Virtual Therapy

 

By Ruth Reader, Illustration by Jacek Janiczak

In the social distancing era, apps are making therapists available at home—affordably and on demand.
Just a few years ago, teletherapy—the practice of doing therapy via phone, video, or text—was regarded as an unproven mental health treatment. But strong consumer demand for all forms of telemedicine (estimated to surpass $130 billion by 2025) has led to a quadrupling of venture funding in the space in the past five years. The popularity of these apps skyrocketed during the COVID-19 shutdown, as in-person visits ceased and mental health declined nationally. Remote therapy is now offered by traditional healthcare networks, stand-alone apps, and as part of employee assistance programs.

Industry Growth: VC investment in mental health startups 2009 – 2019.

$457.4m

App usage: Telehealth company MDLive reports that in 2020, virtual behavioral-health visits increased

50%

February – March

72%

March – April

Valuations: The top apps by valuation (at press time)

 

$1 billion

Amwell (a telehealth network that offers therapy)

$675 million

Mindstrong Health (a text and video therapy platform)

$557 million

Lyra Health (online therapy offered as an employee benefit)

$310 million

Talkspace (a text-message-based therapy platform)

Validity: A 2019 Harvard Medical School study of
mental health apps found that 

64%

claimed to be based on scientific evidence.

 

 

1.4%

applied evidence, and shared results in a scientifically reviewed paper.

Costs: One touted advantage of teletherapy is the cost. Before insurance, cost ranges are estimated at:

 

$75 – $400

Traditional talk therapy (per session)

 

$65 – $100

Talkspace (per week)

 

$40 – $70

BetterHelp (per week)

Filling the Gap: The U.S. has a mental health professional shortage. By 2025, the shortfall will be:

 

-16,940

Mental health/substance abuse social workers

-13,740

School counselors

-8,220

Clinical counselors

-6,080

Psychiatrists

-2,440

Family and marriage therapists

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