Pacifica adds therapist directory to stress, anxiety app

By Jonah Comstock
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Pacifica Labs has added a therapist directory feature to its mental health app, further connecting the app to the provider dashboard the company launched in February.

"A lot of times what may happen for an individual as they start using Pacifica is they’ll realize that this is something that’s affecting them a lot more deeply than they thought," CEO Dale Beerman told MobiHealthNews. "And then how do they go out and find a therapist? Traditionally you may go to your insurance company and see who they cover, you might go to primary care and look for a referral that way. But all of those have touch points where there's a lot of follow-up and people don’t continue through the process. But Pacifica is really designed around creating those pathways and helping guide people towards the mental healthcare that they’re looking for."

The idea is that users who find the app organically while looking for help with stress or anxiety will now be able to find a therapist within the app if they find that their mental health needs are beyond what the app can normally offer. Right now, users can search in-person providers geographically and can also connect with licensed therapists via telehealth. In the future, Pacifica intends to add insurance eligibility as an additional search filter.

"Kind of like OpenTable, we’ve allowed therapists to open up consultation windows that can be claimed through the mobile application and then, with our teletherapy product they’ll be able to chat with a therapist and determine whether or not they can actually work with that person," Beerman said. "Moving forward, we’re going to work on really breaking down these barriers that prevent people from gaining access to mental healthcare."

Notably, the directory is at least a little self-serving: users may choose to search specifically for therapists who use Pacifica's provider tools.

"For many Pacifica users, it can be beneficial to have a therapist taking advantage of technology and using familiar tools and methods in their therapy approach," the company explains in a blog post. "Clients whose providers use Pacifica may find that they have better between-session carryover. This can include being more likely to complete homework assignments, remembering concepts discussed with their provider, or even simply being more cognizant of how they’re feeling and making mental health a priority. Clinicians are able to better track how their clients are doing on a regular basis, and make adjustments to their therapeutic strategy if needed."

This is just the beginning for the company, which now boasts 1.7 million downloads primarily driven by word-of-mouth, Beerman said. 

"I think in the mental health space you see a lot of companies that are trying to attack one vertex of the patient/provider/payer triumvirate," he said. "What we’re really acknowledging as a core belief is you have to create products that are going to work across the entire industry. That’s why we’ve been really focused on how we provide something that’s going to work for the individual, and on how we provide something that’s going to work for the provider. And as we move forward, we’re seeing a lot of the payers starting to get more interested in digital health."

Pacifica is beginning to explore that payer space with several pilots involving universities, employers, and insurers, creating a special version of the directory for their member population.

"We can tailor the app so if someone pulls it up it will know they’re a student [at a particular school] and we can guide them to the counseling center or to local resources," he said. "Similarly, if you’re part of an employer organization, we might be able to highlight providers that are part of the Employee Assistance Program. So it’s continuing to work with existing models within the healthcare system that really address these pathways through which people receive mental healthcare, and I think there are a lot of different ways that that happens based on the populations. ... But ultimately, this is really empowering individuals to recieve mental healthcare through whatever means are available."