Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 266. Today we’ll be talking to Vittoria from Sesh about the use case or business case for why her customers choose Sesh.
Sesh is an easy-to-use mental health platform for online support groups led by licensed therapists.
Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think. Thanks, William.
Show length: 21 minutes
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Welcome to Recruiting Daily’s Use Case podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better as we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment in HR Tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup (00:25):
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Vittoria on from Sesh, and we’ll be learning all about the business case or the use case for Sesh. So why don’t we just jump right into it. Vittoria, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Sesh?
Vittoria Bergeron (00:44):
Sure. I’m Vittoria Bergeron. I am the founder and CEO of Sesh, and we provide therapist led group support all virtually, and we provide it for individuals who have really diverse needs and diverse circumstances.
William Tincup (01:04):
Well, thank God that you’re doing this. And I don’t know how you’ve seen COVID, but I’ve seen from my perspective, people talking or at least open to having more conversations around mental health than pre COVID. Now, it might be just my aperture or just what I’ve been attuned to, but I’ve just seen people just talk openly about things that they’re going through, which I think is liberating and nice. What have you seen from Sesh’s perspective?
Vittoria Bergeron (01:37):
Yeah, so we’ve seen a lot of anxiety, depression, and trauma sessions become really popular. And I think that’s not because necessarily… There certainly are more people that are suffering from anxiety and depression than ever, but also more people are willing to name what they’re going through and call out the fact that they need support and are able to engage in something that they’re able to understand a little bit more. And I think because people are talking about it a bit more in the workplace at home, they’re able to actually begin to name what they’re going through and then engage in something that can maybe help them.
William Tincup (02:27):
Which is a part of the path. I have a form of what used to be called manic depressive. I think now it’s called bipolar, but it’s hypomania. And so it’s basically a form of where I’m in mania, more of a percentage of a time than not. But my depression, whenever I’m in depression, it’s really dark. And so I take Wellbutrin and Prozac and I’ve told people this story. I’m like, “You know what? I lived for 40 something years and had no idea. Literally didn’t know what was going on. I just figured that was just the way life was. And once I got a diagnosis and worked with a pharmacologist, it took a little while to calibrate, but once we calibrated, it’s like I can’t imagine a life without Prozac and Wellbutrin. I literally can’t imagine a life. I’ll take it until I’m dead.
Vittoria Bergeron (03:27):
William Tincup (03:28):
And I can’t imagine life without it. Go ahead.
Vittoria Bergeron (03:33):
I think it’s something like 15% of working age adults have a mental health disorder at any point in time. And so while what you’re experiencing isn’t necessarily novel in the grand scheme of things, up until pretty recently, a lot of people didn’t come out and be as transparent about that sort of thing with an audience like you’re doing. So, I applaud you, but it also gives you power back and empowers other people to come forward and talk about what they’re going through.
William Tincup (04:06):
Right. That’s part of it. In fact, recently, different but similar. I’ve had a bunch of friends diagnosed with adult ADHD. And again, running around it just never knew why they operated in a certain way. So I didn’t get in trouble. It was actually a funny bit. I did this thing on Instagram years ago where therapy should be mandatory. If you get a driver’s license or if you’re able to vote or whatever, you should have to go through therapy, but you can’t really force people to go through therapy. They should want to go through therapy. But why’d you start Sesh? Of all the things that you could possibly do, why’d do this?
Vittoria Bergeron (04:55):
So I had experienced groups for myself, therapist led groups several years ago after entering in an in-patient care facility for an eating disorder. So, a dark path in order to finally be exposed to the one thing that actually really, really helped me. And the reason I started this is because, sure, I felt it helped me, but it also happened to be a thing that can help so many other people and can bring down the cost of care for therapist access for many, many more people. And so I started this to elevate and bring forward a modality that I think is underutilized, misunderstood, and then left at the final hour of a lot of people’s option pool. So that’s why Sesh exists. It comes from my experience, but look, we didn’t invent anything new here. We are just bringing forward a well understood modality to the forefront of people’s options, making it a bit more accessible, way more accessible and more cost effective than even the co-pay of individual therapy.
