How Digital Health Could Replace Your Therapist’s Couch



May 28, 2020



David Cooper, PsyDDavid Cooper, PsyD, Manager, Strategic Partnerships

One thing I can tell you as a clinical psychologist, is that getting people access to therapy can be difficult in the best of times. And when I say ‘access to therapy,’ I’m talking about the whole process: getting people to a therapist, paying for the sessions, finding a therapist you like, and getting people to continue showing up. All of which is, again, tough in the best of times.Now, with a pandemic, all these steps have become even harder for people who need access to behavioral health treatment. If you’ve never been – and you should – therapy is mostly done face-to-face in very small rooms – which means behavioral health providers also need access to PPE to keep them and their patients safe. And while the idea of a therapist’s couch may be a cliché, it’s also really hard to disinfect furniture after every patient visit! In the current environment, access to traditional mental health providers has become even more limited – on top of the existing waiting lists.

Rates of mental illness range between 3 and 5% in the US – people who would need mental health services regardless of a pandemic.  However, stress due to a change in life circumstances is a common trigger for provoking a mental health crisis in someone who may normally be coping okay. So, the isolation plus health and financial stressors brought about by this pandemic are only going to be adding to the pool of people who need treatment. In fact, almost a third of all Americans now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression.

Suffice to say, we’re all going to need a lot of help in the coming months – from dealing with the fallout of social isolation to dealing with lost jobs and economic opportunities. Most of us are going to have some emotional turmoil and need someone to talk to. Add to that, patients and hospitals both have good reasons to not want patients to come in for face-to-face visits. Addressing the needs of remote patients will require remote solutions.

The impact of all this on patients who need therapy has created an opportunity to experiment with new approaches to accessing therapy, remotely, a method that has been limited in the past. At Xealth, we’ve seen health systems decide to rapidly increase their ability to implement and deliver remote behavioral health solutions to help meet this growing need. For example, SilverCloud has been recommended by behavioral health and primary care providers at Froedtert & MCW health network to nearly 3,500 patients. Of those with severe depression, 74.8% showed improvement and 59.3% experienced significant improvement (3+ reduction). Of those with severe anxiety, 70% showed improvement and 58.9% experienced significant improvement. The combination of Xealth and SilverCloud gives care teams newly available access to insights into patient initiation and follow-through, improving depression and anxiety markers for patients.

Xealth helps providers connect patients who could benefit with SliverCloud, and also offers SliverCloud and Froedtert new insights into how the patients download and use the app. And, Xealth wants to help your health system quickly adapt to the changing virtual care landscape. If you’re concerned about your ability to meet the growing challenges in delivering digital care, please drop us a line.

But, if you personally are feeling the need to get some help, here are some options:

  • Ask your provider, employer or insurance provider if you have access to a tool like SliverCloud.
  • Headspace, offered by some employers and is free if you’re unemployed and just need something to help quiet your mind and alleviate the stress of our current situation.
  • Talkspace can help connect you to an online counselor right away.
  • And you can always text HOME to 741741 to chat with someone who will listen via Crisis Text Line.