Being an entrepreneur is tough. For some, it can even lead to mental health problems. That was the case for Dan Miller, whose stress running his first company contributed to symptoms of anxiety. Miller sought help by turning to an online-therapy service, but he was left sorely disappointed.

"I had no idea who I was speaking with, but I had to up-front buy a bundle of sessions, which was very off-putting," he says. "And after I went through my first session, I had a very, very cold experience."

Miller never went back for a second session. Instead, he developed his own solution: an app called Level Therapy that launched on Thursday.

Level Therapy is an iPhone app that allows users to easily match with a qualified clinician who can provide the proper therapy via video chat. The startup is a part of the latest batch of companies coming out of 500 Startups. It was created by Miller, who is the startup's CEO, and his co-founder, Coley Williams, a licensed therapist. The two want to use their technology to democratize access to mental health treatment.

"Everybody can benefit tremendously from therapy, but the model that is currently in play makes it difficult for the masses to access therapy," Williams says. "Level is an opportunity to provide that service to many, many more people who have never had access."

You launch the app and chat with a specialist about the challenges you are hoping to overcome. The app then connects you with a clinician in your state. New users can receive therapist matches within an hour and book their first session as soon as the next day.

"It's incredibly overwhelming when you're looking for a therapist to just be given a database of a bunch of different faces who you don't know," Williams says. "We're really trying to streamline the process for the client."

There are a number of advantages to using Level Therapy over seeing a practitioner in person. Taking a trip to see a therapist is about a four-hour process on average, Miller and Williams say. For many working professionals, blocking out four hours a week for that is not realistic.

Additionally, doing therapy via video session expands the pool of potential clinicians. There may only be a few options in your physical proximity, but using Level Therapy, you can connect with clinicians anywhere in your state. (Licensing laws generally prohibit telemedicine across state lines.)

When it comes to their online rivals, Miller and Williams say the advantage Level Therapy offers is its focus on matching you to the appropriate clinician. This happens by telling the specialist what you're looking for in a therapist, ranging from gender and ethnicity to theoretical orientation.

"We use that information to match the client with three therapists in our network who specialize in the client's area of need as well as meet the client's preferences as closely as possible," Williams says.

Level Therapy customers pay $99 for hour-long video sessions, which Miller and Williams say is more affordable than the industry average of $150 per session. Level Therapy keeps 50 percent of each session with the other half going to the clinician. The company accepts insurance as payment, and it hopes to partner with companies to provide therapy sessions as a perk for employees.

At launch, Level Therapy is limited to iPhone users in California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Level Therapy will arrive for Android in November and be available in 25 states by the end of the year, Miller says.

"This is the future of mental health," Williams says. "This is where therapy is headed."

Published on: Sep 29, 2016