William Tincup (06:35):
What I love about the origin story or part of the origin story is, the employees, they’re suffering silently. And again, the old kind of a historic EAP model of “Oh yeah, we have somebody that can help with that. You have to go and dial into this bid.” And that’s so underutilized and it historically has been underutilized because, oh, there’s a lot of barriers. We don’t need to get into that. I love… Let’s talk a little bit about the delivery model and again, how you interact with corporations and employers. So let’s start with some of the basics. I would assume you sell this as a benefit. So you work with HR and benefits folks. Is that roughly the truth?
Vittoria Bergeron (07:27):
William Tincup (07:29):
Okay. And what’s been their response so far? How do they respond to what you all are selling?
Vittoria Bergeron (07:36):
We’ve been met with a lot of surprise and delight. And then also a lot of enthusiasm from the diversity, equity and inclusion leaders in organizations as well. Because by the structure of a group and providing safe spaces that are many times culturally affirming, you’re buying into a culturally credible experience and outlet for diverse cohorts of employees.
William Tincup (08:17):
Oh, that’s smart. Yeah.
Vittoria Bergeron (08:18):
Yeah. So they’re seeing value in that, in theory. I would say that to your point though, a lot of people are pointing to their old crusty EAP and saying, “Oh, we have something.”
William Tincup (08:36):
Oh yeah. “Checkbox, we got that.” It’s like, “No.”
Vittoria Bergeron (08:36):
I would say, yeah, exactly. It’s something like, the number that I mentioned, 15% of working age adults have a mental disorder. That’s from the World Health Organization, I think. And I think EAPs see less than three or 4% engagement. So there’s a huge gap.
William Tincup (08:54):
Vittoria Bergeron (08:54):
There’s a huge gap in engagement of people that need the resource but just won’t knock on the door of the EAP. And I think we’re serving a need that exists with this under-utilization and an overworked, over-anxious over depressed workforce.
William Tincup (09:17):
Right. Right. And COVID didn’t help a lot of folks in terms of mental health and anxiety. I love that you brought up marginalized groups [inaudible 00:09:30] in particular because again, different struggles.
Vittoria Bergeron (09:34):
William Tincup (09:35):
And if we’re not attuned to that, then we can’t solve for that. And so let’s deal with the solution itself. So Sesh itself, tell us how you, either through technology or services or otherwise, how you interact with the employee base.
Vittoria Bergeron (09:55):
Sure. So, like the employer’s experience.
William Tincup (10:01):
Vittoria Bergeron (10:01):
Yeah. So they would download our iOS, our Android app or go and leverage our web app on any browser. And with their organization that is paying for this, their company that provided this benefit to them. They have unlimited access to all of our sessions.
William Tincup (10:23):
Vittoria Bergeron (10:23):
So they create a pro… Yes. And we have several hundred different topics led by different therapists every month, and those sessions meet weekly. So you’re able to choose a topic, a group that meets your needs. So maybe you need a grief specific group or something that has to do with a difficult relationship that you’re in. I’m a new mom, so something maybe with postpartum support. And then you choose your own adventure and you end up in a HIPAA compliant, of course, live interactive room with people from all over the world, capped at 10 people though.
William Tincup (11:14):
Vittoria Bergeron (11:14):
And a licensed therapist at the helm of that group. And they’re facilitating a conversation around some of these difficult topics. And the therapist is super passionate about the type of the topic and the community that they’re holding space for. And that provides a really rich atmosphere for individuals to engage with one another and share and heal and be heard and listen. So it becomes this potentially, if you want, this weekly resource on grief, this weekly opportunity for you to come and check in with one another. There’s an accountability component as well. You might want to know how I’m doing. If we hit it off in a group, you might want to sign up for the same group to see how that conversation with my husband went or my boss the next week.
