Why YOU Shouldn’t Sell Out to BetterHelp: An interview with Jeff Guenther, LPC
An interview with Jeff Guenther, LPC from TherapyDen about the ins and outs of affiliate partnerships. Curt and Katie talk with Jeff about the offer he received from BetterHelp and why he turned it down – taking some time to discuss the therapist businesses and influencers who have chosen this partnership and the subsequent backlash from the online therapist communities. We look at how these types of partnerships can be formed, what you should consider when you are approached to collaborate with another company, and how much money it would take for us to sell out.
It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.
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An interview with Jeff Guenther, LPC, TherapyDen
Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005 and currently leads workshops on how health and wellness practitioners can build their digital brand and attract more clients online. Jeff is the creator and owner of two highly ranked healthcare directory sites, Portland Therapy Center and TherapyDen.
In this episode we talk about why you shouldn’t sell out to Better Help:
- Jeff’s TherapyDen story – why/how he started it and the different types of partnerships and other business arrangements that he’s been approached with
- How to sift out what is being offered and whether a partnership is beneficial or harmful
- The salesy approaches that Jeff just does not respond to
- The common origin stories and connections made with tech startups
- Why Brighter Vision and others have gotten so much backlash when they partnered with BetterHelp
- The movement from the online therapists’ groups to respond to Brighter Vision and the resulting discontinuation of the partnership with BetterHelp
- The importance of taking care of the individuals in the profession
- The corporate focus on commoditization of therapy
- The different ways that companies like BetterHelp may be making money off of therapy clients and therapists (e.g., data mining)
“They take your data and they sell it to Facebook and Google and Pinterest. So even if somebody goes on to BetterHelp…to find a therapist and fills out an intake form, that intake form — even before they start a subscription — that info on that intake form is sent to advertisers that want to know more about you.” — Jeff Guenther, LPC, TherapyDen⠀
- BetterHelp’s plan to take over therapist directories and all of the entry points for therapy
- The consequences of BetterHelp’s success and how they are changing the expectations
- Ideas about larger provider networks that can be done well to support therapists and clients
- The specifics of Jeff’s offer from BetterHelp and why he turned it down
- The morals and values questions that come up when facing one of these offers
- The practical reasons not to take these kinds of deals, no matter the money involved
- The importance of being able to stand behind your partners
Our Generous Sponsor for this episode of The Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide:
The Healthcasters is a podcasting course and community designed for therapists in private practice and therapists turned coaches + consultants that’s supported the successful launch of over 270 podcasts. Wanted to tell you guys a little bit what’s included in the Healthcasters podcasting course. It includes simple step by step videos to take your podcast from idea to one that generates income when it launches. Also includes cheatsheets and templates Melvin uses for the Selling The Couch podcast whether its scripts to reach out to guests or templates to let guests know a podcast is live. We recently released the Podcast Episode Tracker. This simple sheet helps you keep your podcast episodes organized whether you want to reference them later or re-purpose the content in the future. You can also choose to upgrade after purchasing the course to a community of over 250 other therapist podcasts. This also includes monthly group and 1 on 1 coaching calls with Melvin. You can learn more about Healthcasters at sellingthecouch.com/jointhehealthcasters (enter the promo code “therapyreimagined” at checkout for $100 off the listed price).
Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:
We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!
Contact Jeff: firstname.lastname@example.org
Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:
Jeff Guenther’s first interview on the podcast: Privileged and Biased
Who we are:
Curt Widhalm, LMFT
Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at: http://www.curtwidhalm.com
Katie Vernoy, LMFT
Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at: http://www.katievernoy.com
A Quick Note:
Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.
Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.
Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:
Consultation services with Curt Widhalm or Katie Vernoy:
Connect with the Modern Therapist Community:
Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:
Voice Over by DW McCann https://www.facebook.com/McCannDW/
Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano http://www.crystalmangano.com/
Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):
Curt Widhalm 0:00
This episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide is brought to you by Healthcasters.
Katie Vernoy 0:03
The Healthcasters is a podcasting course and community designed for therapists in private practice and therapists turned coaches + consultants that supported the successful launch of over 270 podcasts. Learn more about the Healthcasters at sellingthecouch.com/jointhehealthcasters and enter the promo code ‘therapyreimagined’ at checkout for $100 off the listed price.
Curt Widhalm 0:03
Listen at the end of the episode for more information about Healthcasters.
You’re listening to The Modern Therapist Survival Guide where therapists live, breathe and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy.
