How Therapize provides access to credible mental health support at the click of a button
According to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in 2015-16, a staggering 13.7 percent of Indians suffer from some form of mental illness. The Bengaluru-based autonomous centre for neuroscience education also pointed out that among the 150 million Indians, who desperately need mental health interventions, only 30 million have access to such care.
The lack of qualified mental health professionals, inadequacy in awareness levels, as well as the inherent stigma surrounding the idea of undergoing therapy, are some of the reasons for this issue.
Several individuals, startups, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been working to eliminate these stumbling blocks and strengthen the mental healthcare infrastructure in India.
Mumbai residents Anushka Kelkar and Aviva Bhansali are two such people who are redefining the process of seeking mental healthcare services. Through their platform, ‘Therapize,’ the duo is attempting to connect people suffering from mental health problems with clinical psychologists, counsellors, and psychotherapists.
“There is only one trained mental health specialist for every four lakh citizen in India. Many times, even if someone is ready to approach a therapist to better deal with issues like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or bipolar disorder, they do not know how and where to find trustworthy and reliable support. This drove us to build Therapize,” Anushka Kelkar tells SocialStory.
After pursuing a degree in Journalism from Ashoka University, Anushka went on to work in the domains of research or consultancy by working with many NGOs. Aviva, on the other hand, completed her Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Psychology from Claremont McKenna College in California, before venturing into marketing and business development.
Both Anushka and Aviva met while working at a philanthropy organisation in April 2019.
“Both Aviva and I used to have very interesting conversations about the mental health epidemic in India. And, when the COVID-19 pandemic flared up, followed by months of lockdown, we read about the massive increase in the number of individuals grappling with fear, stress, and self-harm. In fact, many of our friends and acquaintances started asking us to share contact details of competent therapists,” Anushka shares.
While the duo was fulfilling these requests, the idea of building a platform to connect therapy seekers and therapists struck them. In a bid to identify the challenges people encounter while accessing mental healthcare, they conducted a survey and distributed questionnaires to over 500 therapy seekers.
The survey revealed that about 32 percent of respondents felt that there was a need for reliable sources of information around therapy and therapists. On the other hand, about 40 percent thought affordability and a dearth of transparency in obtaining therapy to be a big hurdle. Lastly, a whopping 62 percent said they relied on personal networks to find professional help, and they found it be very limiting due to the judgmental attitude of the therapists.
The home page of the platform - Therapize.
“We spent a considerable amount of time analysing these results and doing further research. Besides, both of us also made it a point to understand the supply side of things by talking to therapists and counsellors about their predicaments,” explains Aviva Bhansali.
Once the duo had the complete picture in hand in terms of building the website and shortlisting therapists, Anushka and Aviva launched Therapize, a digital platform, where individuals could find trust-worthy mental health support at the click of a button, in August 2020.
Providing easy access to mental health experts
Therapize operates on three cornerstones – availability, accessibility, and awareness. It aims to achieve the dual goal of spreading knowledge about mental health and also enabling easy access to care.
The platform consists of a database of reliable therapists, including details such as their qualifications, work experience, an estimation of the hourly fee, contact number, and most importantly, the style of therapy they practice.
The platform has a list of qualified and reliable therapists to choose from.
“We have a due diligence process in place to select the therapists before listing them on Therapize. We look into their background, verify the educational certificates, check the reviews given to them, and so on. Only once we are satisfied with their authenticity and professional expertise, we get them on board. As of now, there are 30 therapists indexed on the site,” adds Aviva.
Anybody who is looking for therapy can access the website, browse through the list of mental health experts, and get in touch with the one who they think will be most suitable for them. The platform does not ask users for login credentials and is available to use completely free of cost.
In addition to finding a therapist, the platform enables users to access meaningful information about the mental health infrastructure and policies in India, the dos and don’ts for the ones suffering from ailments, as well as the emergency helpline numbers for those coping with stress, loneliness, and violence.
“Our efforts are purely voluntary, and hence we do not charge any form of commission from the users. They only have to pay the therapists for their service,” clarifies Anushka.
In the last one month, Therapize has attracted over 12,000 followers on Instagram, and more than 650 people have already obtained access to a therapist through the platform. Presently, the website alone is known to garner around 7,500 unique visitors every day.
The 29-year-old therapist Anagha Bhave.
Twenty-nine-year-old Anagha Bhave is one of the first therapists to onboard the platform. A mental health professional, Anagha completed her Masters in Counselling Psychology and Mental Health from Columbia University and has been practising for the last four years. Talking about her experience with Therapize, she says,
“Therapize is like an Uber for people dealing with mental health issues. When I was approached to be a part of the platform by the team, I immediately agreed. To date, 70 individuals have reached out to me for help through Therapize. Though I have been able to accommodate only 15 of them, I am looking forward to offering my services to more.”
Overall, the team at Therapize has been receiving an overwhelming response since its inception, especially from the people aged between 18 and 30 years.
“A lot of teenagers and young adults are sending us messages about how Therapize is helping them connect with the right therapists. And, it is a truly gratifying experience to hear about their personal stories of success. In the next couple of months, we are planning to put out a lot more relevant content on mental health as part of the repository on the website,” Aviva says with a broad smile.