And so we see a lot of people that are engaging very frequently, and it’s exciting to us too, because we’re able to provide these employees with a resource that actually meets them where they are. So they might not need a grieving group anymore after a couple of months after losing someone. They might want to engage in a group that’s more of a anxiety focused session or what have you. And it is a platform that grows with you. And we’re acknowledging, I think that what you’re going through is never constant and your employer should provide you with a wide variety of options that meet the needs of their employees and of what’s relevant in the world.
William Tincup (13:20):
Vittoria Bergeron (13:20):
Right? So that’s the experience.
William Tincup (13:22):
What I love about this is, it’s not tethered to HR. HR pays for it, the company pays for it, HR pays for it, it is a benefit. You can use it for recruiting and retaining talent, so I can see all the benefits there. But it’s not tied into the employee’s file in any way, shape, or form. And so I think it helps unlock some of the, for them the idea, even if it’s just a perception of privacy that they didn’t take up the EAPs historically because they thought that HR would know that they were going through whatever battles that they’re going through, which probably wasn’t true then. But I like that it’s separate in terms of it being an app and it’s on demand. And then I did have a question around, what if they feel like something’s wrong but they can’t pinpoint it? Is there a way to do self-diagnosis or a way to find out what groups should I look at?
Vittoria Bergeron (14:28):
That’s a great question. So we have a team of clinician that work with us and work with our users to make sure that they’re being pointed in the right direction. So you’re not sent on a journey.
William Tincup (14:47):
Right, right, right.
Vittoria Bergeron (14:48):
You’re not sent on a journey that’s just curated from our marketing team. You’re sent on a path that is specific to maybe your specific needs. And how we do that is, in part, we offer all of our new users or anyone really that the leverages our app, the opportunity to meet someone on our in-house clinical team to have an introductory session. And so you at that point have the opportunity to really interact with a Sesh member that can guide you toward maybe a good, relevant, helpful first step.
William Tincup (15:36):
That’s perfect. The relationship between therapy and medicine. Obviously, like I told you with my story, I didn’t necessarily have a traditional historical or traditional story of where I went to a therapist and there was a diagnosis and through therapy and then medication. Mine was brain chemistry, straight up gangster brain chemistry was off for 40 something years, so I survived it. But what’s the relationship between Sesh and when someone in group, when a member, maybe one of the clinicians when they see that, “Okay, this needs to also be augmented with another person or with a specialist that does pharmacology or et cetera.” I’m asking about the relationship between medicine and therapy.
Vittoria Bergeron (16:46):
Yes. I think that’s a huge thing to call out because to your point, sometimes often, talk therapy or a group setting, it doesn’t solve the full problem. There’s a chemical imbalance that could be better served with medication. And while we don’t do that, we can certainly refer you.
William Tincup (17:15):
Vittoria Bergeron (17:16):
… to a place in which you would be able to find that type of care. And I think that there’s a few organizations that come to mind that do a really good job of that. And we’re looking forward to more direct channel partners with companies though, that are committed to the same kind of stuff that we are.
William Tincup (17:40):
Vittoria Bergeron (17:40):
And that stuff is really true access, true affordability, and irrespective of the fact that you may or may not be insured, getting you with the medication or the resources that you need to thrive. So it’s through basically referral programs.
William Tincup (18:02):
And well, I love that because you’ll build out great partner networks there. And again, as the therapist, as they see something and they identify something, then they’re obviously going to who you’ll want to help somebody. Because therapy period, hard stop therapy, everyone should be in therapy to just work out all kinds of different things. So again, I love what Sesh does. And again, are you ever going to be in the business of prescribing? Probably not. And that’s probably a great way to work with partners and especially if it’s affordable and it can work with a lot of these other groups like you’re doing on the therapy side, so thank you for answering that.
Customer stories without brand names. So when I ask this question, sometimes people get nervous because I don’t want you to talk about Nike or Deloitte or any of that type stuff. But just cases where you’re like, “I love that this happened. And again, someone was suffering, this whole group of people were suffering at this one place and they found through Sesh, they found a group, they found this, and they’re on a pathway to recovery. They’re on a pathway to understanding what’s going on.” What are some of those stories for you?
