We all know them from Woody Allen films and New Yorker cartoons: psychotherapists. They’re earnest, often bespectacled brainiacs who quietly listen and nod in the background as their patients pour out their hearts. Now the tables have been turned by Therapick.com, a Los Angeles startup that lets shrinks do the talking.
The company is shooting video interviews with licensed therapists and compiling an online directory of short profile clips. People can use the site to look up psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, and clinical social workers by Zip Code and specialty, then watch their videos before deciding whether to schedule a session. “They know right off the bat from watching the therapists talk—their mannerisms, their intonation, those intangible things—whether this person appeals to them,” says David Brundige, Therapick’s founder and chief executive officer. “People have compared it to online dating.”
So far, Therapick has taped interviews with more than 500 therapists in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and seven other cities. The no-frills clips feature shrinks in front of a white backdrop. The only décor is a potted plant. Therapists pay $299 a year to put the videos on Therapick’s site, accompanied by text descriptions of their backgrounds and specialties. They can also embed the spots on their own websites or put them on YouTube (GOOG). Brundige says the site doesn’t collect or sell information on its visitors.
Brundige, 29, founded Therapick in 2009 together with college pals Jeremy Weissman and Micah Baskir, neither of whom has a background in psychology. He hit upon the idea after his mother got fed up with her own search for a suitable therapist. He had just finished his first feature film, and the idea of a therapist video directory appealed to him because “it’s film work, storytelling, but also a service to people.”
The three began cold-calling thousands of therapists but soon ran into a problem: Most shrinks aren’t accustomed to being in the spotlight or talking about themselves. To make the therapists more comfortable in front of a camera, Brundige’s team honed their techniques. “The interviewer has to be really smart, recognize the therapist’s personality quickly, and bring out their individuality,” he says. With time, Therapick’s founders even picked up and began incorporating psychological tactics to put therapists at ease.
Site traffic has grown at least 15 percent each month since last April, and Therapick has hired four interviewers and film editors to keep up with demand for shrink interviews. Brundige says the startup is breaking even.
Therapists say the site is helping them draw more suitable patients. “The video tends to attract a certain type of client that fits with my mode of therapy,” says Todd Bresnick, a clinical psychologist in New York who estimates that Therapick won him 10 new clients last year. “As a result there’s more trust, and more change seems to happen.”
Some videos are so compelling that even Therapick’s founders are tempted to lie down and open up. “When therapists are selling you on therapy every day, it makes you want to go to therapy because it sounds so awesome,” explains Brundige. “But while you’re running a startup, it’s very hard to afford any sort of luxury.”