Tech support: The rise of startups that connect people with counselors and therapists digitally

Tech support: The rise of startups that connect people with counselors and therapists digitally

Apps are democratizing access to therapy.

Anonymity is a draw of the apps and texting hot lines.
Anonymity is a draw of the apps and texting hot lines. Photo Credit: NYC Parks

In our age of convenience, your phone can get food delivered to your door, hail a car and, increasingly, find a counselor to talk to.

A handful of startups are democratizing access to therapists and trained counselors by connecting people through their phones, where you can then get support, advice or even couple’s counseling either for free or what you might spend on your weekly coffee tab.

“It’s familiar,” says Baylee Greenberg, director of operations for the New York City-based Crisis Text Line, which provides emotional support for people in crisis via text message. “We’re meeting people where they are.”

Beyond the convenience and affordability, the fact that these services are anonymous, confidential and private is another big draw.

“You can be in the middle of a room of people and no one needs to know you’re texting us,” Greenberg said.

Here are three startups changing the face of therapy and counseling in today’s digital age:

(Anyone in a life-threatening situation should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 to connect to a crisis center or, if it’s an emergency, 911.)


Inspired by DoSome’s texting program, CEO Nancy Lublin launched this service, primarily geared toward teens, which provides free emotional support to people in crisis 24/7 via text message. More than 500 volunteer crisis counselors have been trained to listen and help people move from a “hot moment of crisis to a cool calm, and work with them to come up with a plan to stay healthy and safe,” Greenberg says. Since launching in August 2013 in Chicago and El Paso, Texas, the service has grown nationally, with 24,000 text messages exchanged daily. In recent developments, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile have all waived fees for texting the Crisis Text Line at 741741, and it no longer shows up on billing statements. “This is a huge win for texters feeling comfortable and staying safe,” Greenberg says.More info:


Marketed as on-demand therapy, this NYC-based startup was founded in 2012 as a way to connect people with professional therapists in an affordable, convenient way, via both text and live chat. Since launching as a web-based service, the company added an app for iOS and Android last year as another option to connect with one of more than 200 licensed therapists. Unlimited message therapy costs $25 a week, with users able to send text messages anonymously to a therapist daily and get responses when the therapist is able to reply. For a more immediate interaction, live video therapy is $29 for 30 minutes. Couples therapy is also available. Insurance isn’t accepted. The online therapy startup is gaining traction: There are currently more than 100,000 users across the U.S., and the company has raised $13 million in funding to date.More info:


This app, launched last year by San Francisco-based smartphone health company, connects users with trained “empathetic listeners” who can provide support over the phone 24/7. Listeners typically have mental health or counseling experience and are rated by users to help maintain the quality of the service. The app, which is available for Android, is free to download and use — calls are connected using Wi-Fi or data.More info:

Meredith Deliso