Fast-growing online therapy platform PlusGuidance has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube.com to raise £100,000 for developing their platform further. The website, its technology and system have been created carefully over the last few years to deliver the kind of secure and confidential therapy you’d expect from a traditional face-to-face therapy session.
It’s built around a marketplace model where psychotherapists and counsellors can sign up for free and offer their services online in whichever secure mode their clients prefer, be it messaging, video, audio or in-person sessions. People in need of therapy can then search for their ideal therapist by picking their needs, preferences and type of issues they need help for. The website is built to make it easy to choose a therapist you feel is the best fit for you and the first step of getting help is neatly dealt with by making it easy to message therapists for free to inquire about services. By making it easy and instant to find and get the exact help you need, Nathaniel Smithies, founder and CEO of PlusGuidance, hopes to help thousands more people globally to live happier and mentally healthier lives.
I got in touch with Nathaniel Smithies for an interview to hear more about his plans for the future.
PB – Hi, good to meet you. So, tell me about your background.
NS – Hey, sure. I’m the founder and CEO of PlusGuidance. I’ve always had an interest in psychology and the boundaries of mental health, so I studied psychology at university. After graduation, I set up and ran my own web design and digital marketing company, before I came up with the idea of PlusGuidance which was a real turning point for me.
CEO Nat Smithies
PB – What made you come up with the idea for PlusGuidance?
NS – A few years ago, after university, I started suffering from panic attacks. One of the most serious attacks got me to hospital where for the first time in my life I spoke to a counsellor. She helped me tremendously and convinced me to seek professional help. A lot of things before that stopped me from being brave enough to ask for help. I was afraid of opening up, talking about my feelings to a stranger, and afraid of whether my friends would find out about it. It wasn’t until I started therapy properly that I could see the value and profound effects it has, that I stopped fearing it and started promoting it actively to my friends. At that time, I knew I wanted to create a solution eliminating the barriers to therapy I knew existed, so I created PlusGuidance.
PB – How is PlusGuidance different from other online therapy websites?
NS – PlusGuidance has a lot of choice in terms of what kind of therapy and expertise people can get. We know it’s important people have autonomy in their choices because that’s really crucial to making the therapeutic process a success. Most of all, it really matters how you click with your therapist, and we make it easy for people to choose who they like most – and they can ‘shop around’ before they decide too. Competitors like Talkspace are not designed to give people that same sense of choice, so that’s one of our clear strengths.
PB – What are your plans after this crowdfunding campaign?
NS – Once we’ve secured the money from crowdfunding, we’ll start building the mobile app we’ve planned to have for a while. We’ll also spend money on marketing and SEO to bring more clients to the website and rank in the top for different keywords in search engines. In the longer term, we’re planning to break into the American market. We already have the bases covered, as we’ve been HIPAA-complaint (the official gold standard of security and confidentiality that American therapists must adhere to) from the start.
PB – How do you see the future of online therapy?
NS – If you do quick Google search now, you’ll see there are different online therapy options out there already. From that and general trends in health tech and consumer demands, it’s obvious there’s a demand for seeking therapy and mental health treatments through apps and websites now, where before this was a bigger chore where you had to tediously research your local options, be on waiting lists and book appointments during work hours so you’d perhaps have to tell your employer you’re having therapy. All these barriers are holding people back from seeing a therapist, so it’s not difficult to anticipate how a platform like PlusGuidance means more people will be able to start treatment.
PB – How do people find out more information?
NS – First of all, I recommend going to our website PlusGuidance.com to see how it works. If you see the potential in what we’ve created so far, you can share in our success and invest in us, by going to our crowdfunding page at Crowdcube. We probably won’t crowdfund again, so it’s now or never you get the chance to chip in and be part of the online therapy revolution.
PB – Pleasure to talk to you, Nathaniel. I hope the crowdfunding goes well!
NS – Thank you, Paul, that means a lot to me.