Kip is using data to make therapy better for both patients and therapists

I started going to therapy about five years ago, and it was quite possibly the best decision I ever made. But at times, it was difficult to determine how much progress I was making on a week-to-week or even month-to-month basis.

Kip seeks to change that by connecting its users with qualified therapists and helping them track outcomes over time. By combining in-person therapy with a mobile app that allows patients to provide feedback on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis, the company believes it can improve the process for patients and therapists.

I spent much of the last several years doing a traditional form of talk therapy, which helped to work through relationship and work-related issues. But it took years of weekly sessions to unspool my personal history and determine how events in the past would affect how I react to current situations and interact with others, and to adjust my thinking around them.

In contrast, Kip is focused on evidence-based strategies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), where patients work toward specific goals and outcomes can be tracked over time.

“We’re making therapy better because we’re giving therapists more data,” Kip co-founder Erin Frey told me. “We saw that in order to make real changes in the process, we needed to change things from the ground up.”

To figure out how well a therapist’s approach is working, Kip provides patients with a mobile app through which they provide daily and weekly updates on their progress. That data gets shared with therapists, who can use it to adjust course as necessary.

As someone who is seeking to overcome a certain amount of anxiety and depression — and really, what human isn’t dealing with some amount of anxiety or depression — I answer a series of questions each week that tackle how much and how often those feelings impacted me over the previous several days.

There’s also a daily questionnaire that just asks for my general mood, through which I can give an update on any major happenings on a day-to-day basis. And the system is customizable, allowing therapists to track other aspects of a patient’s life. For example: I’m trying to reduce my caffeine intake, so the app asks me to input how much coffee I’ve had over the course of a day.

Generally speaking, progress is never linear, but by tracking this data over time, Kip can create a trend line for a person’s well-being over time. “Therapists are professional debuggers of your brain… The more info they have, the more they can talk about and the better they can guide a session,” Frey said.

The tools they provide to therapists go beyond just the patient’s app and the data it collects. In addition to providing a platform for tracking patient data, it also provides a place for therapists to add their own notes over time.

“One of the reasons quality is so variable is that therapists don’t have easy tools to track outcomes,” Kip co-founder Ti Zhao told me. The belief is that doing so will make therapists more efficient with their time and help them to serve more clients better.

Mental health is a space that more startups are becoming interested in, and there are already a number of mobile-only therapy apps out there. Most aim to connect people with therapists they can text or do video sessions with, enabling therapists to serve more patients and allowing patients to have more active communication with their therapists.

Kip isn’t seeking to replace or supplant in-person therapy sessions with its app. As Frey points out, there are non-verbal cues and mannerisms therapists rely on while assessing patients that are difficult to pick up on through video chats and impossible to see in text-only interactions.

That said, Kip does allow users to share their thoughts with their therapist in-between sessions, and allows therapists to respond. It also is a way for patients to note things that they’d like to talk about the next time they meet their therapists. After all, the recency bias of “what happened today or yesterday” can too often consume more time in therapy sessions than more significant events that happened earlier in the week and might not be top of mind.

Kip is currently focused on serving patients in the Bay Area, and at $165 per session it’s not cheap. The company is also sidestepping a lot of the headaches that come with accepting insurance and connecting patients with therapists that get paid through the platform. The hope, though, is that as it grows over time the company will be able to show that its therapy is more efficient than methods using less data.