Holistic Alternative Therapy Apps
The information provided below is an overview of three different apps that provide treatment for mental health or addiction. The examples are representative of common approaches used to develop apps to address mental health. Wysa is an example of treatment primarily via an AI chat service, BetterHelp is an example of a platform designed to connect users with real therapists, and Recovery Path is an example of an ecosystem of apps that draws support from multiple sources around the individual being treated. For each of these examples, we look at their features, pricing models, uptake, financial backing, and evidence supporting the effectiveness of their offerings.
- Wysa is an AI chat service that provides its users with a companion, which is embodied by a cute penguin that listens and asks questions to help them figure things out.
- Users can chat with the penguin and use mindfulness exercises to manage stress, depression and anxiety for free. The exercises are built on research-backed and widely used techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, yoga and meditation.
- In situations where the AI chat is not sufficient, users can elect to receive additional support from a real human psychologist who will provide them with advanced coaching sessions. These services are provided within the app and cost between $2.49-$239.99. Daily messaging support from a mental health professional with 8 live sessions costs less than $100 per month.
- Wysa is the first AI mental health app to meet clinical safety standards in the UK, and backs its efficacy with evidence published in peer-reviewed journals.
- High users of Wysa have an effect size for depression comparable to online human therapy, and 79% of these users improve their symptoms of depression. For lower users of Wysa, where engagement is less often, 68% found that their experience with Wysa was helpful and encouraging.
- This research-backed approach has meant that Wysa has managed to help 1,700,000 people in more than 60 countries, and provided more than 100 self care tools over 100 million conversations.
- To date, Wysa has raised $3.9 million over three funding rounds, with their latest round being a $2 million seed round in June 2019. The company is planning to use this funding to strengthen its technology for expansion, and has gone through Google Launchpad India where it received support in AI, machine learning, and product development.
- The market for conversational AI chat services to address mental health is already heating up and Wysa faces competition from similar offerings, such as Woebot and Youper. Woebot is backed by an $8 million Series A funding round, while Youper has $3.5 million.
- Because these services are largely automated, how these companies evolve and interact with users is an important consideration. Previously, the apps were incapable of handling reports of child sexual abuse because they could not yet recognize the flags for the requirement of human intervention. Strategies are being put in place to ensure that the miss-classification of user responses does not become detrimental to the user, and these will become increasingly important as issues become more varied and complex.
- BetterHelp is an app that provides online counseling services from professional, licensed and vetted counselors for individuals, couples and teenagers, and differs from apps like Wysa because it primarily focuses on proving access and services to real therapists all the time.
- Users can communicate with their counselor through whatever medium they prefer, including messaging, chat, phone and video. Messaging is available anytime and anywhere when required, while live sessions can be scheduled when needed.
- BetterHelp has published in peer-reviewed journals and demonstrated that its users have experienced significantly reduced symptoms of depression after using the platform. However, experimental trials are still required to determine whether digital psychotherapy is an effective treatment for adult depression.
- The cost of therapy ranges from $40-$70 per week, which is billed monthly and includes unlimited access to an assigned counselor.
- As of writing, 7,303 therapists have assisted more than 850,000 people over 67.5 million message, chat, phone and video sessions facilitated through BetterHelp.
- The service has a rating of 4.5 from 7,940 reviews on the Google Play Store and a rating of 4.6 from 11,000 reviews on the Apple App Store.
- In 2015, BetterHelp was acquired by Teladoc for $4.5 million. Since being acquired, there is no indication that BetterHelp has needed to raise additional funds to support its growth and expansion.
- There are similar apps to BetterHelp that also provide users with access to a network of licensed therapists for treating mental health issues. These include Talkspace, which has raised $107 million over 11 funding rounds, and Ginger, which specializes in providing clinically-validated behavioral health coaching.
- Recovery Path is a relatively new app released in October 2019 that provides a personalized journey to recovery for people struggling from substance, alcohol or other forms of addiction.
- Recovery Path is part of a larger range of apps developed by Bright Therapeutics that address other issues such as: eating disorders, anxiety, depression & stress, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and IBS.
- Bright Therapeutics is a bootstrapped startup that builds its products on rigorous clinical research and partners with Stanford University, Duke University, The University of Kansas, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Technische Unversitat Munchen.
- Recovery Path uses a suite or ecosystem of interconnected apps that revolve around the individual in recovery and facilitates engagement from treatment professionals, family and friends, and sponsors and mentors, which all have their own apps. The individual can opt for self-help or link their treatments to any of these apps.
- Professionals, family and friends, and sponsors and mentors have their own tailored experience, which is aimed to support the individual by offering opportunities to keep on track, prevent relapses, and collaborate.
- The underlying principles of the approach to Recovery Path are built on aspects of motivation therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and community reinforcement.
- Recovery path has a rating of 4.7 from 545 reviews on the Google Play Store and a rating of 4.9 from 96 reviews on the Apple App Store. It's had at least 10,000 installs and Bright Therapeutics reports at least 2.9 million in-app treatment engagements per month with more than 900k patients enrolled in app-delivered treatments across all its offerings.
- Recovery Path is currently free on both Android and iOS, with support for these platforms still coming for the partner apps in the ecosystem. As of yet, it is not currently being monetized.