Curt Widhalm 0:42
Welcome back modern therapists. This is The Modern Therapist Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast that is for therapists about therapists, the things that we do, the values that we hold. And one of the things that’s happened here in the therapy world in the last few weeks is there’s a lot of online backlash against the company Brighter Vision. Brighter Vision is somebody who we formerly had a partnership sponsorship with in the past. But there is a backlash that was happening around Brighter Vision’s partnership with a company called BetterHelp. And you can check out our previous episode about some of these therapy apps. And we’ll link to that in our show notes over at mtsgpodcast.com over the course of a weekend what we saw was Brighter Vision announced this partnership, a tremendous pressure put in to Brighter Vision by the online therapists communities. And just a few days later, Brighter Vision announced that they were no longer going to be partnered with BetterHelp. Through all of this, one of our friends and previous guests, Jeff Guenther, he’s a LPC up in the Portland area, as you might know him from TherapyDen, and a lot of the other cool stuff that he does reached out to me and said, Hey, I have a story about some of these partnerships. And we were like, please come back to the podcast as soon as possible. And welcome back, Jeff, and thank you for spending some time with us.
Jeff Guenther 2:23
Hi, yeah, I’m happy to be here. And I can’t wait to talk to you guys about this.
Katie Vernoy 2:27
So we’ve asked you this question before. And people can go back and listen to a previous episode. But I’d love for you to tell people who are you and what are you putting out to the world now because I know there’s some updates and some some good stuff and then intros for our new listeners.
Jeff Guenther 2:41
Sure. I am Jeff Guenther, one of my big projects that I’m working on that I’ve been working on since 2017 is a national therapist directory called TherapyDen, go to therapyden.com visit it. A progressive and all inclusive therapists directory, it was mainly it came from like my hatred for Psychology Today. And especially back in 2017. And before Psychology Today felt like very behind in the times. So I was like, you know what, there should be a better option for this. And there are some other therapists directories and I want to jump into the therapist directory game, I have made like a pretty successful therapists directory locally for Portland. So I was taking all my skills and applying it to the national therapist directory. So it can make it progressive and it can be anti racist and social justice-y and make it so that like therapists asked therapists to be a little bit more authentic in their profile. So you can like really get to understand to know who the therapist is, and what they’re all about. Trying to get the therapist to share their values and beliefs and all that good stuff. Started working on that in 2017. It launched in 2018. And it’s been growing ever since then. And it’s been a really fun ride. And also a roller coaster. One of my more interesting experiences was BetterHelp coming to me and looking for a partnership. But there’s been many organizations out there looking for partnerships, and I kind of use that air quotes, because some of them are really looking to partner with you to like, enhance their brand and like Yahoo came to TherapyDen not too long ago being like, Hey, we want to feature you on our like mental health page. And it was all on the up and up and it’s great. Unfortunately, as we know, not a lot of people use Yahoo. But still very excited to partner with Yahoo like a very recognized brand. I wish them the best. Then there’s other companies that are like wanting to partner that really just want to buy out TherapyDen or really want to sell marketing services to TherapyDen or want to make money off of us. So yeah, so there’s been like a lot of really interesting conversations that I’ve had.
Curt Widhalm 4:49
I don’t know whether to just kind of choose this BetterHelp story to get people to listen to the entire episode or to follow our normal pattern of asking, you know, for those people who are looking to partner with some of these companies? How do you sift out some of the, you know, these are the ones that are good versus these are the ones that maybe don’t have the best interests of what I’ve got going on in mind. You know Katie, and I get approached very much in the same way, by a number of different companies. What are some of the experiences that you’ve had that have led you to better understanding where some of these intentions are because some of these people have great marketing teams that know how to talk around some of the more inexperienced people? So how can we help people maybe not make some of the same mistakes?
