Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Superpow will connect users seeking mental health support with specialists of similar cultural backgrounds. The two co-founders of the app have both faced mental health challenges in the past. They want to destroy the stigma around the subject and offer a multicultural service.
Lifting up the barriers in Digital Mental Health
London, UK - September 2020 - Superpow!, a new platform that offers online therapy services via videoconferencing, today announced the upcoming launch of the app. The platform has a totally new approach in the Digital Mental Health field: TAKES DIVERSITY INTO ACCOUNT. When started working on their project, the two co-founders had one goal in mind: to get rid of as many of the factors that stop people accessing mental health support. This can be seen in every characteristic of Superpow!: design, logo, user interface, accessibility.
The Road to Superpow!
What determined the two co-founders of Superpow! to start the work on this project is their own experiences in overcoming mental health challenges. It all started back in 2014, when Andrei was living in Los Angeles and started developing symptoms of an eating disorder. “Looking back, I cannot believe that I went through that. I was simply scared not to gain weight and I was refusing to eat. It sounds unreal now, but my mind managed to convince me that is normal to live that kind of lifestyle.” - Andrei Stoica, co-founder. Andrei eventually started face-to-face therapy with a few specialists but it didn’t really help. It was the first time he was living abroad and working with international people, in an unfamiliar environment - the connection was not there. He only started to feel better and overcome these challenges when he returned back to Europe, and without professional support.
“We are lifting up the barriers we personally had to face in the past so others do not have to come across the same obstacles when seeking mental health support, no matter where they are from” - Andrei & Gabriel, co-founders of Superpow!
Later in 2018 and while living in London, after a few months of feeling deeply anxious in certain situations, Andrei decided to start face-to-face therapy via the NHS (National Health System) in the UK. “It was not comfortable at all to go to the hospital every week to get the support I needed, to wait in the waiting room among others, some with serious issues. I remember that I was constantly comparing myself with the others, scared not to develop more serious mental issues.”- Andrei Stoica, co-founder. Unfortunately this service did not help either. Andrei felt again that it was impossible for the professional to picture his childhood or to understand the issues Andrei might had faced at an earlier age. This determined Andrei in 2019 to try one of the online therapy providers available on the market. “I think I tried several apps and online platforms, and tried to match with a professional, but I was only able to find US based counsellors - it just didn’t feel right.” - Andrei, co-founder.
By this time Andrei was convinced that finding a specialist from his native country may be the solution. This is how he found a local platform with specialists based in Romania. Andrei has never had to change his therapist since. “It was finally so easy to open up to my therapist. I no longer had to give short cultural lessons about Romania or search for that world which bests describes my feeling. This experience was life changing for me.” - Andrei, co-founder. Later on in 2019, Andrei’s good friend, and now colleague, Gabriel, started to experience depression, anxiety and low self esteem and was recommended the same Romanian online platform. “To be honest, even before Andrei mentioned to me about this platform, I had thought about seeking professional support but I did not take action, I am still not sure why. Probably I was one of those who thinks that therapy is for people with severe conditions. But when Andrei suggested me this platform, it was easier for me to accept that I needed professional support. It was easy, I could do it from my room, without having to change 3 trains and take time off work to get to my therapist. It was easy for my therapist to see why I was experiencing that low self esteem or why I was limiting myself in terms of future expectations.” - Gabriel Birgaoanu, co-founder.
At the beginning of 2020 Gabriel, decided to move to Spain, leaving his job at the time and giving notice for the flat he used to live. Due to Covid-19 pandemic, Gabriel’s one-way flight got cancelled in March and during the lockdown he started thinking about what encouraged him to start online therapy the previous year. “In London everybody is from everywhere, so a multicultural app for online therapy would be just what it needs. It’s incredible to think that this type of service does not exist. We were lucky to find this small platform back home, but why does everybody have to go down this path, and what if there is no similar service in some countries where Mental Health is 100% a tabu subject? We are not saying that everyone needs mental health support from a specialist of the same cultural background. Some might feel the opposite. But at least we want to give people the chance to choose.” - Gabriel, co-founder.
Superpow! Name and Theme
The name and the theme of Superpow! came up based on Andrei and Gabriel’ approach since the beginning: "To make it as less clinical as possible." The reference to comic books is a reflection of the analogy between looking after your mental health and having a superpower. The name Superpow! relates to the statement that “We all have the superpower to overcome mental health challenges and we are all our own superheroes.” Why non-clinical approach? “It is true that we received some feedbacks such as: ‘Mental Health is such a serious matter, you can’t just play with it’. Our theme does not mean that we are not serious about the subject, or that our specialists will not be carefully selected. In an effort to reduce stigma, we did not want to use any medical related content, such as the usual brain icon, depressing images or SOS logo on our app.” - Gabriel, co-founder.
Superpow! is easy to use, especially the matching process. After responding to 5 multiple-choice questions, users will be able to see a list of therapists and their details. After selecting one of them, the first session can already be booked from that therapist’s calendar. Andrei and Gabriel said that this is exactly the process they needed in the past: not 20+ uncomfortable questions about your feelings, followed by a long waiting time to be matched with a professional and then another few days until you manage to book an appointment. “The waiting time before you are matched with a therapist is crucial. In 48 hours you can change your mind 10 times whether you need support or not.” - Andrei, co-founder.
Another key feature Superpow! will imp