Why we started TheraHive

June 14, 2023
7 min read

We live in the distress era. In the United States, one in five people has a mental health issue, and the numbers are steadily rising. It's particularly pronounced for young adults, who have seen a 71% increase in distress over the last decade. It’s a crisis, it’s likely underestimated due to the stigma around acknowledging mental health issues, and it's negatively affecting our society and economy. We started TheraHive to do something about it.

Our hypothesis is that the traditional one-on-one model of mental health care (e.g., client and therapist) simply cannot scale to meet the challenge. Following this, we believe that group-based mental health interventions—combined with technology—will be a critical and necessary part of the solution. Despite being proven highly efficacious and cost-effective, small mental health skills groups are probably the most underestimated intervention today. 

Here are some of the reasons why: 

  1. Greater Stigma - while the general stigma around seeking mental health is decreasing, it remains greater for groups than individual therapy. People likely feel more stigma attending groups where they will be seen and witnessed by others. 
  2. Privacy Concerns - prospective group members have more concern about participating in groups where they may feel a higher level of exposure in discussing sensitive topics.
  3. Awareness and Availability - compared to individual therapy, the value of groups is less well known and understood. In addition, groups have historically been hard to find. 

We believe we’re at an inflection point that runs straight through the above challenges. The stigma around mental health is changing rapidly (particularly for young people). Technology can effectively address privacy concerns. And perhaps most importantly,  people are actively seeking out alternatives to traditional approaches that have often been inaccessible, expensive, and unreliable in their delivery and efficacy.

The TheraHive Vision

We are focused on two core challenges that we believe will enable us to increase our impact and scale our business to accommodate for the tremendous and increasing need for mental health services:

  1. Ensure that groups adhere to proven protocols while maintaining consistency and efficacy in our offering as we grow. 
  2. Develop a learning platform that compels students to actively practice the skills that drive behavioral change and result in positive mental health outcomes.

This won’t be easy, nor will it be easy toto build on a large scale. Anything involving coordinating small groups of people faces inherent constraints to scaling. And this is exactly where we think innovation is needed and more importantly, possible. 

The development of new technology such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) will undoubtedly play a role in meeting the growing demand for services. And we believe such solutions must be integrated into peer-to-peer programs in order to empower people to thrive in real-life situations. 

While we do not subscribe to the belief that AI therapy bots will solve the world’s mental health crisis, we do believe that AI systems and chatbots will play an important role in encouraging adherence, promoting practice, and providing real-time feedback to coaches and students. 

More importantly, even with the addition of new technology, we hold the foundational belief that it is people who compel people to invest in their mental health—to put in the work, to persevere, to validate, to learn, and to practice. The power of small social groups is immense and underestimated. A small group of people can make a great change in the world. TheraHive is building a solution that will support this type of powerful small group learning and scale it so it can be offered both widely and inclusively.

Who we are

We feel we can be part of the solution because of what we’ve done before. One of our co-founders, Dr. Alicia Smart, has more than 10 years of experience managing a mental health center in California that has changed the mental health trajectory of thousands of clients through short-term, evidence-based programs. Dr. Jesse Finkelstein is a psychologist and clinical researcher focused on evidence-based practices and is also a product designer whose mental health card game, The Game of Real Life, was a runaway Kickstarter success story. Finally, I am an entrepreneur, marketer, and veteran of the online education industry. 

Why this isn’t therapy

Two of our co-founders are psychologists and therapists, but we are intentionally not a “therapy” offering. Our curriculum is developed by doctors of clinical psychology, but our coaches do not operate as licensed therapists. Rather, they are trained to offer proven mental health skills that we believe nearly anyone can learn and teach to others to improve mental health. 

Licensing mental health providers and the associated regulatory framework have been an impediment to innovation. The onerous process clinicians undertake to become and maintain licensure and the constraints inherent in the system limit the number of practitioners who can provide services at an affordable price point. In addition, this framework acts as a barrier to the wider dissemination of proven mental health skills that would benefit the broadest cross-section of society. Meanwhile, online education has grown incredibly and democratized access to knowledge that was previously inaccessible. 

In answer to this, our focus at TheraHive is to build online group-based psychoeducational programs that use the latest technology to deliver learning in the most efficient and effective manner. In plain English, we’re building online mental health courses—based on proven mental health skills—that combine self-paced learning with live group instruction. We believe that’s the formula that will support the most scale while preserving adherence to proven protocols. 

How you can help

We are on a mission to improve our collective mental health—and we want your help. Here’s some context on where we are today; our initial strategy is to demonstrate the efficacy of our programs through a direct-to-consumer go-to-market strategy. We’re already running classes with paying students, and the initial response has been a powerful validation that we’re on the right track. 

While we are a non-insurance reimbursable expense at this stage, we are a competitively priced offering at just $60 a week  (less than half the cost of a typical therapy session in the US which is $150). 

Here are three ways you can get involved:

  1. Spread the Word: if you, or someone you know, is interested in investing in mental health, please share TheraHive with them. Today, very few people know about TheraHive, so anything you can do to share our mission is greatly appreciated … including sharing this post!
  2. Lend a Hand: we’ve gotten to where we are today with the help of an amazing team of contractors, interns, and volunteers. If you’d like to help, please reach out—volunteers get free access to our courses, space permitting.\
  3. Invest in TheraHive: Today, we are a bootstrapped venture, but we’ll likely raise a round of funding in the future. If you’re interested in learning more about that opportunity, please reach out to me directly.

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