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Joyable, The Startup That Wants to Cure Social Anxiety Through a CBT App

Stashed in: Mobile!, #health, Joy!, Brain, Awesome, Anxiety, Mental Health, Mental Health, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mental Health, Apps

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Help for social anxiety, delivered cheaply by app? What's not to love? I like it when tech startups try to solve ACTUAL PROBLEMS that are holding back the progress of individuals and society.

The price-point is compelling because there are a lot of reasons a person might want to pay for mental health services out of pocket instead of through health insurance... but if the bill is hundreds of dollars per week, that's hard to do. This is part of the reason it's harder to find licensed therapists who do great CBT than you'd think, even in urban areas with lots of demand. As a psychiatrist once told me, the insurance companies don't want to pay for any form of interaction therapy if there is a medication alternative. But also, CBT is essentially a set of practices that is taught to an individual so it's more amenable to an app-based approach guided by laypeople.

It reminds me of Duolingo, except that instead of working on language skills you work on yourself.

Cool idea. I had not heard of it before you stashed it.

Plus, it shares your name: Joyable.

So much this:

“I believe mental health is the single biggest waste of human potential in the developed world, and there’s quite a bit of statistics, unfortunately, to back that up,” Shalek told me. “Our mission is to cure the world of anxiety and depression.” One in four Americans suffers from a mental illness every year, and 85 percent don’t get help, he says, citing the National Alliance on Mental Illness. (The National Institute of Mental Health doesn’t issue statistics on mental health as a whole, but it estimates 28.8 percent of Americans will suffer an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Nearly everyone agrees that the vast majority of cases go untreated.)

Though Joyable’s mission could grow to include many conditions and “hundreds of millions [of users] worldwide,” Shalek says, right now Joyable is starting with social anxiety. Why? Among other reasons, it’s the most effective: “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most effective treatment for social anxiety, bar none—it’s more effective than medication and more effective than other forms of therapy,” he says.

The research agrees. Study after study has shown that patients who are trained in CBT really do get over their anxiety, at a better rate than those using more traditional treatments like talk therapy (though many CBT therapists also deploy talk therapy-like methods).

“The core idea is that it’s not a situation that makes you anxious, but how you interpret that situation. Being on the phone is not anxiety-inducing, but how you interpret it is,” says Shalek. CBT trains patients to follow anxious thoughts all the way to their conclusion, to exhaust the brain’s ability to fret about its anxieties. 

What’s more, research conducted over the past half-decade shows that CBT delivered via a website can be just as effective as CBT delivered through an in-person therapist. “It seems safe to conclude that guided self-help and face-to-face treatments can have comparable effects. It is time to start thinking about implementation in routine care,” wrote the authors of the most recent meta-analysis.

This has great potential to help many, but also has great liability.  All it takes is one to have a bad outcome; which maybe they were heading to anyways, to have a lawsuit brought against them, hopefully they have a good legal team working preventably beforehand.

I would imagine that's one of the very first things they worked on.

Companies are legal entities, which means getting the legal part straight is high priority. 

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