Jeff Guenther 5:41
I don’t know… I’m still trying, I still try to figure that out. And I still struggle with it. Sometimes there’s like a group of people, sort of like techie investors, Silicon Valley, sorts of bros that like reach out to me every now and then to want to learn and they want to learn more about TherapyDen’s therapy directory, like how to match therapists with clients, because they are creating a very similar product. We’re, they’re creating a matching service. And they have some new innovative way that they think is going to, like blow the pants off of the industry, that I and many other people have thought about and tried to implement and failed or didn’t fail, but they have the secret sauce. But really, like, they want to get like all of all the information all the data from me, either to like kind of steal my ideas or improve on their own ideas, or to possibly buy me out. And so whenever there’s like tech companies that are coming to like, ask me about TherapyDen, then I’m always very guarded. And I hold everything close to my chest. So if somebody like finds me reaches out to me through LinkedIn automatically, I don’t want to respond to them. I hate LinkedIn. I don’t know how you feel about LinkedIn. But that already feels very shady to me. Yeah. And then there’s, I usually respond like, just yesterday morning, somebody was reaching out to me through LinkedIn saying, like, hey, I’d love to partner with you. And I said, if you’re selling the marketing services, I don’t want to talk to you. That’s usually like my first response. And then if they continue to kind of try to get to me, and I might have a phone call with them, but you can tell if somebody is being salesy with you, or like offering you the world, or, I mean, it just doesn’t, if it just doesn’t feel right. It’s probably not right. There was another company, they were thinking about buying out TherapyDen. And that was like, I was like, I don’t know. And so I had to do like a lot of research to figure out like, Who are they? Are they good? Are they bad? I don’t know. It never obviously never actually went through. And we just sort of like couldn’t align, I guess. But I guess the answer, the question is like, How does it feel? How does it feel when somebody is reaching out to you? And really, I got a really good feeling from like, all the folks at Yahoo, who are just like, really clearly into like mental health, and wanting to put together resources that was like really good for the community? What do you both think?
Katie Vernoy 10:39
I do most of these conversations. And so I think for me, I think there are times probably when I’m swayed by the relationship, you know, I started to get to know somebody, we have more conversations, I think that independent research is important. Because when you’re getting on a call with somebody, they are going to have The Story like this is the reason and I think about I’ve talked to a lot of tech startups, I don’t have the same conflict, because it’s not a competing business. In fact, you know, we want therapists to find the right directories, we want therapists to find the right resources and said, that’s why we want a feature TherapyDen on our site. You know, like, there’s those kinds of things. But I think when I start feeling like there’s two different types, I think of these tech companies, some of them are, let’s commoditize this, How can we get the most profit, and there’s a lot of folks and most of these are the ones that I think are not as successful. And so they’re wanting advice, and they’re probably wondering, you know, free free research from you and stuff like that, where they’ve, they’ve started their hearts in the right place. They’re getting out of the, the big tech world and one of their family members has had a mental health issue. And they they couldn’t find the resources they needed, they found this gap and they want it. So I mean, it’s like, I’ve heard this story a number of times.
Jeff Guenther 10:39
So many times.
Katie Vernoy 10:43
And they’re somewhere I get to know them better. I’m like, these are really cool people and they’re they’ve got the right people on their team. I like their team members. I’m seeing how they’re supporting good mental health. I’m seeing how they’re supporting clinicians. And then there’s others where I’m like, What are you doing? And some of it’s the instinct, but some of it is just kind of going through and doing the research and then trying to see if you can find people who are in these systems to see is it actually does it actually feel good? Does it actually is it actually working? You know, are they having any moral qualms about the the therapy that they’re able to provide or you know, or The money that they’re getting for the work that they’re doing. But it’s so hard because the exceptionally good marketing teams are going to come with these amazing heart wrenching stories, they’re going to be super friendly. And I think it’s just, you just got to do the background legwork and try to be objective, which is hard. We are saying that we’re grappling with these decisions, you know, and potentially there are times when really, really nice arrangements or sizable money or sizable visibility can happen from these partnerships. And we can make wrong decisions, we can always walk them back and do different things, but it seems like Brighter Vision, and other therapists, b2b companies or therapist influencers, people are getting a big backlash for partnering with BetterHelp. I have my own opinion, but you’ve you’ve actually interacted with BetterHelp, they reached out to us and we’re like, we’d like to talk about your employment practices. I didn’t hear anything else after that. Um, and so why do you think there’s such a big backlash against Brighter Vision and these other folks who’ve decided to partner with BetterHelp?
