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Joyable gets $8M to tackle 3rd largest mental health problem

Automating cognitive behavioral therapy for those who suffer from social anxiety disorders

Financial trends and news by Bambi Francisco Roizen
November 18, 2015
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/4182

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I'm fascinated with how technology is enabling and assisting the healthcare industry, even though there's many reasons to be a luddite when it comes to healthtech. After all, it's nice to have a real person provide care.

Unfortunately, there's just not enough of them to go around. 

To wit: some 15 million people suffer from social anxiety and many of them don't get clinical help, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH). "People suffer for more than a decade before they get help," said Peter Shalek, Founder and CEO of Joyable, which just announced an $8 million Series A round of financing, to help curtail social anxiety disorder.  

The round was led by NY-based Thrive Capital and Harrison Metal, who also invested in a $2 million seed round, that was announced earlier this year. That's $10 million in funding in less than two years, given that Joyable launched in January 2014. 

But the amount seems to pale in comparison to the number of people suffer from this disorder. According to the National Comorbidity Survey, social anxiety disorder - the fear of being judged by others and humiliated - is the third most prevalent psychiatric disorder in Americans, after depression and alcohol dependence.

Yet 85% of those who suffer from this disorder don't get help, Shalek said. The reason people forego treatment is often they're suffering mild symptoms. Also, half of those who do get treated have "satisfactory" response to treatments, according to NIH.

And without treatment or treatment that is just satisfactory, these symptoms can often escalate, which is what Joyable's service hopes to avoid. "It gets to a point where it becomes impairing, and that's when it becomes a clinical issue," Shalek explained.

So what is it exactly? Joyable has basically taken cognitive behavioral therapy and automated it, at least parts of it. "The single most effecitve treatment for social anxiety and the leading treatment for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is someone's interpretation of it," said Shalek.

So our technology leads a person through a series of activities (educational, thinking and behavioral) to achieve their goals over a 12-week perior. Joyable also assigns a coach or peer instructor to help encourage clients to get through the activities. "The coach provides support and acountability. We found that the combination of the evidence-based software and a coach allows clients to see tremendous change in their lives."

Since inception, Joyable has worked with thousands of clients. So far, 39% have seen a reduction in anxiety, based on the tests they take on Joyable. Clients pay $99 a month for a three-month service. And the goal for Joyable is that once they take the 12-week course, they've effectively treated their disorder. 

Said Shalek: "One of the cool things about CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is that it's intended to be self-sufficient so clients can achieve more goals on their own."  

Image source: socialphobia


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