We talked to Louise Chunn, CEO and founder of welldoing.org about finding the right therapist and here is what she said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Louise Chunn: I am doing OK, and so are my family. We’ve been healthy and Covid-free, but we are getting bored with the London lockdown. I’m happy to say I have had my first vaccination jab.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded welldoing.org.
Louise Chunn: Originally from New Zealand, I have lived in London for nearly 40 years, first of all, working in journalism. I have worked on The Guardian, Vogue, Psychologies and been the editor of six magazines. I was drawn to start welldoing.org when I struggled to find myself a therapist. There were thousands of therapists: how was I supposed to know what or who was right for me? We launched in 2014, and we have built steadily since. We have matched more than 25,000 with the therapists best-suited to their needs. And we have a seriously content-rich site with more than 2,500 posts from authoritative sources such as therapists or service-users, helping people understand mental health and how they can improve their wellbeing.
How does welldoing.org innovate?
Louise Chunn: The key to welldoing.org is in the match. Our jargon-free questionnaire makes it possible to find those therapists who would work best for you. We also have a paid-for bespoke matching service where individuals can go into far greater detail about their issues, plus we find someone who is available when and for what budget the client can afford. This has really built over the past year, as people have clearly felt the need to put things right, and that includes getting the right therapist to help them.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Louise Chunn: Stress, anxiety, relationship problems, health fears, depression, bereavement: it’s well-documented that many people are having a difficult time because of the pandemic. Being infected with coronavirus is one fear, but feeling mentally affected is very worrying, especially if you have never experienced psychological problems before. Since the summer, there has been an increase in people seeking therapy throughout the UK. Since the beginning of this year, the uptick is even stronger, as the latest lockdown seemed to hit people particularly badly.
At the very beginning, we asked our therapists if they wanted to offer free therapy to NHS workers, the doctors, and medical staff struggling to deal with the realities of this unprecedented health crisis. More than 300 of them do, and we are very proud to have helped make that happen. We are also gearing up to make it easier for students to access low-cost therapy as this is an area with which many people, especially their parents, are concerned about the long-term effects.
We have also just launched coach-matching, and we feel that this fits well with people starting to plan how they can move forward as the post-pandemic life starts to appear.
In that same vein, businesses realize that some people – completely understandably – have been badly affected and need help to recover. We have many more conversations about workplace wellness, including managed therapy packages, webinars, and talks explaining the issues people are struggling with and what will help them feel better in their daily lives.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Louise Chunn: We’re a small team, and we’re all still working, but not together. Our members – therapists, are working alone, adopting online practice when most had never done it before – like everyone found the early months difficult. We increased our contacts with them — for a while moving our monthly therapists’ newsletter to weekly, for example – and initiated more video content. This period showed us what a great community we had created and how mutually supportive we all could be.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Louise Chunn: We used Slack, and we certainly grew used to Zoom! We were busy and hard-working, but I also encouraged everyone on the team to look after their own mental health. Spend some time outside, take time away from screens, get enough sleep/
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Louise Chunn: Mental health has gone from being a topic that was stigmatized and misunderstood to one that is on everybody’s lips. There are all sorts of options, but we feel that a mix of tech and mental health expertise is preferable to a totally app-based solution. People crave human contact when they are reaching out for help with their mental health.
Your final thoughts?
Louise Chunn: We were always a purpose-driven business, but these past 11 months have cemented our feelings about what we do. We help people and businesses find the professionals who will help them improve their lives and wellbeing. This is so important at this time. Of course, people’s livelihood, jobs are important too, but if you feel crushed by uncertainty and depression, exhausted by the lockdown and lack of human contact, it is probably better to get emotions in a better place first. And just seeing any therapist isn’t going to cut it — the therapeutic alliance is built by developing a relationship with someone, which is the biggest predictor of effective treatment in therapy.
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