Jeff Guenther 11:07
Yeah, I think there’s a lot of reasons for that. And we all have maybe our own personal reasons, the serve Brighter Vision, like my sort of experience of who they are in their company, it seemed like oh, is Perry, you know, the owner and starter, but now not the owner, President, I think they just sold they sold. Yeah, it seemed like Perry was like, hey, I want to like start the service, I want to make websites for therapists and, and there isn’t like a lot of good options out there, like, great. And then he did it. And then he became successful. And he hired he like, created this little team. And it seemed like they were very personable, like we knew who Perry was, and what Brighter Vision was all about. And they are in all the little therapists, private practice groups on Facebook, and yada, yada. And we knew them, it felt like they were on our team, they’re on our side. And that felt nice. And so then all of a sudden, they announced this partnership with BetterHelp, who I think most of us a lot of us think is like the bad guy. And it was very much what I thought maybe you know more about Perry and Brighter Vision, but it seemed like it was out of line with who they are and what their values are. And their support that they had for like therapists. And the deal didn’t seem to make sense. I don’t know the details. I’m sure it made sense on their end. But it was it was kind of bizarre that they were trying to like, help BetterHelp get more therapists to subscribe to their services that I’m not sure how it connects with like therapists creating websites through them. So that was funky. And I was super impressed. Maybe this has happened before. And I hadn’t seen it before. But I was super impressed with the community, the mental health community and all the therapists that were just like, no, this is not okay. And they flooded, Brighter Vision, and they flooded all the therapists groups and created this like organic campaign to like contact Perry and not allow this to happen. So that was super impressive, and like, very exciting, and made me think that like, Oh, we do have a lot of power. If we can all come together and do something. It didn’t feel right, it felt really gross it partnership didn’t make sense. I think a lot of people have like a really good fuzzy, nice feeling about brighter visions. So partnering with BetterHelp, didn’t, didn’t, I didn’t understand that.
Katie Vernoy 13:30
I think the thing that felt I don’t know about icky, but I think the thing that felt weird to me is that the idea around Brighter Vision is that they are creating webs, they’re helping therapists create websites for their own practices, and Brighter and BetterHelp is actually actively in competition. And so it’s like you’re funneling the competition. And you’re also helping your therapists who are your customers or potential customers, to basically get bogged down in the BetterHelp world where you’re not gonna make any money and you’re too busy and blah, blah, blah, I think the they came back with a, hey, you know, people who are just starting out, sometimes BetterHelp is a good way for them to make some money while they’re growing their own practice. And so it was like, that’s what we were thinking about. But I don’t know…
Curt Widhalm 14:17
I think we have to also put this into the context of what impact these tech companies are having on our industry, because as you’re both speaking, that there seems to be this push away from you as the individual therapists and more into kind of, you know, helping somebody get better stock returns, you know, on the New York Stock Exchange here at some points that and that really goes against what I think all of our values are here, which is really taking care of the individuals having used the individuals be seen. And I think that a lot of the people that we share in our audience in these Facebook groups, as you know, listeners of our podcast here, attendees of our conference, people who use TherapyDen, that we come in as caring individuals and are tired of being cogs in a machine. And so this really inconsistent message seems to be something where it’s very easy to fear, like, Hey, this is just shoving a, you know, burnout machine away from community mental health, and now into kind of just a more corporate sort of therapy delivery service.
Jeff Guenther 15:32
Yeah, for sure. Like you said, like BetterHelp, doesn’t care about helping people. I mean, I don’t think I think they think that they care about helping, you know, padding their bottom line and giving money back to their investors and making a ton of money. Like they like you I think you mentioned maybe earlier before we started recording, like, they’re also into data mining, they take your data, and they sell it to Facebook, and Google and Pinterest. So even if somebody like goes on to BetterHelp a client, a person goes on to better help, like find a therapist, and fills out an intake form that intake form, even before they start like a subscription, that that info on that intake form is sent to advertisers that are looking for that it like want to know more about you. So Facebook can know the last time you wanted to commit suicide. So Pinterest can know every time you open up that app and talk about how depressed you are. BetterHelp isn’t like looking at the exact language that a client or a therapist is like putting into the app, but they’re collecting like the metadata around it. So it’s just sort of they get this kind of like idea of who you are. And then they apply it to your sort of like online profile, so that Facebook can like sell you more products that depressed people buy, or anxious people buy or people with trauma by you know, they create. And so, as a therapist in private practice, like all of us that are probably listening, we would never sell our clients data to other people. But like, that’s a big part of BetterHelp’s money making scheme. Because they need to make that money. And they make a ton of money off of that. And it reminds me so I worked for this really weird funny, not very funny, but just slightly weird company in Portland when I first got my master’s degree. And they’re, they’re hiring people with master’s degree in counseling that also had a voice. So they could like pick up a phone and be on this crisis line. But it was a for profit crisis line, which is weird. Uh huh. And every time us therapists would pick up the phone, that business would make 15 bucks. And so they kept on to their like, it’s you’re not allowed to talk for over 12 minutes to somebody who’s in a crisis. You like, you got to like, get them off the phone and get them off the phone. That’s the more people that you answer, the more you’ll they’ll make money. And we’re just sort of like became this like, weird little machine. We’re just trying to answer as many phone calls as we possibly could. There’s these literal alarm bells going off if we’re on the phone too long.
