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Online mental health startup challenges face-to-face therapy

Internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy is the next wave of psychological treatment, set to change the way we deliver mental health support.

Sydney, Australia – There is a revolution happening in psychology spurred by tech. A new form of Internet-based treatment is now just as effective as face-to-face therapy.

“For years psychologists have thought that it is the therapeutic relationship that heals but now we have 10 years of data showing that you can remove the relationship and still get the same result” says Dr Jay Spence, Director and Founder of Uprise (getuprise.com.au) – a startup that delivers a ‘virtual treatment clinic’ to employees who are at risk of burnout.

Uprise makes accessing a specialist mental health advice as easy as logging in to the app, watching a video and then a 10-minute follow up call with a ‘mental health coach’.

Dr Spence, started Uprise to bring his research into the workplace, inspired by his PhD on Internet treatments for anxiety and 10 years clinical experience and was one of eight startups accepted into INCUBATE startup program at Sydney University.

“One in five Australian workers suffers from a mental health condition each year but only one in twenty access the employee counselling program offered by their workplace” he said. “ and that means thousands of people are suffering from painful symptoms when they don’t need to be.”

“Due to stigma or not having the time for therapy, lots of people downplay their stress. People shouldn't have to suffer. We're trying to get the treatments to the people that need them by leveraging technology” Dr Jay Spence co-founder of Uprise.

“Due to stigma or not having the time for therapy, lots of people downplay their stress. People shouldn’t have to suffer. We’re trying to get the treatments to the people that need them by leveraging technology” Dr Jay Spence co-founder of Uprise.

Uprise recently conducted a pilot trial of 25 employees working in high stress jobs and found that three weeks of using Uprise resulted in symptom levels shifting from the moderate range back to normal, on average. “Businesses are interested in Uprise because our courses show that absenteeism is reduced by 48%”, says Dr Spence.

Dr Spence’s published results showed online treatments gave the same results as face-to-face sessions for anxiety, but were delivered in less than half the time and a quarter of the cost.

Uprise’s web treatment program is based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which has long been the most powerful form of psychological treatment. Researchers have developed a way to deliver CBT so that people can learn this approach from the privacy of their smartphone without ever seeing a therapist face to face. “This is changing the way psychologists think about treatment” says Dr Spence.

Uprise is not talking to a therapist via Skype or email chat. Instead it’s a mixture of instructional videos; that teach CBT skills to manage thinking, emotions and behaviour; and over the phone check-ins. Uprise contains all the same information that you would get from seeing a clinical psychologist face-to-face except you learn and practice the skills in your own time.

“Most of our users log on to Uprise at 8:30 at night to watch one of the skills videos, probably while they are watching TV or surfing other webpages” said Dr Spence. “Uprise is a great way to get an understanding of what happens when you see a psychologist without making it into something big and scary.”

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Watch an interview with Dr Jay Spence on YouTube.

Dr Spence’s results are part of a growing body of research showing that online treatments for common mental health issues are consistently performing at face-to-face therapy levels. So watch this space. The next time you go in to see your GP they might be giving you online CBT instead of a pill or a referral.

For Press enquiries please contact: Jay Spence , jay@getuprise.com.au. For INCUBATE please contact hello@incubate.org.au.

Connect with Uprise on Twitter:  @drjayspence

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