As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, the number of Americans struggling with mental health will also increase. Although more people want professional help, it hasn't been easy to get treatment as more mental health professionals report having a long waiting list. Therapy startup Real aims to address this issue.
Unlike most virtual mental health service providers, which focus on one-on-one virtual therapy, Real offers virtual group therapy sessions as well as goal-oriented progress tracking at scale.
Real was founded in 2019 by Ariela Safira, who devoted her studies and career to developing a new model of mental care after a friend unexpectedly attempted suicide. Through Real, Safira wants to accomplish her mission of making mental wellness an essential part of daily life. She believes that long-term mental health maintenance can help prevent future health crises.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance, Safira points out that one can't go to the gym for a month and assume being healthy for life. In the same vein, you can't work on mental wellness for a month and think you're mentally healthy for life.
Safira likens Real's therapy model to the popular on-demand and one-to-many experience of virtual fitness classes like Peloton. Once subscribed, members gain access to Real's team of licensed mental health professionals who provide group therapy talks and design curricula that can be consumed on the go. These sessions typically range from five-minute chats to longer sessions.
Another feature that separates Real from other similar service providers is that clients can remain anonymous. The inspiration for this is the growing communities on Twitter and Reddit, where people often feel safe enough to talk about very intimate subjects without disclosing their identities. So, Safira took this concept and created a clinically effective way that allows Real's therapists to meet people where they are.
Real's website lists three licensed therapists, including a marriage and family therapist, a master social worker, and a clinical social worker. Real also has a chief therapy officer with a Master's degree in social work and a doctorate in human sexuality. Meanwhile, the company's chief medical officer, Nina Vasan, is a psychiatrist.
People can subscribe to three membership plans: monthly ($23.99), biannual ($105 - a 27% discount at $17/month), and annual ($165 - a 43% discount at $13/month). Subscribers can also utilize pre-tax accounts such as FSAs and HSAs for the suite of wellness services.
Currently, the company is working towards developing more coverage and funding options to reach underserved communities.