Katie Vernoy 18:06
Oh, no! That sounds like a horrible job.
Jeff Guenther 18:10
It was it was horrible. I in the middle of it applied to work at the Apple Store. Because I was like, I can’t be a therapist anymore. If this is what it’s all about. Anyways, it feels very similar to BetterHelp, where they’re just like they’re there to like, make money and the more that they can get people to sign up, the more money they’re going to make.
Katie Vernoy 18:27
Yeah, I think there’s also and I don’t know if this was involved in any of the folks who I’ve seen in partnership with BetterHelp. But it seems like there’s also large, you know, kind of investment cycles. And so if you can say I have this many therapists in my whatever, in my network, and then there’s, then there’s more likely that you’ll get some angel investor money.
Jeff Guenther 18:51
Mm hmm. Yeah. And they’re looking BetterHelp us like looking. They’re trying to corner every single way a person is looking for, for therapy. We’ve seen all their ads on Facebook, and we’ve seen their ads on TV, and they’re gobbling up therapists directories one by one trying to like so they have a bunch of therapists directories, what do they have? They have pridecounseling.com the corner like the LGBTQ market, they have faithfulcounseling.com for the biblical perspective, they have teencounseling.com The list goes on where they just like make these make believe therapists directories or they find a therapist directory and buy them out. You know Clay Cockerell from onlinecounseling.com?
Katie Vernoy 19:40
Curt Widhalm 19:41
I know counseling.com
Jeff Guenther 19:42
Yeah, yeah. BetterHelp presented him with like the same deal partnership that they presented to me and he decided to take it. I like Clay. Clay is a great guy. I’m like not trying to shit on Clay, he is fantastic. And he made a good financial decision for himself. But if you go to like onlinecounseling.com, which then forwards you to onlinetherapy.com which then forwards you to like BetterHelp therapists like they’re just looking to like gobble up all the SEO, all the websites out there, you know, like they’re very savvy and what they’re doing.
Katie Vernoy 20:22
How does that impact our industry then if they’re if the more they’re successful with these partnerships, and gobbling up every entry point for therapy, and all of, you know, large groups of therapists?
Jeff Guenther 20:34
Yeah, I mean, I feel like they’re just they’re taking all of our clients and they’re conditioning clients to, and they’re not clients, they’re subscribers, right? So they’re conditioning clients to like, think that this is what therapy is for. And I don’t think that it’s good to have 24 hour access seven days a week to your therapist, that doesn’t feel healthy to me. But that’s it’s like, you know, it’s the Uber of therapy. It’s and therapists, BetterHelp get paid by the word, you know, like, and you’re not allowed to like type two times the amount of words that your client is typing, or else you’re not going to get paid for it. So there’s like, you’re not going to get paid in certain ways when you’re a BetterHelp therapist, and you’re just not going to like provide the counseling to that client, because you’re not going to get paid for it anyways, you have to make this fucked up decision. So it’s really creating these really weird expectations for clients. You know, the taxi business isn’t really here anymore, because Uber and Lyft took it over. That can happen to us if BetterHealth and TalkSpace and other Silicon Valley companies keep taking it over. But Katie, you mentioned that there are some good guys.
Katie Vernoy 21:41
I think so. But I’m hopefully I’m not being duped. But I think so.
Jeff Guenther 21:47
Yeah, I’m not super aware of like all the good guys, but I’m totally open to hearing about who they are. So I can look into that.
