WebPsychology: Driving Up Innovative Treatment Efforts in Mental Healthcare
How did a successful technology executive become a psychologist running an innovative health company? Michael LeBlond had a 20+ year career with companies like Apple, where one of his key roles was Director of Technology Licensing. He joined WebEx as VP Business Development when they were an advancing start-up. Over his four years there,WebEx grew from $2 million to $200 million, including a successful IPO with Goldman Sachs. Over time and his twenty+ years of working in technology and Internet companies, Michael felt it was time to shift his life from a focus on success to significance and giving back, and from a technology career to helping individuals who are often sidelined in our society because of mental illness.
With a vision to bring a positive impact to our society, in his 50’s he decided to complete his PhD in Psychology. A successful corporate executive now took the most challenging job of his career – to leave his career behind and follow his principles to become a psychologist. His heart was to help prevent mental illness from affecting the lives of people, and improve an individual’s wellness journey with modern care.
Today, now as Dr. LeBlond, he is the founder of WebPsychology (www.webpsychology.com), a company working to improve the lives of individuals who suffer from depression and other mental health issues. “As a psychologist, I learned I could have a positive impact on individuals. However, socially I continually encountered individuals who needed help but were not getting any. So, nagging at me was the question: as a profession are we reaching enough people? The answer was no. So, I founded WebPsychology.”
Dr. LeBlond was correct in assessing the potential of integrating technology with psychology to help more individuals who needed mental health support. He drew upon his experiences from Apple. “I was working at Apple’s HQ, when Steve Jobs launched his ‘Think Different’ campaign, and dropped a six-story banner of Albert Einstein off our building facing Hy 280. “I knew it would take thinking different to develop a model to make an impact. It was also clear to me that our profession with thousands of caring individuals was doing some great work helping many,” he explained. Yet, a report by SAMSHA (2014) validated Dr. LeBlond’s vision, indicating that only 44.7% of those with a mental illness were getting the help they needed. It was clear the existing model, good as it was, could not scale to meet the needs of the remaining 55.3% who were not getting help. Given his technology background, Dr. LeBlond well understood how technology could play a pivotal role in bringing a new change in our society.
Dr. LeBlond resolved to find a way to integrate the best of evidenced based psychology with technology. “This was a natural blend of my background, and where I encountered Computer-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. We know that computer-based learning has been around since the 1980’s, and today is used very effectively. We also know the influence the Internet can have in changing an individual’s behavior for the better or worse,” explains Dr. LeBlond. By integrating technology with evidence based psychology, WebPsychology has developed a solution to provide individuals with self-paced, scientifically based tools in their journey to healing and better. This solution integrated information for education and tools for transformation. “We complemented our website with what I believe to be the richest source of information on depression on any website I’ve found by hiring two research psychologists from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center’s Depression Center to write comprehensive depression content for us.” expressed Dr. LeBlond.
Considering the four reasons that hinder individuals from gaining the mental help they need — cost, access, stigma, and motivation, Dr. LeBlond has fervently spoken about enabling low cost solutions. Hence, he created a Depression Path that is accessible to anyone like a Netflix, for only $9.95 per month. In this Depression Path— a solution solely designed for the people who fight against depression, the company has integrated videos and animations to help people learn and navigate their path through difficult situations. “We have created 5 Tracks for people to follow (see side panel). Within it we integrated 7 videos and 12 animations to help people learn and navigate their Path. By the end they will have learned how to change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors for the better, complemented with a toolbox full of tools they selected to continually reinforce their learning,” explains Dr. LeBlond.
WebPsychology’s core strength lies in the heart of its mission to help those with mental illness that don’t get the help they need. Dr. LeBlond says, “Our future is held by the present and how well we execute on our business model. Consistent and continually successful execution today will help secure our future, within which I have several more Paths I’d like to create. We are also preparing for a new round of funding”.