Imagine telling your darkest, most personal secrets to a computer screen. That is what your therapy sessions might look like if you sign up to the brand new online therapy platform Pretty Padded Room.com. While, at first thought, the concept of digital therapy might seem like just one more symptom of a computer co-dependent and socially disconnected society, the intention is anything but. “I want to break down every barrier that keep people from going to therapy,” says Bea Arthur, Pretty Padded Room’s founder, “Therapy is expensive, it takes up a lot of time and it’s hard to find the right counselor. There’s also some stigma around it still. I want to offer an alternative that is easy, affordable, accessible and anonymous.” But can video chats with an online therapist offer the same experience as being physically present with your shrink? No, says Arthur, and that’s not the point. “It will never replace going to a therapist’s office. But it’s a less intimidating way to introduce therapy to people who may not gotten help otherwise.”
Pretty Padded Room’s (in case the name hasn’t tipped you off yet) services are exclusively offered for women by women providers. A team of five therapists specialize in different issues such as eating disorders, motherhood and stress management. Arthur believes that it’s important to encourage women to get help from other women, for several reasons. “ I like the idea of women taking better care of each other,” she says, “The reality is that a lot of women have issues with other women. I want to build a community of support.” The other reason is that the problems that women typically struggle with, such as body image and post partum depression, are highly stigmatized and notoriously difficult to ask for help with. Online therapy is both discreet and accessible.
Pretty Padded Room is based on monthly memberships, and offers three different therapy plans. The least expensive is the Digital Diary, where the patient corresponds with a therapist via an online journal three times a month for $50. Basic membership offers four 30-minute online video sessions and one journal consult, while the priciest plan, the bonus membership, includes four 45-minute sessions and three journal consults. (That’s still less than one live session with most Manhattan shrinks.) You get one free try-out session and you can switch therapists and plans anytime.
Think about how awkward online dating seemed 10 years ago. Now, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if Pretty Padded Room ends up being the mental health equivalent of match.com.