Katie Vernoy 21:54
I mean, I think Curt and I have talked about it. And I think they’re the strongest ones are the ones that actually do an employment model. So that therapists who are working for them are able to unionize, they can they can do some of these things, they can have the benefits of being employees, I think there’s arguments for extended provider networks being also helpful for folks who don’t want to be employees and just want a couple of clients that are you know, through insurance or whatever. But I think there’s there may be negative. Curt informs me there could be very negative things on on that end, if we have too many kind of contractor models. And he and I will probably have a whole other conversation about this. So we can go in deeper but, but to me, there’s some therapists who I think don’t really want to be private practitioners, and they don’t really fit into an agency or community mental health kind of model. And so being able to be employed by Lyra is one of the ones that we’ve talked to that seem really nice are some of these other employers like gigantic employers, it’s like it’s a dream, because you get to see ideal clients for a good salary in kind of a, you know, in kind of more similar to a private practice model. And you can, and you can be an employee and just do it. And so it’s like, you just get to focus on therapy, you don’t have to figure out how to market because I don’t think all therapists should be private practitioners. So I think that there are some folks who are increasing access while still taking care of therapists and doing good clinical work. Now, they may take away our clients, and so there’s the competition element, but I don’t know that it’s all bad.
Jeff Guenther 23:28
Yeah, no, it’s probably not all bad.
Curt Widhalm 23:32
There’s a tremendous amount of money that these companies are trying out for advertising for partnerships for any of these, you know, gobbling up companies, as you’re describing here. And a lot of this money is coming from either, you know, conglomerate corporation type things to, you know, kind of change the markets and have, you know, billionaires funding some of this stuff going on. I want to get a little bit to your story. And when you presented me with the number that you did, as far as the amount of money that they were approaching you, and I’ve been approached to sell out my practice by not this BetterHelp company, but I was like, Wow, that is a tremendous amount of money for myself. How’s this money impacting us? You know, you and I have made decisions to stay with what we’re doing at this point. But we see, you know, our friends, our other people in the community who are partnering up, we see these businesses partnering up. What are we seeing as far as companies like ours that are just kind of still you know, fighting the good fight here.
Jeff Guenther 24:49
It’s, you know, you base your company or your service on like, what feels like the right values, and you have like a great mission and we stand behind it and it like it. It is who you are, that’s like your identity. And you create this business and lots of other therapists or therapy users resonate with them. And then you have these big companies like BetterHelp, who approached me in July 2019. So it was like, pretty soon after, like TherapyDen the therapist directory launched. Also, I’m like the majority owner of TherapyDen I also have a couple business partners who actually work on the site who like, you know, the developer of the site, and then the user experience person. So we’re all just like working on the site and doing our day jobs. So I would have to, like get their, okay. to partner with BetterHelp for like the partner that for the deal that they’re offering us. But I’m like the therapist and the face of the company. And I’ll get into the details about what they offered TherapyDen. But when they offer you a ton of money, I felt like just throwing away all of my values, because there’s a certain amount of money that I would sell myself for, I think.
Curt Widhalm 26:06
Oh, yeah, you can totally buy new values and morals with the amount of money that they’re offering.
Jeff Guenther 26:13
Aha, right. So they so the to get into the nitty gritty a little bit. They’re like, VP of business development, shot me an email and was like, hey, love TherapDen, what you’re doing your mission, your values, I stand behind it, this is fantastic, blah, blah, blah. And I can see that you don’t offer a lot of options for online therapists. And we were just starting to like integrate that into TherapyDen. And we’re only like, providing therapist for in person therapy. And then we’re like, adding online therapists. And so we’ve just launched that. And when you click like the online therapists in this state button, nothing was showing up because nobody was signing up yet. But we’re building and yada, yada, and he was like, so if you want BetterHelp, if you want BetterHelp therapists to be integrated into your therapy directory, then those could be the search results that come on for that come up and are displayed for online therapists. So we’ll like integrate all of our therapists, they’ll have these sort of pretend listings on TherapyDen. And when somebody goes and hits like the contact button or wants to call them it goes right to like BetterHelp, and they sign up through BetterHelp. So these aren’t TherapyDen. These aren’t actual therapists and private practice on TherapyDen, right, there’s like, these BetterHelp workers. So that didn’t feel good. It felt like that was like bad user experience. I’m also deceiving that, you know, potential client that’s looking for a therapist, or things that they’re looking for a therapist in Santa Monica, California, but really, for some random, BetterHelp person. But what he was offering was like, every time somebody clicks on a BetterHelp therapist in your TherapyDen listing and they sign up for an account, even if it’s just a free account at first first month, or first week free, we will give you $300.
