In recent years, the mental health landscape has gone through changes for the better. An increasing number of people are open to discussing the importance of mental health treatment, which has normalized the act of going to therapy. Pioneering that effort is Advekit, a mental health tech platform that caters to both therapists and those seeking therapy.
Advekit was co-founded by Alison LaSov and Arielle Garellek, both of whom are passionate about mental health and recognized inefficiencies in the space that surround finding and paying for therapy. They often share that the relationship with a therapist is not like the one you have with your dentist who you visit twice a year, but rather it is a longstanding relationship with whom a more meaningful connection is established. It isn’t enough to just find a therapist, but one that is the right fit for an individual. One that creates a space where a patient feels comfortable enough to be truly vulnerable. This is the only way that true change and progress will be seen.
Alison’s experience as a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist granted unique insight into the pain points both therapists and patients endure in establishing a meeting relationship. It begins with the challenges in finding the right fit in a therapist and continues through the difficulty in navigating cost for therapy. Insurance tends to be a barrier that keeps people from receiving the help they need, as many therapists remain out of network and many patients need assistance with the cost of therapy.
In Arielle’s past experience as a teacher and school principal she often saw how hard it was for parents to find the right therapist fit for their children as they would seek her advice for referrals. Personally, while living in New York she found herself in search of a therapist and came across thousands of profiles. The myriad of choices was overwhelming and made it difficult for her to know where to start or who to choose. These instances in particular sparked her interest in the space as well.
Inspired to fix the friction that they both saw in the mental health space, they set out to make therapy both accessible and affordable. What started off as a self-funded passion project juggled between hours at their full-time jobs became more once they recognized they had an opportunity to make a significant change. Before becoming a platform that housed thousands of therapists, they started with a handful of Alison’s therapist colleagues trying out the platform and the services it offered. Her colleagues’ experiences educated Alison and Arielle on what was working and what changes needed to be made.
They initially started as a matching service to help people find therapists but began to receive feedback on the issues patients were running into when dealing with insurance. With this shift, they sought investors to fund their vision being one of the first mental health tech startups trying to make an innovation in the space at the time. Before Advekit, there were only tedious directories online that didn’t make it easy for therapists to be found and patients to find the right fit for them. If other industries and spaces, like dating or car shopping, were making technological advances that increased convenience and access, why couldn’t mental health?
Every step to creating Advekit was built on passion, intuition, and belief in the change they brought to the space. Every step came with a learning curve from creating and presenting their first pitch deck to deciding when the platform was no longer a side project to hiring a team. Despite any challenges they faced, they stayed true to their mission of destigmatizing mental health and supporting people in getting the help that they need.
Over the last four and a half years, they’ve established a service that caters to both sides of the spectrum.
For patients, Advekit uses an algorithm to personalize therapist matches for individuals based on a detailed quiz. Their technology allows an individual to see their health benefits in real-time and know exactly how much a therapist would cost. Advekit steps in to handle the burden of dealing with health insurance to help them leverage their out-of-network benefits to lower the cost of therapy sessions and skip the process of filing and waiting for reimbursements. This enables clients to only pay what they owe.
Additionally, Advekit enables therapists to collect their pay directly through its portal, while they step in to help clients use their out-of-network benefits. The platform handles all benefit explanations, billing to insurance, and paperwork and therapists always get their cash rate upfront, regardless of their client’s benefits.
With Advekit, patients can save on average $140 per session and therapists can see a 70% increase in their retention rates.
This is a major challenge when it comes to seeking help from a mental health professional. It’s a tiresome process of patients having to pay in full for therapy but also waiting for reimbursement from insurance payers. Realistically, most people either stop therapy early because of cost or they get a stack of reimbursement forms, otherwise known as superbills, from therapists and they forget to submit them, therefore losing out on money and ultimately, not receiving the help they need.
Furthermore, the majority of therapists are considered “out of network,” meaning they do not work directly with insurance companies. The reason for this stems from the heavy cuts insurance companies take out of a therapist’s cash rate. By leveraging Advekit–at no cost to the patient–they can use the out of network coverage that they likely did not know they had or did not understand. Insurance payers make these things intentionally confusing so that people do not take advantage of their benefits. Advekit was created to help patients see any therapist they want, while also helping with the cost.
The opportunities the platform provides in the mental health industry are to help patients find therapists, and also help therapists with their current patient caseload. Meaning, many therapists send their existing patients through Advekit’s portal, seeking assistance with cost and navigating insurance. In tandem, patients are saving money upfront and staying in therapy longer. Advekit takes a very active approach to normalizing therapy and advocating for people’s ability to find the care they need. Thankfully, mental health is more valued now than ever compared to five years ago, and people are willing to seek out help. Unfortunately, stumbling blocks around affordability and access still exist and that’s where the platform comes in.
The experiences Alison and Arielle have endured throughout their journey to creating Advekit have left them with key lessons for first-time business owners.
The main takeaway from their journey is that there will not always be a clear indication of what step you should take next. Whether it’s making the transition from a full-time job, making an update to your business model, or outsourcing help, a neon sign showing your next move won’t always appear. Starting a business involves risk, especially if you’re an innovator where there isn’t already a blueprint in the space you’re looking to change. Following your gut is key. You will make mistakes from time to time, but each experience will shape you and your business into one that is stronger when a similar situation arises. If you truly believe in what you’re building and have a clear why that will carry you through times of uncertainty or the trials that come with having a small business.
Additionally, remember to stay true to yourself and what you originally set out to do. It’s important to protect your mission every step of the journey. There will be plenty of people along the way that will project their own thoughts and opinions on ways you should or shouldn’t run your business. Ultimately, you have the power to pick and choose what you will implement and what you’ll let go of. If it aligns with your vision, keep it. If it doesn’t, don’t. This doesn’t mean you’re not open to outside advice because mentors will only shape you and your business for the better, but being vigilant of what is influencing your decisions is crucial.
Finally, anything can be learned. When you’re at the beginning stages of your business, you’ll wear many hats. Eventually, with time you’ll be able to outsource tasks for those more qualified but until then do not tell yourself you can’t do something because you didn’t go to school for it. There are many successful business owners who never sat in a classroom or received an MBA. Once you have established your why, that’s the only fuel you’ll need to propel you to the finish line. Remember to always remain a student and to follow the trends within your industry. This will ensure you’re learning the most up-to-date techniques to successfully run and market your business. Read books, follow leaders within your industry, and watch videos. Be inspired by those who came before you and innovate. Just keep learning and your business will thank you for it.