We talk to Bernadette Frech about psychological online counseling via the platform instahelp.me. The Graz startup is part of the portfolio of the company builder “Up to Eleven”, which was founded by sms.at makers Martin and Jürgen Pansy. Definitely she is an innovator and a new thinker.
How do you help people with Instahelp?
If someone is not feeling well, you may be stressed or have problems with the relationship, you can go to instahelp.me online. There one can describe his request. It briefly describes how it works and is then matched with a psychologist, with which one starts directly in a psychological online consultation. We are there for everyone at any time, when things are not going so well. We have a very good network of psychologists that we can connect with people at any time.
Tell me a little bit about yourself! How long have you been at Instahelp and what is your role?
I have been managing director since 2018, but also have a lot to build on my own. I am the mother of two little boys.
Do you use your product yourself?
Yes, of course. I do not want to miss Instahelp and use it like a personal coaching. There is a lot of work related to keeping things going. We enter new paths every day with Instahelp. It is very important for me to exchange ideas and to work a little bit on myself. On the other hand, it is very exciting at home. I am a single parent with two little boys.
How does a psychologist help you online?
In any case. My workday is very busy and I am glad that I can talk to a psychologist online. On Mondays at nine o’clock in the evening is my fixed time. Because I enjoy the advantage of online consultation very much, because the access is easy and very flexible.
Is this the typical profile of your users? Would most people not go to a psychologist or use some of the instahelp as a complement?
I think that many use it in a complementary way. But I also believe that we are addressing a whole new audience, a very online affine, who seeks just that flexible access to advice anytime, anywhere.
Is that possible for any kind of psychological counseling? I think of stress at work, stress in the family. Are there limits?
The limits are on the one hand in the legal area, but also in the personal area. Legally, there is a distinction to online therapy. In Austria it is not allowed to provide therapy online. Although there are already studies from the US and Europe, which prove the effectiveness. We are still limping. Then there are personal limits. Even with the online affinity of psychologists. Psychologists need additional training.
If it is not yet legally possible to offer a therapy, then it is a conversation.
Yes exactly. We are involved in preventive consultations.
Is there then a forwarding to offline specialists?
Yes, we are well timed here. It is often an accompaniment to therapy.
Tell us about your onboarding – how to get instahelp to his psychologist?
When you come to our platform, you get a response within two minutes. We try to find out who the visitor is and what he needs and which psychologist suits this issue well. Then we make suggestions and if one of them fits one with a click in the consultation.
That’s also an exciting process for the psychologist. What are your psychologists for types?
Our psychologists are well trained. We are very selective with the psychologists because we want to take away the delicate question of where and how to find a good psychologist. All our psychologists are clinical or health psychologists. You have a postgraduate education, have at least four years of professional experience and an additional qualification in online counseling.
I can imagine that this is exciting for occupational health care. Are companies coming to you?
We are pleased that more and more companies are seeing the importance of mental health. I believe that a lot of companies already have offers for the physical health and think it’s great that you are now also making strong for the mental health in the company. Many physical symptoms such as back pain are also psychosomatic.
We already have over 20,000 employees from various companies using Instahelp. The reference companies include, for example, Trivago, Lidl or Renault. I am very pleased that we are getting more and more inbound inquiries from companies that recognize this themselves and see that we are a great fit for them.
It is very modern today that companies offer yoga classes, but what you do is actually the next level of care and collaboration in the corporate environment.
I also see it that way and think it’s nice to see the human being as a whole. With all its emotions that also take place in the work environment. We are surrounded by emotions. We learn to suppress them, but we have to learn to live with them, to deal with them and to benefit them. Anger can be a full driver to start change. To welcome a person with all his feelings in a company, I find very modern and good.
You studied Emotions Management in London. What does that mean? You’re not a psychologist, you’re dealing with psychology. Is this economy?
I did my PhD in the field. I looked at what emotions are triggered in the customer, so that the customer sets very proactive actions, so almost altruistic actions that benefit the company. This is very exciting for startups. Why would a customer use his own money to co-finance product development? There are also rational factors, but it is, of course, the emotions that decide it.
You have a broad education, you work at the FH Johanneum, and then you have come to the Graz startup ecosystem Up to Eleven. Instahelp was created there. Are you the founder, or CEO by Design?
I am a passionate designer. By your definition I am a CEO by Design. Instahelp was founded in the Company Builder of Up to Eleven. There, on the one hand Nuki, the contactless door lock, and on the other hand Instahelp. Both startups have developed very rapidly, and then both needed full power. That’s where I came into play. I then took the lead role at Instahelp.
Company Building is about building an idea with the right people to startup. Also in my history, it often happened that the founders said: We need a CEO who does the whole thing. This is a phenomenon that the startup world needs, it’s not always the three guys from the garage who drive the product into the market. How is your business going?
We are already active in five markets, namely in the DACH area and since the beginning of 2018 also in England and France.
And it’s going so well that you do not need investment?
(laughs) Of course we need investment, too. We are in the process of completing a round of financing, and by 2020 we will have a big round.
Are there other companies that also follow the platform idea for online consulting?
Yes, of course there are. In the DACH area, we are the leading platform for psychological counseling. Competitors are already coming from Germany. The main competition comes from the UK and the UK, which are several years ahead of the subject. Especially in the US, psychological counseling is a lifestyle issue.
We met several times before, and you always had a suitcase with you. How is your workload currently?
(laughs) Better not ask. The workload is high, it is easy to make many contacts when setting up a business, and accordingly, I have a lot of travel. Today it goes straight to Munich, and I’m always prepared with all the documents. The workload is high, but that’s a good thing. I feel very alive when there is much to do and I do it with great pleasure. All my activities, both as mom and as CEO, make a lot of sense. They do a lot of work, but also bring a lot of joy.
Sense as energy for work?
Yes, I think that’s fine with Instahelp, that it makes sense, and that motivates me a lot. That’s a big motivator of my doing.
What are your three tips for people to master mental stress and stress in everyday life?
You should look at the individual components. So once the physical. Of course you should move, sport is always great. One should pay attention to the leisure activities. At work you should set goals again and again. You should dare to dream big, but you should also set small goals. And it is also important to celebrate these goals. You can even pat yourself on the back once a week for what you did. The third is in the social sphere. You should always take the communication seriously and also stay behind it when something does not fit in the professional environment. You have to stay in communication with the people surrounding you. And no matter how strong you are, you should always accept help. Then the circle closes to Instahelp. If you can not talk to friends, you can do that very well with professional support.
Also published on Medium.