Katie Vernoy 28:06
Jeff Guenther 28:07
And let’s say I would have taken that deal and TherapyDen would have continued to grow at the pace that it would have grown at which probably wouldn’t have happened, or maybe would have happened even more, I don’t know. Let’s say that, like I’m getting, you know, us a small chunk of you know, we measure how many people are getting referrals through TherapyDen if we took like a percentage of the people getting referrals through TherapyDen maybe like a small percentage of it like 1000 people a month or something. If 1000 people a month we’re connecting with these BetterHelp therapist we’d get about $300,000 a month. Probably a lot more though. So he was saying like, you can you’ll eventually get between maybe like $250,000 to $500,000 a month, if you let us put these BetterHelp practitioners in your therapist directory, which I don’t know if that I mean, that would have like cannibalized the therapists directory, it would have probably become just like pridecounseling or teencounseling.com or whatever, they just would have taken an over, but we would have made a ton of money. And if it still would have been going on today, we’d be making hundreds of 1000s of dollars, at least at minimum per month.
Curt Widhalm 29:27
How do you pass up that money? Honestly. I mean, we all we all have our dollar about and as I was sitting here since you reached out to me it’s from when Jeff first reached out to me to record date’s been but a week and a half. I’m like for a couple million dollars a year like I could do basically whatever I want. And like then you just start going down like that that fantasy like oh, what What do I really want to do? But it’s really not worth doing $2 million here, like, how do you pass up that kind of money. And on top of that, they’re offering therapists like $500, like, one time to sign up for this stuff. So like, hold out people, like you can get more than $500.
Jeff Guenther 30:21
Exactly. Um, you know, I, there’s like, this capitalist inside of me, like it’s inside of everybody. I’m sure that I really regret not taking that deal. And just cashing out. How do I pass it up? Oh, there’s a big part of me that’s kicking myself for passing it up. Another part of me, you know, I there’s like a real deep seated like, angsty teenager inside of me, that’s always like, Fuck the man. And BetterHelp felt like the man. And so and it felt like selling out. So there was that I didn’t want to be a sellout. It was, I don’t know, like, you know, I was raised in, I was a teenager in the 90s. And selling out was the worst thing you could be. And so that’s very embedded into my DNA. I’m also I think, and this is like, part of my, I don’t know, something ego or whatever. But like, I think TherapyDen can be even bigger than what BetterHelp is offering me, I think that it can be even more successful. So I’m like 2 million, fuck your 2 million. How about 20 million. And like, that’s what I think TherapyDen is worth. It’s not worth that. But maybe it will be eventually. And that’s what I hope, like I saying, like, you’re going to sell out, you’re going to get like, you know, shamed and I and I might not be able to create any other therapy products ever again, I might not be able to be like, be taken seriously, I was just starting to podcast at that time, I really wanted to be an authority. And I wanted to be taken seriously. And I felt like that would like really, like it was too early for me to sell out. I think there’s like a lot more good that I have that I want to contribute to the industry.
Curt Widhalm 32:13
If you’re from BetterHelp, and you’re listening, call me.
Katie Vernoy 32:20
Curt’s ready to sell us out, or just, maybe personally, you’re ready to sell out, you can still keep our stuff. Is that what you’re telling me?
Jeff Guenther 32:27
BetterHelp was also kind of breaking it down, like so will pay $300 a referral. And they make on average $1,200 per subscriber. So they’re totally willing to make that bet. And they might be making more than that, but back two or so years ago, was like, Yeah, not a bad return on investment pains. $300 to make $1,200, I think anybody would probably want that. So like, it just sort of like made financial sense to them. And, and it felt gross. And I had just a part of me that regrets it. I’m like, mostly proud of myself for not selling out.
Katie Vernoy 33:07
I think there’s a part of me that’s maybe a little Pollyanna-ish or naive, but I think there’s this. Well, if I had that kind of money, I could do a lot of real good in the world. Now, if you’ve sold yourself out, and you’ve cannibalized a really important product that you provide, or a service that you provide, I think that becomes very hard to do. So I appreciate that part of what you were saying, because I think like, well, if somebody were to give me $500,000 a month, there is so much I could do with that money. But that doesn’t matter if I’ve like basically gone to the dark side. So…
Jeff Guenther 33:45
Yeah, and I wonder how much money BetterHelp was going to give Brighter Vision. If they’re making $1,200 off one subscriber/client. How much money are they making, when they hire a therapist, a therapist is going to make is going to bring in a ton of money for them. Yeah. So Perry and Brighter Vision we’re probably getting, we’re offered like a pretty sweet partnership deal.
Katie Vernoy 34:09
So for them, they give six months free of their service, which is like $70. So…
Jeff Guenther 34:15
A month Yeah.
