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How We’re Building a Directory People Can Trust

woman eating takeout food and looking at laptop

Think back to the last time you ordered takeout. 

You probably went to a service platform like Seamless or Yelp to search for restaurants. You put in a few search criteria to help you narrow down your options–maybe cost, cuisine, and estimated delivery time. With just a few clicks you were able to choose a restaurant and place your order. It probably took less than an hour for your food to arrive. The overall process was quick and relatively easy.

Now imagine if finding mental health support could be this easy. 

Right now finding mental health services looks more like this: a help-seeker asks their friends, family, insurance, or PCP for a “restaurant” (i.e., service provider) to look into. The help-seeker has limited knowledge of what “cuisines” (i.e., types of support) exist and most of the options they find are $$$ and $$$$. The “delivery time” to an appointment can be weeks to months. And, a lot of the time, an order can’t even be placed because of incorrect information or outdated listings.

At Therapy4thePeople, we’re trying to make it as easy to find affordable care as it is to order a pizza. 

One way that we’re doing this is by providing help-seekers with accurate and up-to-date information. Our Regional Ambassadors program is key to our success.

The Regional Ambassadors Program

The program, led by co-founder Dani Adams with assistance from Natalie Hong, was launched in October 2021. The idea was to develop an internal team of local experts to serve as liaisons between Therapy4thePeople and communities in each region. 

Our wonderful first cohort of Regional Ambassadors (Harlee Onovbiona, Ilana Ander, Monica Estrada, and Sasha Zabelski) is composed of current or aspiring graduate students in mental health fields. Their focus so far has been on growing the number of service listings in their region.  Since the launch of the program, our directory has grown by over 500 listings, thanks to their hard work.

Building a high-quality directory one listing at a time

To find services to add to our directory, our Regional Ambassadors search publicly available databases, such as the Uniform Data System from the Health Resources & Service Administration (HRSA) or Chicago’s Purple Binder. They then verify the publicly available information and gather more by calling the clinic. (Some resources, like online chat services, don’t typically require this step.)

Unfortunately, our team has found that even government directories have errors and outdated listings.

Calling clinics directly helps us avoid replicating these errors in our directory. And, as Dani notes, by calling clinics directly our Regional Ambassadors are “getting a closer understanding of what help-seekers would be experiencing when they call.”

After obtaining information about services, our Regional Ambassadors add the listings to our directory to be approved by Samantha Nau (spotlighted in this month’s newsletter!) and other members of the Directory Team. Lastly, Regional Ambassadors email service providers about their listings and encourage providers to claim them so they can edit the information as needed.

Building a directory this way means that we’re growing it more slowly, but that’s something we’re proud of. We’re putting quality over quantity. 

Ensuring that our listings stay accurate

Starting this month, our Regional Ambassadors team is launching a quality assurance process that will ensure that our listings provide up-to-date information about each service. Unlike other directories that become obsolete within a year, we’re proactively taking steps to keep our listings relevant.

Help-seekers who’ve encountered multiple directories with inaccuracies may not be inclined to trust ours. We hope that our diligence with listing verification and transparency about our process can help us earn their trust.

And, we hope to give them a search experience just as good as the one that got them their last delivery order.

Thank you for supporting us in this work.

This edition of Progress Notes was first published in our monthly newsletter. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter and get access to Progress Notes a week before it goes live on our website.

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