I worked on this series for a story on The Verge that details the way the texting-based therapy app TalkSpace operates. Like many of the new app-based businesses out there promising to "disrupt" the old way of doing things, it's not without its problems. Namely, the fact that the people who sign up for the app and text with the platform's licensed therapists are completely anonymous to those therapists. A setup that becomes problematic when the patient informs his or her therapist of suicidal thoughts, urges to hurt someone else, or any behavior that can put someone in danger.
Not only is it unsafe for the patient (or the person they are threatening to harm), but it's also required by law that the therapist notify law enforcement. Impossible under the current, anonymous arrangement. Aside from this, the article also covers the unfair labor practices the company engages in (similar to other disruptors like Uber), such as treating the therapists as employees, with regard to pay structure and work schedules, while refusing to provide employee benefits like health insurance and social security.
Meanwhile, regulators are looking at the TalkSpace business model in an attempt to figure out just what exactly the app is: a simple texting platform for people and therapists to connect, or something closer to a clinic that directly employs licensed therapists, thus requiring a whole different kind of operation. One that is required to follow the rules that all healthcare outfits are bound by.
Thank you to Michael!