Gathering the courage to admit you’d benefit from therapy and finding your first therapist can be a tremendous ordeal. Having worked in mental health in some capacity, whether in community or corporate mental health, since 2006, Deondra Crudup witnessed significant care gaps in people being able to access counseling.
“I’ve learned that people are just scared of therapy,” Crudup said. “They don’t know much about it so they tend not to access it. People can’t afford it so money is an issue, and then also just being able to get started is a problem for people. So just through my own lived experiences, I said O.K., enough is enough. I really want to provide people the space to be able to get the care they need.”
What getting people the care they need looks like is a mental health platform called Counsel Connect. Raleigh-based Counsel Connect links therapists and clients by allowing counselors to create profiles, setting up a bio that includes their rates as well as their specialties. Clients can similarly put in their preferences and find a therapist to schedule with via the platform.
Initially, Crudup started a general wellness platform in 2018 but then pivoted based on her expertise in mental health.
Counsel Connect, which is currently bootstrapped but recently secured a MICRO grant from NC IDEA worth $10K, will officially begin beta testing in July for North Carolina residents. Crudup said the platform is 95% complete.
The business model is commission-based, receiving 20% of any booking made through the platform.
Counsel Connect addresses the economic gap in accessing therapy by keeping rates below the national average. Crudup said the national average is between $60 and $120 per session, but on Counsel Connect, all providers are between $40 and $100.
“My goal is to literally change the world,” Crudup said. “I really, really want people, our country, our world to just be better because people are healing their minds and their hearts. Healthy people, happy people just create happier environments, and so my goal is to provide access and make therapy so easy and so normalized that people will just go there if they’re having a difficult time to find a solution and get the help they need.”
The solution of Counsel Connect has come a long way since Crudup began the endeavor more than two years ago. She didn’t come from a web developing background and so had to teach herself how to build a website.
“It started from literally an idea and me just using trial and error—doing this, trying that, realizing it does not work,” Crudup said. “So it’s grown tremendously from where I had nothing, to now where I have a fully functioning mental health platform where people can just access services.”
Starting a business before a pandemic can be difficult, but Crudup said it hasn’t directly affected Counsel Connect. If anything, mental health needs have been increasingly highlighted during the pandemic within a culture that has become more isolated and stressed.
“Since everything’s happened with the pandemic,” Crudup said, “it shows there’s a need.”