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Teletherapy company Talkspace announced Monday that president and chief operating officer Mark Hirschhorn had resigned. The surprising turn of events for this heavily investor-funded company follows an internal review of Hirschhorn’s conduct. In a press release, Talkspace described Hirschhorn’s resignation as effective immediately. They also explained that the company’s executive team would handle his responsibilities. This Talkspace review for professionals examines this Mark Hirschhorn resignation in light of news related to Talkspace’s primarily text-based interventions over time and asks you, the reader, to share your thoughts and experience of Talkspace or another text-based, consumer behavioral service.
Context of Mark Hirschhorn’s Invovlement with Talkspace
Hirschhorn was hired by Talkspace in February 2020 after resigning from Teladoc Health in 2018, shortly after the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation released a report alleging he had given stock tips to an employee with whom he was having an affair. Teledoc investors had filed a class-action lawsuit against Teladoc, Hirschhorn, and the company’s CEO. The investors alleged insider trading and that the employee in question had received undeserved promotions.
Teladoc denied the insider trading allegations, saying its investigation had only found violations of its workplace relationship policy. The case was dismissed in late September.
Other Talkspace Resignations Last Week
The Hirschhorn Talkspace resignation came a week after Talkspace’s co-founders stepped down from their positions at Talkspace. CEO Oren Frank, and head of clinical services Roni Frank will remain as Strategic Advisors to the Board for the next six months.
Before delving into a Talkspace review from the perspective of the licensed professional, let’s glance at the numbers to see what’s happening: text-based therapy is big business. Talkspace went public in June of 2021. Last week, Talkspace also announced its financial report for the quarter ended Sept. 30, with $26.4 million in net revenue, a 23% year-over-year increase. However, Talkspace’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) show a loss of $20.8 million. Nonetheless, according to Rock Health’s quarterly report, the company has collected an astounding $3.1 billion in investor dollars in 2021 alone.
It may interest the reader to know that up to one-third of a traditional startup’s operating budget is often allocated to marketing and advertising. It is conceivable then that with perhaps a billion dollars of advertising (more or less), a company can position itself in many of the world’s key digital venues to successfully attract consumers. While it is impossible to know how much Talkspace spends on marketing and advertising, it is easy to see at least some of the results. Try searching any of the Talkspace article titles mentioned below without the link. Just copy and paste the title into any search engine. Notice what comes up first. Those first entries are purchased, often at high rates.
Talkspace Reviews by Professionals
As with many teletherapy company startups staffed by behavioral health industry “disruptors,” Talkspace began its current reign by creating a negative stir. Consider these publications and the reliability of their sources:
- The popular magazine Forbes has carried several articles by its former journalist Todd Essig, starting with one in 2016 entitled, Talkspace Reveals Clients’ Email, Violating Clinical Confidentiality.
- In 2017, Essig, a psychologist, and psychoanalyst, also published, A Magellan Collaboration With Talkspace Confuses Patients And Increases Risk.
- From a clinical perspective, Essig also wrote What Happens When You Can Always Get What You Want: Sex-bots and Text Therapy, where he challenged the idea that having a therapist on-demand is always good.
- The following APA article presents a relatively positive review in February 2017: A growing wave of online therapy. The article also warns clinicians to be aware of their legal and ethical obligations, separate from the requirements and limitations of online employers.1
- Essig then wrote an article in 2017 about the American Psychological Association’s (APA) decision; APA Cancels Talkspace Ads Going Forward.
- Clinical concerns about Talkspace were voiced by the Clinical Social Work Association’s 2019 article entitled LCSWS and the use of texting in mental health treatment.
- The discerning reader will notice that in this 2021 Forbes review, Talkspace Online Therapy Review, the substance of the article requires diligence to absorb, while two ads draw the reader’s eye away from the actual review to web pages designed to enroll yet more consumers. The first of the ads carry a 5-star rating graphic that gives Talkspace a rating of 4.5 stars.
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I worked as an associate network clinician for them for about 6 months as I was desperate for a job that would hire an associate clinician during the pandemic. It was a nightmare from day 1. They are all about quotas and keeping a caseload of 80-100 clients and keeping a high level of engagement with clients. I constantly got clients with issues way out of my scope of practice who needed a much higher level of care than text therapy could provide. When I would talk to my supervisor about my concerns, they would be dismissive and just tell me to keep working with them because once you have a client you can’t get rid of them unless the client chose to transfer. Clients were prompted to “rate” their therapist after ending services and could say whatever they want, and management would take it as absolute truth. The training was patchy and inconsistent. It was an absolute design for burnout and I was so thankful I found a job at a group private practice instead that has been a great fit.
Thank you for the details.
They were a horrible company to work for. I was practically told what to say to clients as they listened in. I would never recommend working for them. They only care about profits.
Chris, Thank you for your comment.