If you have ever left your therapist’s office and thought, ‘Man, I wish there were a platform to intermediate my relationship with my therapist by introducing a dynamic pricing model,’ or wondered, ‘I said I was constipated -- why didn’t my therapist try to hypnotize me?’-- well, you’re in luck:
Silicon Valley is approaching its anxiety the way it knows best. So now there is on-demand therapy. Therapy metrics. Therapy R.O.I. And algos matching therapists with clients using the tools of online dating.
Swipe right for “and how does that make you feel?”; swipe left for “let’s get in touch with your inner child.” Yes, psychotherapy is the latest industry that Silicon Valley has identified as ripe for disruption, according to a New York Times piece on Friday.
Over the past half-decade start-ups have been popping up promising innovations ranging from data science, artificial intelligence, peer-to-peer networks -- hell, even hypnotherapy:
Mindset Health creates hypnotherapy apps that it says can treat anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.
Mindset Health was founded by two brothers, Alex and Chris Naoumidis, who previously created a peer-to-peer dress-sharing app for women. When that app failed, the brothers felt overcome with anxiety.
Oh, the classic dress-sharing app-cum-hypnotherapy-as-a-treatment-for IBS play. That's what the kids call "a pivot." What’s next in techno-therapeutic innovation: a bitcoin address that sends Deepak Chopra quotes to the highest bidder?
It gets better. From the company’s own website:
Hypnotherapy is an effective but underused tool. It's been clinically shown to be an effective tool in improving IBS, chronic pain, anxiety and depression but isn't accessible due to misconceptions, high costs and a fragmented industry.
Yes, the reason doctors don’t treat irritable bowels by recommending that you fix your gaze at a swinging pocket watch is because of ‘misconceptions.’ If only your physician whispered into your ear, “let my words wash over you and take my suggestions as you desire them” -- you would be as regular as Bernie Madoff’s reported monthly investment returns. Oh, hypnotherapy -- what an infamously ‘fragmented’ industry!
Another psych-disruptor startup, Kip, seeks to put therapy ‘in the cloud’:
Traditional therapists scribble notes and review them later, possibly with a mug of chamomile. In the Kip system, notes quickly turn into data. Weeks of therapy are broken down with quizzes to determine exactly how happiness and anxiety levels are progressing, and how quickly. Kip offers an app that encourages clients to record their moods in real time, prompted by questions that a therapist can choose to have pop up throughout the day.
Kip has revolutionized therapy by giving it a sans privacy technocratic twist:
But there are risks. Elizabeth Kaziunas, a postdoctoral researcher at New York University... noted that these apps gathered and organized data that you might not want gathered. “There’s no guarantee or legal protections built in,” Ms. Kaziunas told me. “This mental health data could be bought or sold.”
For example, an anxiety diagnosis could raise my life insurance rates, she said, adding something new for me to be anxious about. “It’s kind of scary, isn’t it?” she said. “Like when you think about it?”
Kip has distilled psychotherapy into its Silicon Valley essence: entering personal information into an anonymous, unaccountable platform that may or may not sell your data.
One can only imagine the automated responses patients may soon receive: We would have preferred not to have pawned your colorful sexual history to the highest bidder, but data privacy is just not scalable. Our sincerest apologies for all the Ashely Madison ads you will receive for the rest of your life.
There can be no doubt that these companies will soon displace antiquated forms of therapy such as journaling, going outside, and seeing a trained professional. And this disruption cannot happen soon enough -- after all, don’t we all want to spill our most intimate secrets to an app designed by a micro-dosing intern?
Follow Jack Farley on Twitter @JackFarley96