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A company called BreakThrough just launched at the TechCrunch50 event. First appearing to be a sort of Avvo for therapists, it proved to be more than just a search engine. In a nutshell, it offers telephone and video conferencing (via Skype) to therapy patients.

At first this “tele-therapy” brings up many questions, such as the efficacy of conducting sessions remotely. The company, grilled on stage by judges like Tim O’Reilly and Kevin Rose, did a good job answering some of these questions, backed up by lots of data. It mostly seeks to complement live therapy rather than replace it.

For example, an underserved need exists if you consider half of new therapy patients drop out after a few sessions due to embarrassment or inconvenience. Meanwhile, one in four individuals suffer from some form of mental illness and two-thirds of these don’t get care — many rural areas don’t have any access to proper care. Addressable markets also include AA members, disabled veterans and prison systems.

There could also be a business case for therapists themselves, given the supporting data that they’ve increased patient retention rates by 50 percent to 90 percent with tele-therapy. The service will let them advertise on a free searchable landing page that includes their information and credentials. Upsells include appointment scheduling, and other transactional features like money back guarantees and consultation offers.

The company also claims to screen therapists with standard quality bars like license requirements or membership to the American Psychological Association. There is only so much you can learn in a 10-minute demo but we’ll continue to vet the company and the value it could bring.

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