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Start Up Here Toronto | For Better Mental Health, Digital Psychology Eases Access

Originally published in Start Up Here Toronto on July 18, 2019 by Stuart Foxman

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For people dealing with mental health challenges like depression or anxiety, the right therapy can be a beacon of hope. That’s the goal of Sam Duboc, CEO of MindBeacon.

His firm is behind BEACON, a way to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) privately and securely via smartphone, tablet or computer. CBT is a clinically-proven method to improve mood and reduce anxiety, typically within weeks. Now, Duboc is making it accessible at your fingertips.“It’s digital psychology, in most cases as effective as in-person therapy with none of the barriers,” says Duboc.

As Duboc notes, 1 in 5 Canadian adults will struggle with their mental health this year. In any given week, 500,000 Canadians miss work due to a mental health issue. Despite the high prevalence, an estimated 2 of 3 Canadians facing mental health concerns don’t seek professional help. Some of the major reasons: stigma, cost, the time constraints that accompany face-to-face therapy, and the unavailability of qualified therapists.

BEACON removes those obstacles. Users complete an online assessment to help identify the best care path. Then a registered therapist creates and modifies a personalized course of therapy, which people can access quickly. It brings CBT to them at their convenience. CBT teaches people that, while they can’t control every aspect of the world around them, they can develop ways to control how they interpret and deal with stressors. Having those skills to manage how we feel can positively affect our emotional health.

Throughout, users have required readings and assignments, and can regularly message a dedicated therapist who tracks progress. The therapist can adjust a care path based on each individual’s response to therapy, the completion of activities and online communications. The model for BEACON is business-to-business, with the service marketed to companies and institutions. “We’re filling a gap where employee assistance programs stop,” says Duboc.

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