(Scroll down for some current news links on the topic)
Mental health care is the center of many conversations these days as the pandemic has elevated the needs for emotional wellness, adequate pay, inviting work environments, and relationship satisfaction — among many other emotional needs. During the height of the pandemic, many of us pivoted our daily lives to be centered in our personal homes allowing for reflection from the comfort of our couch. As such, it seems reasonable mental health apps like BetterHelp or TalkSpace exploded in demand.
There has been nearly $4 billion being funneled into mental health start-ups (source) like BetterHelp, Ginger, MDLive, ModernHealth, TalkSpace, Teladoc and more; in fact, over 300 more (source). It’s clear investors are investing in mental health start-ups — but are those investors investing in YOU?
However, there are profound issues with tech industries prioritizing mental health—many of which include client care.
What’s the issue
Provider reimbursement is about half of what client pays either directly (self-pay) or indirectly (through insurance)
Due to contract restrictions, provider reimbursement cannot be publicly shared
Modalities, interventions, assessments, and time spent with the client (such as EMDR, emotional support animal letters, gender affirming letters, ADHD assessments) are often prohibited and/or restricted which limits appropriate interventions for clinical need
Only 6% of mental health start-ups/apps claim to utilize evidence based approaches (source)
Due to contract restrictions, interventions available to providers cannot be publicly shared
Client data is sold as tech companies and apps are not bound by the same ethical guidelines and privacy practices as your local therapist is
Data sold includes, but is not limited to: disability status, gender identity, sexuality (and probably anything else you’d really only want your therapist to know)
Many, if not nearly all, of these platforms require clinicians to use the platforms own clinician portal.
This means client data is no longer as private — individuals from these platforms have the ability to view session notes and other client data
There is far more limited oversight by governing boards for mental health start-up/apps than traditional therapy spaces (source)
These smart apps are generally limited to those familiar with, and have access to, technology, financial resources, and familiarity with smart phone usage. No technology, financial resources, internet, smartphone? Too bad.
Why Should You Shop Small
There are approximately 28 million small businesses in America which account for about 66% of all new jobs. Further, small business tend to support small business. In fact, almost 50% of small business revenue stays local whereas 14% of corporations do so. This is a lot of good to a lot of good people.
What’s the solution
Problem: Poor provider reimbursement leads to increased burnout, higher turnover, and frequent need for a different therapist
Solution: By shopping local, you are ensuring your provider is being adequately paid, reducing turnover, and clinician burnout. Your clinician is an adequately paid, content clinician.
Problem: Modalities, interventions, assessments, and time spent with the client are restricted; then client care is negatively impacted
Solution: By shopping local, you are ensuring your needs are getting met with the most current, trauma-informed, clinically sound interventions using the most clinically appropriate assessments and modality… all while getting the full hour you deserve. Your needs are getting met.
Problem: Mental health apps are “affordable” because client data is being sold to offset the cost for clients and increase the profit for the app
Solution: By shopping local, your privacy is guaranteed through tighter restrictions and oversight for HIPAA and privacy practices. Your data will not be sold.
Problem: Mental health apps are not overseen in the same capacity as your local therapist.
Solution: By shopping local, your clinical needs are protected by governing boards, the FDA, and other appropriate entities. Your treatment is protected.
Problem: Mental health apps target a specific demographic — those with financial resources, internet access, and tech savviness.
Solution: Your local therapist can support you… locally. Your local needs, your local therapist.
In The News
Below I’ll list some articles that specifically address this topic at length.
Therapists: You're becoming a gig economy worker (12/11/2021) by Katie Playfair via LinkedIn
SoftBank-Backed Mental Health Unicorn Cerebral Reneged On Salaries And Health Insurance For Hundreds Of Therapists (12/16/2021) by Katie Jennings via Forbes
Threats to Psychotherapy Practice and Patient Privacy (undated) by American Mental Health