Katie Vernoy 34:16
Yeah. $70 a month. So…
Curt Widhalm 34:19
Katie Vernoy 34:21
So that said they were giving away $500 worth of services. So they must be getting at least $1500. Right. Like you don’t…
Jeff Guenther 34:28
At least. At the very least.
Katie Vernoy 34:30
Yeah. So it’s we don’t know, we’re purely conjecture. But
Curt Widhalm 34:36
We do have to wrap up here today. And, you know, I think this is something where Katie and I and all the time that we’ve known Jeff as well can really speak to having a values driven business model. And while that may not necessarily be it in the most rewarding way in our pocket book, when compared to some of the alternatives here. It is something where you can know that standing behind companies like TherapyDen, and Katie and myself with Therapy Reimagined, the podcast here and that we do really take the effort to look at who it is that we partner with. And in order to remain consistent to who we are. And we know Jeff is a stand up person. And really, because of this history, and knowing some of these decisions that we all make in this makes it to where, you know, we’re hoping to leave this field a better place for all of us. And we encourage you to do the same kinds of things for yourself and for the industry as well. And so, you know, in keeping with all of this stuff, how can people stay updated with what you’ve got going on Jeff?
Jeff Guenther 35:59
Yeah, they can go ahead and create a profile therapists go ahead and create a profile therapyden.com, it’s totally free, you’ll be added to the newsletter, you can contact me at email@example.com. It goes right to my inbox, I love to reply to all of those messages. They I also produce a podcast called the Swoon podcast, it’s for it’s about love and sex and relationship advice. There’s, and I want to just sort of like in this being like, yeah, there are lots of therapists and businesses that are creating value based products and services. And as therapists we can tell, like who those companies are, and I and I want you all to just say no to BetterHelp, and TalkSpace and companies like that, like they’re not serving us, and they’re changing our industry, in some of like the worst ways possible. If I would have let BetterHelp integrate their, like their listings into therapy, then then you wouldn’t have been able to filter for therapists that are queer, competent, and trans competent, you know, like they they don’t ask for that sort of information from their therapists. They don’t have that data, like the whole progressive filtering system on TherapyDen which is the heart of the website wouldn’t exist, because they don’t really care about, like figuring out competencies are asking for therapists beliefs, and values and all of the stuff that clients are really interested in right now. Sorry, that was a little bit of a soapbox, you can you should sign up for TherapyDen. It’s totally free. If you want to pay you can. You can choose to pay for your subscription. You can choose to pay $10, $20 or $30 per month or $0 a month. It’s totally up to you.
Curt Widhalm 37:46
And we’ll include links to all of Jeff’s stuff in our show notes at mtsgpodcast.com. Also check out the Therapy Reimagined Conference, it’s coming up in a hybrid format here at the end of September, and get all of the latest updates at therapyreimaginedconference.com or on our social media. And Katie and I will be presenting, we’ll have a presentation at this conference. And the focus of it is really going to be about having a practice that can be values driven and while companies like BetterHelp and TalkSpace. And all of these ones exist around us and taking lessons learned from industries like taxis and Blockbuster and helping us to not make the same kinds of mistakes. So look out for that content as well as a ton of our great speakers. Therapyreimaginedconference.com, and until next time. I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy and Jeff Guenther.
Katie Vernoy 38:44
Thanks again to our sponsor, the Healthcasters
Curt Widhalm 38:48
Wanted to tell you guys a little bit of what’s included in the Healthcasters podcasting course. It includes simple step by step videos to take your podcast from an idea to one that generates income when it launches. Also includes cheat sheets and templates Dr. Melvin Varghese uses for the Selling the Couch podcast, whether it’s scripts to reach out to guest templates to let guests know that the podcast is live. They recently released the podcast episode tracker the simple sheet helps keep your podcast episodes organized, whether you want to reference them later or repurpose them for content in the future. You can also choose to upgrade the purchase of course the community of over 250 other therapists podcasts. This includes monthly group one on one coaching calls with Melvin and you can learn more Healthcasters, it’s sellingthecouch.com/jointhehealthcasters.
Katie Vernoy 39:38
Enter the promo code ‘therapyreimagined’ at checkout for $100 off the listed price. And just a reminder that sellingthecouch.com/jointhehealthcasters.
Thank you for listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. Learn more about who we are and what we do at mtsgpodcast.com. You can also join us on Facebook and Twitter. And please don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any of our episodes.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai