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.


Photo by Wongyulee.

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. Read her blog, HTownRunTourist. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @HTownRunTourist. Facebook @jovanabernathy

It has been over a week now that we have been ordered to stay home/work safe. Last night, we just found out that we can expect another 30 days of social distancing. It has been quite the adjustment with no end in sight.

But, if you take a couple of deep breaths and look closely, you can see how there is much to be grateful for. Here are the reasons why I have chosen to practice gratitude during the COVID-19 crisis:

Our focus is on the more important things.

Being ordered to stay home and only leave for necessities has made us aware of what is truly important. Making sure that we have steady income that we can do while staying at home and making sure we are safe and our families are safe has taken number one priority.

We have time to take our time and relax.

If you are anything like me, time is a precious commodity. The cause for a lot of anxiety for most of us is not having enough time to do the things we want and definitely not to do what we want to do well. I took all last week to catch up on much needed sleep. It has definitely been nice to take it easy and know that I am doing exactly what I need to do.

We have the time to make our health a priority.

How many times have you wanted to start that workout routine and something came up? How many times have you wanted to meal prep and run out of time? Because our days have less distractions, we have time to go for a walk, run, or bike ride outside. We have time to cook our own food.

We can let petty things go.

If someone has ticked you off or something upsetting happened, you have permission to let it go. Because we really have no way of knowing when and how this crisis will end, it just does not matter. If you find it hard to forget right away, don't worry, you have time to practice.

We have time to read, learn, and take courses.

There are so many podcasts that I listen to in my car, that I would love to sit down and take notes on and really take time to listen to them. I bet there are so many books that you have been meaning to read, but have not been able to start because you are too busy.

We have time to start that big project we have been wanting to start.

Whether it is spring cleaning, organizing the closet, or start writing your business plan, we all have one thing that we always wanted to start but never had the time. I have been working on a blog that I have wanted to start for over a year now. You can check it out. It is called HTownRunTourist. It is about how I got into running and why I started running internationally. It is not your mama's running blog. Although, it is not for everyone, I hope you enjoy it. Post are being released now.

We have the opportunity to start over.

Is there something about your life prior to COVID-19 that you wish you could change? Did you want to practice a habit like being better organized, you have time to do that. Personally, I need to lose some weight. You better believe it is one of my main priorities. Did you want to end toxic relationships? Now, you can. Use COVID-19 as an excuse why you didn't keep in touch and never look back. If it is not important now, it is not important.

So, let's choose relaxation over stress. There is definitely plenty to be grateful for. Let's start this practice so when we can get back to normal, we can hit the ground running!

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