Talkspace dives into relationship counseling with acquisition of Lasting

Talkspace president says this is the first acquisition, but expects it won't be the last.
By Laura Lovett
10:26 am
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Lasting app screen examples

Digital mental health company Talkspace is dipping into the relationship industry with its acquisition of couple counseling tool Lasting for an undisclosed sum. 

Talkspace has traditionally offered one-on-one therapy via a virtual platform, however, recently it was seeing new demands. 

“Our growth and our expansion into relationship or couples therapy recently launched and we’ve done it organically,” Mark Hirschhorn, Talkspace president, told MobihealthNews.

“We’ve done it with a whole host of content and individual therapists who have put together their own content. When we looked out into the market place and realized who the clear leader was, we kept coming up with Lasting. When the opportunity to acquire Lasting presented itself, it was something that we were unwilling to lose.” 

This acquisition comes at a time when there has been an increased pressure on couples, many of whom have gone through COVID-19 driven lockdowns together. 

“We’ve had health plan clients that have come to us. Those are plans that provide medical benefits to millions of individuals and noted that they are seeing a lot of interest from their policy holders on [a few] areas of focus, and relationships is one of them. Individuals are suffering as we all know,” Hirschhorn said

“We are put into a certain ecosystem that we aren’t familiar with and a lot of people lost their ability to control their space, and there are distinct challenges among and between individuals, and those coming out of relationships, those looking to begin a relationship, and of course those that are currently in a relationship. We feel there couldn’t be a more opportune time to really help people with something that is so authentic.”

As part of the M&A Talkspace will be able to offer Lasting’s services, which allow couples to complete content on their own time and is primarily self-guided. Hirschhorn noted that if couples wanted to pursue the traditional virtual therapy avenue they could continue to do that through the Talkspace platform.

“[What] this platform does, is it enables one or both individuals to participate at any given time. We often find it very challenging to work our calendars in a way that avails us of the option and luxury of seeking counseling together,” he said.

“This way, you're self-guided, but you align yourself with the progress of your partner, and it is at your leisure, ... when you want to engage with the platform. Your updates and initial responses are used to progress the two of you to the same eventful outcomes. This is something that is so flexible, and fun, and stimulating, that I feel it is a completely new approach, and one that is going to have significantly engagement and success.”

WHY IT MATTERS 

This marks Talkspace’s first acquisition. However, we can expect to see more down the road, according to Hirschhorn. He also pointed out that this was just one step in the company’s move towards more self-help tools.

“We believe we are going to get looking to mature the self-help strategy and other content in areas in meditation, CBT and a number of other areas that will assist other individual in a therapeutic relationship, and enable us to remain relevant in their life, and bring them back to Talkspace, and help in collaboration.” 

THE LARGER TREND 

Talkspace was one of the early entrances into the virtual therapy space in 2012. Since then, it has gone through a number of venture funding rounds, most recently a $50 million Series D round. For the last few years Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and pop star Demi Lovato has worked as a spokesperson for the company. 

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the company. In August, former employees spoke to The New York Times alleging session-transcript data mining practices, as well as App Store and Google Play review inflation. This wasn’t the first time that the company came under fire for privacy practice. In 2016 The Verge published a story also questioning practices. 

Behavioral health companies in general have been on the rise. Rock Health reports that, at the 2020 mid-year mark, digital mental health companies had already raked in $588 million in funding, which equates to 27 deals. 

ON THE RECORD 

“We are so pleased to be joining Talkspace, a company that has consistently demonstrated the immense capacity of telebehavioral health to better lives, particularly during these challenging times,” said Lasting founder Steven Dziedzic. “With this move, we will be able to continue providing our industry-leading service to millions of more couples, with the added support of an innovative leader like Talkspace.”

 

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