H-Town Run Tourist's Honorable Mention

How this Houstonian created a website that is Match.com for mental health

Courtesy of Ryan Schwartz

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

Have I told you how much I love writing for SportsMap and Fred for letting me be me? This week, I met with this exceptional Houstonian that I had to give him an honorable mention. Meet Ryan Schwartz (picture above). He is the creator of Mental Health Match, a website like Match.com, where people can choose the therapists that fits them perfectly. Having had both positive and negative experiences with his own therapists, he wanted to develop a site with the client in mind. He wanted to make it easy and confidential. It is the perfect way to finish my mental health series. Ryan and I chatted over calamari and shrimp and avocado toast so that I could learn more about Mental Health Match.

Here is some background: After the sudden death of his mother, Ryan looked for a therapist to help him cope with the transition. He was surprised that it took him a big effort to find the perfect fit. He had friends get so frustrated with their therapist search, he knew it had to be a pain point for more people. This is what led him to get the idea for Mental Health Match. With his background in communications and research for nonprofits for social change and a passion to help people, he knew he was more than qualified to pioneer this effort.

So, what did Ryan have to do to bring Mental Health Match to Houstonians?

First, I interviewed 50 people who were looking for a therapist. I then contacted a number of friends to refer one of their friends in a different city to me to be interviewed. I cold called about 20 therapists with questions. From all those conversations, I made a first draft of the webpage and after a lot of testing began making the website.

So, how does Mental Health Match work?

It is a free service that connects you with the therapists who is best for you. You take a 5 minute survey. We ask about your goals for therapy, what type of activities you are interested in. We match you by your location, how much you want to spend, your insurance, personality traits and styles you prefer.

Nothing like rock climbing to get over life's obstacles.

Pixabay.com

What are the different styles of therapy? What's the most unique?

You can do therapeutic yoga. You can take a walk with your therapist. One of therapist that I have interviewed offers rock climbing therapy.

What a practical way to get through life's obstacles by physically experience those obstacles on a rock climbing wall.

Do you recommend an affordable therapists over an expensive one or are they the same to you?

Therapists who are expensive have specialized experience. Such as? If a client needs therapy for a childhood trauma as well as an eating disorder, then go the more expensive therapist. If you need therapy for general depression, then a more affordable therapist will work just as well.

How many therapists do you have currently on Mental Health Match? 140.

What does it take for a therapist to get listed on Mental Health Match?

Right now, any therapist can sign up for free. We have to validate their license as well.

How did you get them? Many of the therapists have been telling their friends and colleagues.

What type of person uses Mental Health Match?

All kinds. All ages. All genders. It's very diverse.

What is their main concern?

Anxiety and relationships.

What do you do to stay up to date on psychiatry to keep the site up-to-date?

I sit down every week with my therapists to keep up-to-date.

Nothing to be afraid of. Having a therapist is just like putting on a safety harness before dealing with hard emotions.

Pixabay.com

I remember back in the 80's, if you said that someone had a chemical imbalance, it was like, keep that person sedated. We didn't even know what those chemicals were. Now, words like, serotonin, melatonin, oxytocin, and dopamine are in everyday conversation. What, do you think, has changed in the field of mental health? What have they done to eradicate the stigma of mental health?

We have had so many improvements. A big help is when high profile people talk about their mental health and how they sought therapy. People like Jay-Z, Common, Howard Stern, and professional athletes have admitted to being mental health recipients.

So, with sites like Facebook, there is a concern for privacy. This is a super sensitive topic anyway. How does Mental Health Match protect the clients privacy?

Its all anonymous. We never store anything that can be traced back to the client. We use several security measures to avoid being hacked.

What would you say to someone who is skeptical about getting a therapist?

We would have a conversation about what they are afraid of or why they are worried. I would put heavy emphasis on the circumstances and the stresses of today, not on them.

What if they REALLY don't want to go?

I would remind them that they deserve it and that they are worth it.

Well said. By the way, I'm stealing that last part. "On belay!" "Belay on."

Join me at Uncle Bean's Coffee at 8am on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 for our inaugural H-Town Run Tourist Social Running Club. Runners, walkers, strollers, and dogs are welcome to explore Woodland Heights and White Oak. Contact me at info@tourismgymhtx.com for more details.


H-Town Run Tourist's Guide to Mental Health

Feel like a kid again with community art

Pixabay.com

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

Last week, I gave my 9 recommendations to de-stressing. Because mindfulness has to be practiced every day, this week, I decided to try Hack #9 "Try Something New.". Because one of my super-powers is being at the right place at the right time, I just so happened to know of a community art project with some big time local artists.

Nicola Parente and Tami Moschioni, founders of Art Uniti, are creating a new art project and needed help. I have helped on community art projects before. My tourists and I worked closely with artist Carol Simon on "First Ward is Blooming." We painted up-cycled water bottles and cut them up like flowers. It was a perfect way to chill out after work. The project took 9 months to finish and when we did, we were all proud of our "flower garden." I had been looking for a new one since and I finally found it.

Houstonians' gifts of creativity.

Author's own

We met at the Baker Ripley Leonel Castillo Community Center in Near North Houston. I was so happy that 20 of my tourists came to help. Nicola briefs everyone first:

"This community project is called Snapshot. It is a permanent installation made of steel that will perfectly frame the view of downtown Houston. There will be a spot to stand and take your selfie with the perfectly framed skyline behind you. Hence, the name Snapshot. The frame will be sitting on top of a pedestal covered with tile designs. That is where you come in. Each one of you has a setting in front of you and a bowl of tiles. You are free to design anyway you want, just stay in the lines."

It was heads down as everyone set to making their tile designs. I decided to do a Blue Tile design to depict the first street signs of Houston. You know the ones that are found on the curbs. It seemed like a breeze until my fingers got too big.

The Taylor Family spending some quality time together.

Author's own

I listened to the conversations being had. Everyone talked about when they were kids and how they loved to paint and color. Everyone was asking questions about the person next to them. The children, in the room, were all of a sudden treated like the authorities on creativity. But, not one was talking about bills or gossip. Mission accomplished. That is exactly what I wanted.

Mother and daughter, Bobby and Rachel had a gloomy week and felt inspired and uplifted while working on their tiles. Rachel was stressed about her pre-calculus final and wanted to spend time with her mom. Gillian and Tracey moved here a few months ago. Gillian works from home and sometimes can get lonely and Tracey travels a lot for work. Both were excited to do something different and get out.

Artists Nicola Parente and Tami Moschioni hold a mock-up of Snapshot.

Author's own

Now, I bet you are thinking "What is Art Uniti?" Nicola feels that being creative is a huge component to mental health. It makes him happier and he wanted to share it with others. Because they know how important art is, Tami and Nicola founded Art Uniti to let the community get involved in creating the public art around Houston. The community is able to gift their art to the city with the help of respected artists like Tami and Nicola. Snapshot is the fifth project from Art Uniti. Maybe you've seen these projects around the city: Community Quilt at Kroger at Riverstone Sugarland, Color Bursting in Hermann Park, and Scaped Senses across from Moody Park. Unfortunately, community involvement on Snapshot is closed, but I will definitely keep you posted about new projects.

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