Vittoria Bergeron (19:26):
Yeah, I think for us it goes back to employee churn. And I know that it sounds like a long stretch from an anecdotal piece of feedback that maybe a CEO has given us. But it really is speaking to the root of a lot of the concerns that employers are having, which is, “Hey, people are quiet-quitting, AKA leaving the business or wanting to, not happy here.” And part of that is because I don’t think that these people feel seen or feel heard or understood or valued by their employer, especially in a remote workplace where we’re at home and it’s difficult to be literally recognized by your colleagues and maybe your boss.
William Tincup (20:23):
Vittoria Bergeron (20:24):
So for us, it goes down to working with employers and then measuring over time how a couple of things have fared for them. How has voluntary churn fared in the period of time since we’ve been working together? Also, what types of sessions are your, anonymously and aggregately of course, are your employees engaging with? Because this can help you understand a little bit more as an employer, what people are going through instead of making those assumptions based off of things that you read on your LinkedIn thread.
William Tincup (21:12):
Yeah, this is a true finger on the pulse of their employee population, as it relates to this. Sorry, I interrupted.
Vittoria Bergeron (21:19):
No, no. So what we’re seeing is, long term gains from Sesh from the employer side. So people seem happier internally via surveys. They’re reporting that they’re productivity has gone up for self reported. “Do you feel more productive after your session?” “Yes.” Type of stuff is making its way back to the employer and then the employer, the HR team, even the CEO in some cases is actually seeing a quantifiable value come through. So that is, without naming names of clients, like you said, that’s important to us. For me personally, as someone who’s leading a mental health platform, outcomes in general, “Are these sessions actually helping people?” Is the biggest, most positive metric that we’re seeing in general. But for employers, it goes down to employee satisfaction, productivity, and then churn.
William Tincup (22:39):
Yeah. It’s got to come out. Their employees are being heard and again, in a way that helps them. So I love that. One question left, but I also wanted to say I love the name, Sesh. I’d assume that, that’s shorthand for session?
Vittoria Bergeron (22:59):
Yeah, there’s no acronym.
William Tincup (23:05):
Okay. I didn’t want to make something up that it wasn’t.
Vittoria Bergeron (23:07):
No, it’s just short for session. I think it’s a way to really define what exactly our platform is in a nickname. Because while I think our product, our app is easy to use and navigate, the actual sesh itself, that happens when you’re interacting with people in a confidential room. And that’s the sesh, and so that’s who we are.
William Tincup (23:38):
All right. So the last question I was going to ask is, questions that practitioners should ask you in the buying process. So your prospects, people you’re talking to, your sales team is talking to, et cetera. What questions should they be asking Sesh?
Vittoria Bergeron (23:58):
Say the HR person who’s buying or?
William Tincup (24:00):
Benefits, HR. Yep.
Vittoria Bergeron (24:04):
I think one question that they should ask is, “Do your therapists like you?” I think it’s something that people aren’t paying enough attention to in general because the quality of our product is… And on these sessions and these interactions within our app take place, the heart of our platform in many ways is in the hands of the therapist that leads these groups. So what do you do for your therapists? How do you ensure that your therapists are having high quality moments interactions with your members?
William Tincup (24:50):
I love that. Well, I love it on a number of levels. And because they’re so passionate about those particular topics, if it’s an eating disorder or whatever it is, they’re so passionate about it, you know that they’re going to have good sessions. Because they’re passionate about it. My sister-in-law is a drug and alcohol counselor and therapist, and so she’s also a recovering alcoholic. She’s super passionate about it because she’s been through it herself, so I love that. That’s such a great question and I didn’t anticipate that. Vittoria, I absolutely love what you built. It is needed, required 100 years too late. But we’re here now. So thank you for building Sesh and thank you for being on the podcast.
Vittoria Bergeron (25:34):
Thanks for having me. This was awesome.
William Tincup (25:36):
Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case podcast. Until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.