Today we’d like to introduce you to Alex Katz.
Hi Alex, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I started Two Chairs with the mission of building a world where everyone has access to exceptional mental health care. We started in the Bay Area and have now expanded to LA with a team of LA-based therapists serving clients through teletherapy and with in person clinics when it’s safe to reopen. It’s easy to connect the dots between my time consulting in healthcare and founding a mental health care company, but what it really boils down to is that I saw a problem with our mental healthcare system—one that so many people in America face—and set out to fix it. In our fragile moments, we need our healthcare system to be at its most accessible and welcoming. No one should feel trapped with a therapist they don’t connect with, and more importantly, it should be far easier to navigate the mental healthcare system in the first place.
Before consulting, I graduated from Stanford, where I met my long-term partner. She found herself in a tough situation several years ago when she was doing work that she loved as an elementary school teacher but was really struggling and decided to seek out help. It was what came next that really opened my eyes to the depth and complexity of the issues in our mental healthcare system. Her process of finding a therapist involved sifting through a list of poorly-populated provider profiles found on her insurance company’s website, making phone calls and running into full answering machines or no availability, and hearing back from virtually no one. Not to mention the black box of types of therapy, types of therapists, and which are most effective for different diagnoses. Once she finally identified a therapist who could see her within a reasonable timeframe, it ended up not being a good match, essentially negating the hours of dedication it took to find someone at all. For six months, she showed up for weekly sessions and saw barely any progress. This was the crux of the issue, from my perspective. I couldn’t stop thinking about this and wanted to figure out how to fix the system not only for my partner but for everyone. That’s why I started Two Chairs.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Early on, I sought counsel and partnership from therapists who were equally frustrated with the flaws in our mental healthcare system. Together we identified the critical points of frustration and friction in the system and set out to address them. The first thing we wanted to solve was the matching problem – finding the ideal therapist for each individual. We knew this was a pain point for both clients and therapists. We’ve spent the last three years developing and refining a matching process grounded in research that identifies and combines the ingredients of a successful therapeutic alliance—considering the client’s needs, goals, symptoms, and personality to pinpoint a therapist with the right background, style, and area of expertise. Decades of clinical psychology research demonstrate that the therapeutic alliance, or the relationship between the client and therapist, is one of the strongest predictors of successful outcomes individual therapy, so we put great care and attention into these matches. Our clients appreciate this thoughtful, personalized approach.
One client shared with us: “The questions and conversation before Two Chairs recommended a therapist resulted in a perfect match. I had tried once before to see a therapist (recommended by a friend) and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was very uncomfortable with trying again, but Two Chairs made it immediately comfortable and I continue to be comfortable with my therapist.” Another client shared, “I’ve had great success at Two Chairs. I was matched with an amazing therapist who I saw for some time and then she recommended me for another therapist as I evolved to need a different kind of care. I’ve really connected with both of these matches and appreciated the professionalism of all involved. Including the help over the phone when I had questions about insurance!” Another big barrier to care is navigating the unwieldy world of insurance. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky. It can be a headache for clients to try to get reimbursed for sessions. At Two Chairs, we want to take the stress out of this process so our clients can focus on their care. We submit insurance claims on behalf of our clients and answer any logistical questions that come up throughout their care. By taking this burden off of clients (and our therapists!), they are able to focus on what really matters—the therapy itself.
To provide the highest quality of care for clients and a positive, supportive environment for our therapists, we decided from the beginning that our clinical team would be full-time, W2 employees of Two Chairs. We are especially motivated to continue lessening the administrative load on therapists that has plagued the field of psychology for decades. We believe there’s a huge opportunity to improve the quality of care in mental health by building great tools alongside our therapists. We believe that great tools can dramatically increase the quality of care and should augment therapists — not interrupt or impede them. We’ve always been proponents of the in-person format for therapy. Our thoughtfully-designed clinic spaces break the mold of “traditional” therapy offices and help clients reimagine what therapy can be. We aim to design spaces with details that celebrate the individual identities and journeys of our client community. After opening our first clinic doors in the Financial District of San Francisco in August 2017, we have continued to expand. We now have a diverse team of over 70 highly-trained therapists and eight brick-and-mortar clinics across the Bay Area. In March of 2020, our team was preparing for our first clinic opening in Los Angeles. Then, the pandemic hit. Shifting our services from primarily in-person to fully virtual sessions—overnight—was a feat. But with a herculean effort from our team, we were able to maintain continuity of care for our clients during one of the most challenging times in this nation’s recent history and even extend our offering to the entire state of California.
Our ability to remain adaptable has helped us meaningfully support our clients through this unprecedented time and continue chipping away at the barriers individuals face when considering therapy. What’s more, our teletherapy offering has been very well received by clients and our therapists. One client told us, “I can’t imagine where I’d be mentally in this current situation without it!” We’ve found that many of our clients appreciate the convenience and comfort of teletherapy and even when clinics can safely reopen, they’d like to continue with virtual care. We are excited to be opening our physical doors in Los Angeles later this year, but our plan is to let clients choose in-person sessions, ongoing teletherapy, or a mix of both to truly meet them where they are. Our LA clinics are under the leadership of Clinical Director and Los Angeles-native Baaba Hawthorne, LMFT. Baaba’s penchant for leading teams, her affinity for the Los Angeles community, and her passion for delivering empathetic, transformative care to clients are just some of the reasons we’re excited to have her as our first Clinical Director in LA. Her team has already been serving the vibrant Los Angeles community virtually for almost a year. Baaba shared, “Given the current pandemic, as well as the growing racial tensions in our country, quality mental health services are needed now more than ever. People need to know that there is support out there for them, especially people of color. I want people who look like me to not be afraid to ask for help.”
Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
We care deeply about breaking the stigma that exists for mental health. In our society, the idea of being mentally “unwell” is terrifying, and for a long time, there was no better way to alienate yourself than to say that you were in therapy. I’ve felt this stigma myself at times, even as a founder of a mental health care company and knowing that close to half of all entrepreneurs suffer from at least one mental illness. Despite this statistic and being able to rationally understand the daily pressures of my work, it was still challenging for me to take the first step. But I’m so glad I did. The support of a therapist has been invaluable for me.
In my role as the founder, I hold the vision for a relationship-focused, approachable, and effective therapy solution and show up for my team day in and day out so we can consistently deliver high-quality care. And—at the risk of using a cheesy adage—you can’t fill from an empty cup. At Two Chairs, we believe that the lack of open discussion reinforces stigma and is a significant barrier to accessing care. Everyone has mental health, so our aim is to make therapy sessions as commonplace as doctor appointments. For most people, recent times have been characterized by racial injustice issues, political divisiveness, uncertainty, isolation, and change from our normal lives. As we work towards our mission of building a world where everyone has access to exceptional mental health care, we hope to help our country heal and rebuild through the life-changing practice of psychotherapy.
- Our initial matching appointment with a licensed therapist is $169
- Ongoing therapy is $195 per session.
- Two Chairs is currently an out of network provider. Our Care Coordination provides our clients with personalized support including walking through their insurance coverage options and in many cases, submitting claims on their behalf.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.twochairs.com
- Instagram: @twochairstherapy
- Facebook: @TwoChairs
- Twitter: @twochairsMH
- Other: (415) 202-5159
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