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Your iPhone, Your Therapist

May 9, 2014 | Telepresence Options

iphone_therapist

Story and images by Lorriane Sanders / OZY

Why you should care
Startups and behemoths are betting that technology has the power to get mental health care off the expensive therapist couch -- and into the lives of more people who need it.

Following early e-talk entrants such as Pretty Padded Room in 2011, a growing number of for-profit businesses are turning their attention to the field - and bringing new technology with them. While it's not uncommon to find individual therapists offering sessions by Skype and video-conferencing technology, this new wave of companies seeks to widen the net - not only by offering easier access to care, but also through cheaper alternatives to traditional therapy designed for people without severe diagnoses.

"Stigma, access and cost challenges prevent most people from getting mental health care," says Alejandro Foung, co-founder and CEO of San Francisco-based mental healthcare platform ThriveOn, winner in the healthcare category at this year's South by Southwest Accelerator Awards.

So to fix that, this summer, Foung and a team that includes doctors and psychiatrists from Stanford University and Washington University in St. Louis plan to release a mobile mental healthcare tool that offers people access to personalized counseling programs. Plus, virtual communication tools for reaching licensed, practicing therapists via smartphone for monthly fees that are far less than the cost of the average, out-of-pocket therapy session. On-demand access to a therapist for $5 to $10 a month? Sign me up.

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