Make It

Online therapy start-up sees a 7-fold spike in traffic after Trump victory

Protestors gather outside Trump Tower In New York City on November 13, 2016 in New York City.
John Lamparski | Getty Images
Protestors gather outside Trump Tower In New York City on November 13, 2016 in New York City.

Online therapy start-up Talkspace can barely keep up with the increase in demand. Requests for mental health consultations have gone up seven-fold since about 7:00 pm on election night in the United States.

Co-founder Oren Frank woke up on Wednesday, November 9, to one of the busiest days he has had since launching the online therapy company in 2012. (Originally called Talktala, the startup officially launched as Talkspace two years later.)

As voters watched the election results roll in, they started texting their therapists.

Talkspace provides services via text message and online video with a network of 1,000 licensed therapists in 48 states. Text-only therapy plans start at $32 a week for unlimited messaging. That's much less expensive than more traditional, in-person therapy.

Talkspace's management team can track service use on a minute-by-minute basis. The week before the election, Frank saw a steady rise in traffic. Between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm on November 8, Talkspace saw traffic spike. And that growth is still sustained as of today, Frank wrote in an email to CNBC.

The team is struggling to keep up.

"As you can see this is very painful and stressful, and very, very serious. We're trying to get help to as many people as possible but unfortunately because of the load our response time is a little slower then usual," Frank says.

Talkspace therapists responsible for matching therapists on the platform with users say "the vast majority of this traffic" is in response to the election.

A majority of the surge in therapy services are coming from residents of the New York tri-state region, who mostly voted Democratic in the election and would be more likely to be upset by the election results. But almost 20 percent of the traffic Talkspace has seen since the election is from residents of areas outside the blue tri-state region, including red states.


"people are very aware that this is a long term concern and problem which won't go away soon." -Oren Frank, Talkspace co-founder

Talkspace users' fears of the future include concrete concerns, like how they explain the election results to their children and how will they manage to have healthcare coverage if Obamacare is repealed. They also include more existential feelings, such as a loss of hope and a fear that equality and gender issues will become more trying in a country run by Donald Trump.

"Interestingly, people are very aware that this is a long term concern and problem which won't go away soon, and this is a big burden," says Frank.

Several Talkspace therapists have provided CNBC with anonymous feedback about what they are hearing from clients.

"I have had about a handful of clients express fear and profound sadness about the election. Two of them, men, said they shed tears and feel hopeless," says one therapist.

"A handful of my clients reached out last night and today with feelings of stress and many of my female clients who are struggling with anxiety and self esteem issues have stated that they have been tearful and feel devalued due to the underlying message the election has sent," says another.

"I had 27 clients expressing serious concerns over the election," says a third. "One reports that he was bedridden because of his severe anxiety related to the election. Some are reporting that they drank to relieve their stress and anxiety. Most of my clients concerns are related to: access to healthcare, lowered wages, discrimination, fears of our country being invaded, being physically harmed because they are members of minority groups, and general sense of hopelessness."

Talkspace team at Brooklyn PRIDE Parade this summer.
Courtesy of Talkspace
Talkspace team at Brooklyn PRIDE Parade this summer.

In particular, the Talkspace community has seen a dramatic rise in fear among the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community. "We specifically see increased need for help from the LGBTQ community. Future marriage and acceptance concerns on top of the anxiety, and many of our therapists are LGBTQ and suffer from the same concerns," says Frank.

"The client who spoke about it is a gay man who has been in a relationship and married for a few years. He expressed that he was frightened about what Trump's election would mean," a therapist reports.

"My LGBTQ clients are talking of the fear of losing rights such as marriage protections/benefits. Fear of violence. Trans client have expressed concern about losing access to healthcare that is affirming. There is obviously a lot of shock and anger as well," says another.

"Huge impact here in Philly. Lots of fear, trauma-reactions, unsettledness, a GIANT step backwards for LGBT rights. Lots of people are frightened for LGBTQ youth, especially trans teens," says a third.

The emotional triggers that have caused a spike in Talkspace's traffic aren't likely to dissipate. The coming weeks, months, and even years are likely to be tumultuous. The American Psychological Association released a quick guide for decreasing stress in the political election season, and the advice remains applicable: Go for a walk outside, take a break from constant conversations about the election, and volunteer for a cause that means something to you.