people give therapy a go, with plans to increase this number to 10,000 if successful.
With over 500 qualified therapists and counsellors, and offering online and phone appointments alongside face-to-face sessions, the company’s head of growth & communications Sebastian Abecasis says the campaign is more about accessibility than affordability.
“If someone doesn’t have clue about therapy, £58 – which is the average price for a session – is a large fee to trial it,” he told BusinessCloud.
The campaign launched a couple of weeks ago and will run until the company reaches 1,000 users. Anyone can sign up, even someone who’s been to therapy before.
“We want to open therapy to a wider audience,” said Abecasis. “Even if you’ve had therapy before, people struggle to find the right therapist.”
This idea is at the heart of the company. Founder Mark Tsirekas has been in therapy since he was 15 for depression, but struggled to find the right therapist for him.
With over 100 people signing up so far, and about two thirds of those going on to book a second session, Abecasis says therapy needs to be more transparent. For example, it isn’t clear why some therapists cost more than others or what certain terms mean.
“For someone at a loss and often vulnerable the only solution has been directories, which are just alphabetical with a bunch of jargon,” he said.
“Given the climate of mental health being on the rise and less stigmatised it means more demand and the NHS is being squeezed.”
Clients signing up to Timewith fill out a form and also have the option of speaking to an advisor, both of which matches them to the right therapist using the company’s algorithm.
The process makes searching for a therapist much quicker, helping clients get in front of a professional usually within a week.
“At this stage it’s quite rudimentary because matching someone to a therapist is complex and people still want a human touch,” said Abecasis.
On the therapist side, the site helps them handle all their bookings and payments and gives them a good source of clients.
In the future the site also plans to expand into the biggest pain point for therapists, which is having a supply of rooms.
“Therapists have to give up around 50 per cent of what they make for every session to the clinic they’re based in, so we want to create a stack of services similar to a clinic but because it’s digital it’s at a much lower price,” he said.
This, he says, will filter down to cost savings for the customer. The current range of price points on the site is around £25-£150, which is representative of the market, but the long-term vision is to make it more affordable.
There are many other ways technology can help people manage their mental health says Abecasis, for example, there has been a rise in research into how AI can help choose the best treatments for different types of people.
“Natural language processing can also help spot depression, for example, a plug-in for emails that says ‘you seem overly agitated from the language you’re using’,” he said.
“There are also AI systems like chatbots which can give micro-CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) sessions by asking you a couple of questions every day. I think that’s going to be pretty profound.”
However, Abecasis doesn’t think these will be able to directly offset all the problems caused by tech.
“That needs to be tackled in different ways, like people stepping back a bit and focussing more on human connections and nature,” he concluded.