Digital mental health companies need a content strategy to engage today’s screen-first health seeker. In an increasingly saturated market, telemental health demand is only growing. Meditation apps like Calm and Headspace have already set the content stakes high, with Calm launching their A World of Calm TV series on HBO Max and Headspace hiring John Legend as their Chief Music Officer. Wellness focused brands like Calm and Headspace know they are competing for audiences attention when we much rather watch The Office than try and meditate for 5 minutes.
And their content strategy is working. Calm boasts 90M downloads and Headspace is close behind.
But what about the more clinically backed mental health platforms like Lyra or Talkspace? These platforms provide important therapies for health seekers, ranging in intervention levels from telepsychiatry to support groups. Therapeutic mental health applications help connect health seekers with health services, but as soon as the therapy session is complete, what then?
I know from my own experience with mental health, that therapy is only one part of the healing journey. The hard work you do with your counselor or in group doesn’t mean anything if you can’t use those insights in the real world and actually make changes for the better.
Most of my sessions in therapy ended with a new insight — a new learning. But new learnings do not equal new outcomes. New behaviors do. And behavior change is hard. It requires constant feedback. Some mental health apps address this with behavior coaching, but not everyone can afford a behavior coach for their pandemic induced anxiety, depression or complicated comorbidities. Nor does coaching work for everyone.
I think back to a friend of mine who was receiving DBT treatment several years ago. DBT, or Dialectical Behavior Therapy, was developed by Marsha M. Linehane for treatment resistant forms of mental illness, such as individuals with high levels of suicide ideation or borderline personality disorders. My friend was in group therapy, individual therapy and in and out of residential treatment programs until she was admitted into a DBT program. On top of the therapy sessions and psychopharmacology consults, she had a workbook that she used daily. A DBT exercise workbook that helped reenforce her new learnings from her most recent therapy session. The exercises were social, reflective and, surprisingly, empowering. These sheets of paper were able to sustain the new learning from her therapy sessions, making the DBT therapy stick and ultimately helping her develop new skills and behaviors to help her manage her mental health.
So how would teletherapy apps deliver the most value — the most impact — from a 45 minute conversation between a health seeker and provider?
Not just marketing content, intended to sell the product, but content that makes the experience worth repeating. Content that supports new learning and helps transform that new learning into new behaviors. Content that is able to engage health seekers with a story that is compelling. Content that is relevant to their health journey, but not prescriptive or pedantic. Content that meets the health seeker where they are. Content that is as frictionless and engaging as streaming TV shows or a popular podcast.
The most competitive and truly transformational mental health applications will not only provide therapeutic interventions such as teletherapy, but will provide a health entertainment experience that uses content to support health seekers and enable lasting behavior change.
Earlier this week Lyra Health announced their partnership with Calm to provide stress reducing content to their members. Lyra already provides therapy solutions for their members, but now they can continue to support their members outside the therapy sessions with curated content from Calm. I will be eagerly watching to see how the Calm content affects Lyra’s members and if, at all, it improves their health outcomes.
As more of our health experiences become digital, digital mental health apps will not only be competing against each other, but competing in a digital landscape dominated by content first platforms such as Netflix and TikTok. Many of these platforms already have mental health initiatives in place, acknowledging that our mental health doesn’t disappear when we’re scrolling through our feeds.
Perhaps, soon, we will see digital mental health companies trade in their DSM manuals for screenplays as they bolster their content strategies and start competing for our attention in our content dominated world.
Until then, I know I will continue receiving mental health support from an unlikely source: TikTok.