Written by Stuart Foxman
For people dealing with mental health challenges like depression or anxiety, the right therapy can be a beacon of hope. That’s the goal of Sam Duboc, CEO of MindBeacon Group (mindbeacon.com).
His firm is behind BEACON, a way to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) privately and securely via smartphone, tablet or computer. CBT is a clinically-proven method to improve mood and reduce anxiety, typically within weeks. Now, Duboc is making it accessible at your fingertips.
“It’s digital psychology, in most cases as effective as in-person therapy with none of the barriers,” says Duboc.
As Duboc notes, 1 in 5 Canadian adults will struggle with their mental health this year. In any given week, 500,000 Canadians miss work due to a mental health issue.
Despite the high prevalence, an estimated 2 of 3 Canadians facing mental health concerns don’t seek professional help. Some of the major reasons: stigma, cost, the time constraints that accompany face-to-face therapy, and the unavailability of qualified therapists.
BEACON removes those obstacles. Users complete an online assessment to help identify the best care path. Then a registered therapist creates and modifies a personalized course of therapy, which people can access quickly. It brings CBT to them at their convenience.
CBT teaches people that, while they can’t control every aspect of the world around them, they can develop ways to control how they interpret and deal with stressors. Having those skills to manage how we feel can positively affect our emotional health.
Throughout, users have required readings and assignments, and can regularly message a dedicated therapist who tracks progress. The therapist can adjust a care path based on each individual’s response to therapy, the completion of activities and online communications.
The model for BEACON is business-to-business, with the service marketed to companies and institutions. “We’re filling a gap where employee assistance programs stop,” says Duboc.
The cost of CBT through BEACON is up to 80% less than traditional psychological therapy, making treatment much more cost-effective to employers. BEACON is fully reimbursable through employer insurance. Many employers buy it up front so employees never see a bill.
Duboc’s firm provides client organizations with anonymized, aggregate-level reports on usage and effectiveness rates.
The data also shows BEACON’s impact on organizational wellness. Mental health issues are a huge contributor to absenteeism, presenteesim (at work, but less productive), turnover and disability costs. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, mental health is the number one cause of disability claims in Canada.
MindBeacon Group was originally a leading provider of CBT and other evidence-based therapies through a network of clinics across the Greater Toronto Area. In 2011, Duboc himself experienced a bad bout of depression. After he recovered, he talked to his wife, Claire, the firm’s managing director, about making CBT more accessible. The clinical practice expanded. Then the company introduced BEACON as an in-clinic innovation, before launching it in 2017 as a fully digitally-delivered experience.
Duboc has a long history of entrepreneurship. He built EdgeStone Capital Partners, one of Canada's leading private equity firms, and was co-founder of the Loyalty Group Inc., which was the parent company of the AIR MILES reward program.
As a self-described serial entrepreneur, he has some advice for those who want to start a company. Most fail, and those that hit the top quickly are few. “The number one indicator of success and survival,” he says, “is setting yourself up for a very long game – financially, emotionally and physically.”
Photo credit Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real