What Do You Think?
Much easier than finding a therapist is finding laments at the cost and accessibility of mental health care. Group therapy is more affordable, but still a pricey and intimidating commitment. Text therapy like BetterHelp costs a lot more and often feels stilted. Now, a new Austin-based platform is paving the way for another option.
Although it may not replace the need for talk therapy entirely, MindBar, which launched in July, spreads the workload of coaches and therapists across many clients, keeps things online, and ultimately sets users up at their own pace. Like MasterClass for mental health, the app reduces the barrier to entry to just $14.99 per month.
The one-way service definitely can’t listen and identify a user’s thought patterns, or recommend personalized courses of action, but it can provide a wide series of useful primers to bring into talk therapy later, augment less frequent sessions, or just facilitate some preventive care and curiosity about the mind.
“MindBar has gained considerable traction since its launch in July, and our members have enjoyed the wide range of tools to cultivate a healthy mind,” writes MindBar founder Hailey O’Neill in an email interview. “We set out to represent the idea that mental health is a right, not a luxury, and the growth we’ve already seen within our app and its members is beginning to deliver on that ambition.”
Although MindBar is not therapy, it's also not YouTube. Classes take an experience or topic — stress, grief, and self-esteem to name a few — and break it down into video modules and worksheets. Each is organized and taught by one “teacher,” whose qualifications are clearly laid out in her biography from “years of coaching,” to therapy certifications and PhDs. Instead of browsing individual videos, users join each class; it’s just a click, but it feels distinct from mental health apps that encourage tackling everything at once.
Take the “Body Image” class as an example: It contains six modules of around 15 minutes, each paired with a multi-part “worksheet" of open-ended questions and text boxes for journaling on the platform. These are then wrapped up in a friendly little print out for those who’d prefer to write. If a user decided to moderate their own experience to simulate the commitment of traditional therapy (say 50 minutes biweekly), just taking this class could fill six to twelve weeks. Compare $30 for two months of MindBar to $450 for three therapy sessions.
Since MindBar exposes a user to the theory and methods of one particular professional, further avenues open up for extra or post-curricular work. Molly Seifert teaches “Body Image.” On Seifert’s MindBar biography page, there’s a link to her website and social media. Her credentials point out her 22-episode podcast, What She Gained, adding roughly 10 hours of free content to a user’s journey, should they follow her off the platform.
There is a button to book a session — something MindBar is working on finalizing — and on Seifert’s website, she offers a more involved “Body Confidence Program” that costs $897. Most users likely will not end up signing up for a teacher’s nearly-$1,000 group therapy track. However, the opportunity is there to follow this thread from a dip of the toes to a full-blown client-provider relationship.
A 2021 report by Sapien Labs’ Mental Health Million Project 2021 found that in the United States, 37 percent of respondents who did not seek help for clinical mental health problems did so because they lacked confidence in the mental health system. Nearly as many, 34 percent, did not know what kind of help to seek. More than a quarter preferred self-help. Imagine the shift if these respondents had a self-paced, minimal commitment platform that funneled them to professionals they learned to trust.
As of August 31, there are 26 classes on MindBar. One-on-one scheduling with MindBar teachers became available on September 18. Sign up at mind-bar.com.