Virtual Therapy is The New Now - An Interview With Alon Matas, Founder & President of BetterHelp

12/28/2017 03:55 pm ET Updated Dec 28, 2017

Virtual Therapy is becoming increasingly popular in our modern world. There are several companies that provide this service to busy professionals, people who have severe anxiety disorders and cannot leave their homes, students that are occupied with their hectic college lifestyles, and just the every day person who is into trying new things! I had the opportunity to interview Alon Matas, Founder & President of the online counseling platform BetterHelp . Matas started the company after dealing with his own mental health challenges and he hopes through this platform to help others to get well too! Here’s more for Matas:

1.  What is BetterHelp? How did you come up with the idea for this company?

BetterHelp is the world's largest online counseling platform. I started thinking about BetterHelp five years ago after facing some issues of my own and looking for ways to get help. I was surprised to find out that most people who need help are actually not getting it. Many people don't like the way therapy is delivered, and when you add the challenges of cost, stigma and convenience, they stay away from traditional face-to-face counseling even when they can definitely use professional help. Therapy can be life-changing and therapists can be extremely helpful but this resource is extremely unutilized. So I started to explore how technology may solve this problem.

2. How can BetterHelp help people with their lives?

We connect a person who is facing life challenges with a licensed therapist that has the proper expertise. The person and the therapist communicate over messages, chats, phone, and video.

3. How does online therapy help people with mental health issues?

Online therapy uses similar tools and practices of traditional therapy with a few advantages. It is more accessible, more convenient, more private, and usually much more affordable.

4. What do you hope people will gain from working with an online counselor?

The first and immediate thing is feeling supported. Many people come to BetterHelp after struggling alone with issues for years. Knowing that there is a professional person who listens to you, cares about you, and is here to help you, makes a huge difference.

Then, as the therapeutic alliance is formed, we want to see a substantial progress towards improvement and achieving goals. Over the last decade, counseling has moved rapidly towards concepts of solution-focused CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Online counseling echoes this trend with more accountability and measurement. A study that was made by the Berkeley Well Being Institute showed that people who received therapy at BetterHelp experienced a faster reduction in their depression symptoms compared to people who received traditional face-to-face counseling.

5. What resources can BetterHelp provide someone who is struggling with mental health issues?

The main resource we provide is the therapist. I see many tech companies that try to replace the therapist with self-help apps or bots. I think this approach is flawed - automated technology can't replace the professional understanding, wisdom, and expertise of a trained human being. Each individual is different and technology cannot yet offer a  truly personalized approach. So we are not looking to change the connection between a therapist and a client but to empower them with new effective ways of communication that the technology enable. On top of the individual counseling, we also offer groupinars - these are group sessions in an interactive webinar format.

6. Where can we find out more about BetterHelp?

The best way to see if online therapy may work for you is to try it. Signing up is quick and easy on our site (BetterHelp.com) or mobile app (iPhone or Android). You will fill out a questionnaire and then get matched with a therapist, typically within less than a day.

7. Is there anything about BetterHelp that you want the general public to know that I haven't addressed above?

Our biggest motivation is the enormous amount of heart-warming feedback we get from users every day. We received over 19,000 testimonials so far, and in many of them people tell us how we, literally, helped them change their lives. We work out of Silicon Valley, where many tech companies are trying to change the world, but very few of them are making such a direct and dramatic impact on people's well-being.

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