I love learning about creative new concepts in the therapy field. When I learned about Airapy, I was instantly intrigued. The idea of a mobile private practice with the platform to serve more clients without worrying about overhead is sure to perk a few ears. The service offers “walk and talk” therapy, and therapy at other places like coffee shops, libraries, etc. I recently spoke with tech innovator, Rachel Cox, who created Airapy to learn more.
Tell us a little bit about yourself! What’s your mission with Airapy?
A couple of years ago I was trying to find a new therapist and make an appointment but was frustrated by how hard it was to both find someone who was available and make an appointment. I created Airapy to give clients a better user experience– available appointments are displayed directly on their profile, so patients can book right away instead of going back and forth over email or spending time on the phone. The idea originated from the client’s POV, and then I began interviewing therapists and realized how difficult it was to start and run a private practice. When one of the therapists told me about walk and talk therapy, I realized it was the perfect solution. We could help therapists start their own private practices by prioritizing walk and talk, and saving them the money and hassle of booking office space.
What is the impact you hope to have with airapy?
I want to create the Airbnb of therapy and break down the barriers for both clients and therapists. Lack of access to mental health is a global crisis. Even in nationalized health systems like the UK, Canada, Australia, it is still very difficult to find the right provider and get help. We want to disrupt the whole industry and make going to therapy as easy as going to the gym.
Why is therapy important?
The week after I graduated college I began to have panic attacks. I didn’t understand what was going on. I didn’t even know what anxiety was! Therapy is important for knowing one’s own mind and developing a set of tools to develop positive cognitive habits. Sometimes we just need someone to listen, sometimes we need advice from a neutral party, and sometimes we need to be given the tools to grow. I believe all of this is as important to your mind and emotional health as physical exercise and healthy eating is to your body. People are starting to realize this.
Who has access to airapy? Are there any locations besides Philadelphia? (example: New Jersey right outside the city)
We have launched nationwide. Anyone in the US can sign up– it’s free to list your practice. (Airapy takes a service charge from the appointments booked through the site.) Of course, building a marketplace is extremely challenging because of the “chicken and the egg”! A successful marketplace has many patients AND therapists to satisfy everyone’s needs. One strategy is to build up one side of the marketplace first, which is what we are doing now. Before we begin advertising to patients, we want as many therapists on the platform as possible. Choosing a therapist is a very personal, subjective decision and we want clients to have a comfortable selection to choose from.
What makes airapy different? Does airapy provide telehealth?
The most unique feature of Airapy is allowing therapists to select multiple meeting locations for their appointments, which provides a space online for therapists without offices to list their services. When we ran our pilot program last year we had over 40 appointments take place in parks, coffee shops… even the lobby of an apartment building! Because of the pandemic, we now have a virtual meeting (telehealth) option. Clients can select the virtual location option when they confirm the appointment and at the time of service they log in to the website on their computer or phone and open the video chat from the appointments page. A lot of people are asking me whether we’ll go back to walk and talk after the pandemic passes and I have to answer, I don’t know. Let’s just prepare for the worst. I hope we are able to do both.
What are the therapists like who join airapy? Can airapy provide couples therapy? Are there any limitations?
Therapists have the choice to offer both individual and couples therapy right now. I expect eventually we might have therapists who provide family or adolescent services but we’ll add those as needed. The first therapists who joined Airapy had full-time jobs doing clinical work and they wanted to see private practice patients during evenings and weekends– which is when most clients want to have appointments, anyway! But now that we have launched the new website we also have therapists in full-time private practice signed up. We are also encouraging therapists under supervision to sign up, provided their supervisor approves. We have a list of available supervisors for PA and NJ that are amenable to the Airapy business model. Some therapists might not have had experience with walk and talk, so they might be uncomfortable supervising someone on the platform.
Is airapy regulated? How do people pay and can they use insurance?Right now the website is HIPAA-compliant and set up for out-of-pocket appointments. Airapy takes a 10% service charge on the payment, plus we charge therapists a one-time $25 fee for the first appointment a client makes with them, as a referral fee. We are working on allowing insurance plans into the platform for later this summer.
Who is your target audience for airapy?
Younger people have higher standards for services and technology, in addition to being more aware of their mental health needs and feeling less stigmatized for seeking help, do I believe they will be most interested in using Airapy. At least at first.
How can someone get a therapist and what does that process look like for a patient?
There are no additional membership or subscription fees for patients outside of their appointment fees. A patient has to create an account on the site first, and have a payment option set up. Then, they can just click on any appointment time in a therapist’s calendar and make the appointment. The therapist has the client’s contact info and will reach out by phone or email to check in or do intake ahead of time. All therapists are running their own independent private practice and conduct intake in different ways. Some like to send an intake form ahead of time. Some do a short phone call before meeting. Some like to set aside an extra 5 minutes before the session starts that serves as the “intake.” It’s up the individual therapist. The payment is processed when the client books, but we have a generous cancellation policy. Anyone can cancel up to 24 hours before the appointment without penalty. You can read more here: https://airapy.io/pages/faqs
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*This is not an affiliate post, just a therapist spreading awareness!