A Proactive Approach to Mental Health; Introducing Real

Kirsten Green, Founder, Partner

Fall 2020

4 minutes

The worldwide standard of living keeps climbing, and with a global healthcare market poised to reach $10 trillion by 2022, innovations mean we live longer and have resources available at our fingertips. Despite this, we’re not all that happy; more Americans — nearly one fifth of adults — suffer from serious psychological distress, while fear and stigma keep us from talking openly about challenges.  

This has caused a surge of wellness apps aimed at stress and anxiety among other things, to enter the marketplace, yet no company, in our eyes, offers a value proposition that spans digital therapeutics to peer-to-peer connection. 

Then we met Real — modern alternative that stands to address the need for mental health support while seeing today’s patient for what they are willing and comfortable to embrace. Founder Ariela Safira captured our imagination with her reimagined model for delivering therapy using empathy, design, and progressive care. She believes that mental health should be an ongoing practice and more reflective of a lifestyle than an acute point solution.

Tough conversation, expensive solutions 

The two most common solutions for mental distress are medication and therapy. The problem though is while demand is high, the market faces a severe shortage of providers. Across the US, there is one mental health provider for every 529 individuals who need help. Among child and adolescent psychiatrists, the gap is wider: while more than 15 million patients are in need of one, only about 8,000 such psychiatrists are practicing. This means therapy becomes hard to access and a very expensive solution. To compound the issue, over 60% of therapists will not or cannot accept health insurance, leaving patients to bear the cost.

The Shift from Reactive to Proactive

Everyone exists along the spectrum of reactive and proactive treatment with regards to their mental health, which strongly correlates to wellness and proactivity. 

Consumers that fall toward the right of the graph are highly engaged and proactive about leveraging resources to improve their emotional well-being; they’re typically early adopters of meditation apps and represent Real’s immediately addressable audience. Toward the left are those who suffer from negative consequences related to ignoring mental well-being. 

The goal of Real is to shift people from where they are today toward the right side of the spectrum. Real accomplishes this by offering three tiers of service as part of their membership model: asynchronous therapy pathways, group therapy (salons), and 1:1 specialized care. By bringing together a flow of habit-forming services augmented by technology, Real hopes to create a more affordable option that celebrates, rather than simply normalizes, mental health. 

Rather than only offering evergreen content that’s impossible to personalize to an audience, Real offers a spectrum of therapeutics, ranging from lightweight, easily digestible content to 1:1 relationship building with a practitioner, allowing for stronger medical outcomes.

Its membership model allows for the affordable scaling of quality. For ~$30/month, patients gain access to highly credentialed, specialized providers. Other telehealth solutions have failed to either remove the high pricing floor or have flooded their practices with unqualified providers that are incentivized to see as many patients as possible. 

While Real intends to move forward with a physical space, enterprise value will be achieved with Real’s digital offering, launching in August. This way, Real can embrace the benefits of having a physical offering without being encumbered by the challenges of real estate, especially during and post-COVID.

By addressing the“therapy-curious,” Real has a larger addressable market. Over time, Real can look to owning this category of healthcare, but it’s not necessary to become a large, sustainable business.

Real has pioneered its own proprietary measurement of therapy efficacy. The Real10 improves upon many of the pitfalls currently experienced with traditional testing, including the need to be in crisis for the test to register. Other touch points include journaling, schedule, membership, and more. 

Real incorporates back office support and tooling as a single element of their value proposition to improve access to therapy. From there, the company also works to achieve better medical outcomes by hiring highly qualified, effective, and specialized practitioners.

The COVID-19 crisis, the social pandemic we’re experiencing, and agitated election year have further expedited the need for new and proven mental health solutions. We look forward to working with the team and seeing Real make a true difference in an area we need it most.

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  • DATE

    Fall 2020


    4 minutes

  • Perspective Type