Researchers in South Korea recently published a report indicating that more than 10 percent of internet-using teens were at risk for depression. The rates of depression among teens in the US is certainly higher. While it may be impossible to determine if internet content contributes to the depression risk, it does seem clear that the digital landscape offers excellent therapeutic resources for those in need of encouragement, behavioral therapy, and the like. With societies more and more yoked to tablets, laptops, and handheld devices, why not offer services that can be accessed in the classroom, workplace, or the comfort of an individual’s home?
Digital providers like Talkspace offer millennials and older adults behavioral health support that is accessible with a few keystrokes on the laptop or a few swipes on the smartphone. While the old “sit down on the therapist’s couch” is alive and well, more and more adults are opting for remote access as it affords the individual real-time therapy amid an increasingly frenetic, wired world. What makes providers like Talkspace so appealing to a growing segment of the population? A host of therapeutic platforms. From Skype-esque video conversations to Talkspace’s text-centric chats between provider and client, digitalized therapy outfits harness the power and potential of screened devices to meet clients in their digitalized settings in life.
Great Services at an Affordable Price Point
Insurance providers and policyholders recognize that the cost of “brick and mortar” therapy can be prohibitively expensive. With individual sessions costing $125 or more, often out-of-pocket, individuals who would certainly benefit from therapy opt out, choosing instead to suffer in silence. An additional barrier between providers and would-be clients is availability. Often limited to 6 “slots” with clients per day, providers are just not immediately available to help clients when the inevitable rough patch or crisis arrives.
With basic plans starting at under $35 a week, Talkspace and other digital providers offer great therapy that can be used multiple times per week. There is no calendar to manage when a client connects with a therapist in the digital environment. If a client has an issue that demands immediate attention, the client can log on to the therapy platform and use one of the daily “check-ins” that are included with even the most basic plans. Because many of the digital platforms use a form of instant messaging for therapy delivery, the client’s identity remains confidential (although there are extensive accommodations for cases where this is not clinically appropriate.).
Growth of the Movement
By 2016, Talkspace had offered therapeutic support to more than 500,000 clients. Following the 2016 election cycle, the provider, like many others in the market, noticed a robust uptick in usage by current clients and new client contracts. Noting that the average Talkspace client is 34, CEO Oren Frank suggests that the current political landscape continues to feed the growth curve among online therapy providers. “There’s been a lot of anxiety and stress, which may have been there before,” Frank says. “But it’s definitely been triggered by Election Night and the Inauguration.” Since November 2016, new customer growth at Talkspace has outpaced expectations by 80%. Indeed, the trend will continue as growth in both digital access and anxiety levels among various segments of the “wired” population rise.
Good for Providers
Clients with handheld devices are not the only individuals benefiting from the movement from “brick and mortar” to an increasingly digitalized therapeutic landscape. Scott Christnelly, a licensed therapist and social worker who oversees the performance of therapists at Talkspace, believes his team benefits from an environment that removes a lot of administrative tasks. A former provider in a traditional therapy setting, Christnelly notes, “The job became more about paper and chart compliance and less about the healing relationships I formed with clients.” While recognizing that there is a learning curve involved in offering therapy on a digital platform, Christnelly adds, “Everyone has different life circumstances, but share the same internal struggles as everyone else.” While therapy platforms continue to evolve, clients continue to wrestle with the same issues and anxieties that have stymied happiness and emotional well-being for generations.
Here to Stay
“Therapy saved my life,” notes Gabrielle Moss a writer for Bustle, “when I was 24 and a total trainwreck — frequently drunk, often disorderly, idly suicidal, and about 30 minutes late everywhere I went.” Moss moved from a traditional therapy model to the Talkspace platform in 2015. Admitting that she was, “incredulous at the concept, but seduced by the ease,” Moss embraced the idea of having a “clean slate” with her digital provider. Celeste, Moss’ Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, offered an effective CBT approach for Moss that was instantly accessible and often exquisitely timed when old issues encroached.
Moss’ success with Talkspace mirrors the benefits received by the myriads moving from traditional therapies to digital providers. With the relentless growth in digital access showing no signs of decline, the digital therapy model will continue to ride the growth curve too.