Supportiv’s Director of Content recently had the pleasure of speaking about Supportiv with wellbeing icon Florine Mark.
In Florine’s easily-digestible and pithy podcast format, she and Christina Beck discuss the importance of having somewhere reliable to seek support for daily life struggles and challenges.
The podcast episode is titled “Who To Call When You’re Freaking Out At 3AM,” and it covers how Supportiv’s small group peer support chats fit that bill, providing on-demand, anonymous support from any device. Also hear how the service’s nonjudgmental, self help focus helps to empower those who have felt disempowered while seeking mental health care.
Supportiv appreciates Florine Mark’s dedication to the wellbeing of all, and to providing useful resources to her listeners who may simply not have heard of solutions available to them.
In light of America’s mental health epidemic, our collective next step forward may be as simple as leveraging technology, so that people know they’re really not alone – even in the wee hours of the morning or on their break at work.
Listen to the conversation between Florine Mark and Christina Beck, Supportiv’s Director of Content here. And if you prefer to read instead of listen, find a recap with extra information below.
For more information or questions, the Supportiv team is always available at email@example.com.
Supportiv is a website that provides anonymous group peer support chats, 24 hours a day, precision-matched to your specific struggle. Supportiv is available on-demand, and it connects you to others who can relate in under a minute – which enables a big part of Supportiv’s mission. That part of the mission is to allow people to seek help on their own terms, when and how they need it.
You just visit the website in the moment when you could use some emotional support, click Chat Now, and enter a few words about what you’re going through.
You’re then matched with other users whose struggles are most similar to yours. It’s all done in real time, without relying on chatbots or clinical jargon.
The first different thing you’ll notice when you visit Supportiv, is that you’re not asked to fill out any paperwork or assessments. These forms are used by other services to figure out what kind of help you need. But we at Supportiv believe that’s just another hurdle to getting connected.
So Precision Peer Support is really the patented, cutting edge technology that allows Supportiv to match you with the best peers for the topic you want to discuss – almost magically, based just on how you answer the question: “What’s your struggle?”.
You might think of in-person support groups, usually centered around one particular struggle, like having a loved one with cancer. But Supportiv’s peer support takes the best of that old fashioned approach, and adds flexibility, anonymity, and precise customization.
There’s this cutting edge field within AI called NLP. Natural language processing, which is when a computer makes meaning out of non-coding language. However, Supportiv takes natural language processing a step further, to natural language understanding. We look not only at what you’re saying, but how you say it, and infer context that lets us really understand the nuance of your situation. Our language models allow us to separate teen and adult users, without ever asking for one’s age.
Supportiv’s cofounders HPZ and PM came up with the idea of anonymous, 24/7 peer support as an answer to life experiences they had each had. Both came from a background in healthcare, and each of them had seen loved ones avoid traditional means of mental emotional and social support, which came with very real, dire consequences. The co-founders saw the harm that came from expecting everyone to fit into the “usual” options.
Together, they looked at existing options, like in-person support groups, and reimagined those experiences to be even more accessible to everyone – timing and scheduling, stigma, and COST. All of those factors play into accessibility. And that’s how they landed on this 24/7, anonymous, and pennies-per-minute solution.
I really see Supportiv’s solution as an antidote to shame. To give a little of my personal perspective, I always had trouble seeking support for my difficult experiences, because I didn’t want to be seen as an attention-seeker, a drama queen. I also didn’t like to ask for help because of what people call the “suffering olympics.” Sometimes when you share what you’ve been through, others think you’re trying to diminish their experiences. Or, others WILL diminish your experience by saying how they had it so much worse.
In the specific environment Supportiv has created, those concerns vanish. And I think that is immensely powerful for a country in a mental health crisis.
Above all, being anonymous makes it easier to be vulnerable and seek help in the first place. Nobody can judge you if they don’t know who you are. That helps to strip away shame and guilt like we have mentioned.
An anonymous, nonjudgmental setting can feel especially helpful to people who feel embarrassed to speak about their mood, or people who expect to face judgement due to their identity – race, ethnicity, gender, body size, whatever.
But I will also say that anonymity helps drive a deeper level of connection
Anonymity strips away superficial factors that make us think we can’t connect, when we really can.
So, you might have a 30-something guy and a 50-something woman who are both caring for an aging loved one. If they knew each others’ age and gender, they might dismiss their ability to connect with each other. But we’ve proven through over a million chats that in most cases, age, gender and ethnicity are often just barriers to connection.
To sum it up, at Supportiv, your struggle speaks for itself. And that’s really only possible in an anonymous setting.
The whole point of Supportiv is to serve almost any non-emergency issue. We are able to do that through a combination of the precision matching we discussed, trained moderators and all the many users on the Supportiv platform. With such a large user base, we are able to provide precise matches for almost any issue you want to speak about, at any time of day.
It could be that you’re grieving, frustrated with a family member, having body image issues, or just need a third party perspective on a social situation. You could be experiencing discrimination, depression, or you could simply feel lonely. We’re here for it all, big and small.
I would also like to note that anyone can get a taste for the types of issues you can talk about, by visiting Supportiv.com and browsing the hundreds of self-help guides and articles available, in the dropdown menu called “Topics.” You can use those resources whether you join a chat or not, but, those represent the types of struggles you can talk about in a Supportiv chat.
Verbal abuse of other users, trolling (being annoying just for the fun of it), discussing illegal activity. In general, the moderators use their best judgment and extensive training to keep each chat safe, in real time.
It’s also important to note that keeping chats safe means knowing when Supportiv is not enough. If you join a Supportiv chat while actively suicidal or in physical danger, we are here to identify that need for professional crisis services, and get you routed to the care most appropriate for your situation. That is done to keep everyone safe – the person in crisis, and the others in the chat who may not be in crisis but still need help.
To sum it up, I’d say that online peer support at Supportiv is not a replacement for therapy. However, it can be a more flexible and comfortable option when you really need immediate support. There’s also no scheduling, no forms or diagnoses as we discussed, and you’re not bound to talk about only one topic.
You’re not talking to some academic who may make you feel judged or scrutinized. You’re talking to another regular person who has been in a similar situation. Group therapy is usually tied to a particular topic, the same every week. Whereas at Supportiv, you can chat about whatever you want, whenever you want.
And of course, the anonymity factor that we discussed just makes it so much easier to take the plunge and talk about what you’re going through. It’s lower stakes, in a sense, and that can be very encouraging.
Compared to traditional options, I’d say it’s a difference between starting a conversation with “Why” vs “Of course.” In traditional mental health settings, the interaction starts with you on the defensive, with a focus on clinical labels. Will I be pigeonholed based on how I fill out this assessment? Will my physical appearance change how I’m perceived? It can feel like you’re justifying your need for help.
But at Supportiv, starting with “Of course you’re feeling this way, and I get it” feels like a welcoming relief, especially in a moment of distress.
Part of the beauty of Supportiv is that you will never be judged or told what to do. Moderators guide each chat in a helpful direction by asking thought-provoking questions, and helping you get clear on what is right for you. Because you are the expert on your situation.
At Supportiv, we really believe in each person’s lived experience and wisdom, so that’s what guides Supportiv conversations. But also, I should note the beauty in being able to use your lived experience to help others–
While you’ll never receive advice from a Supportiv moderator, other users may share what worked for them in similar situations. You may also help others by sharing what has worked for you. There’s a lot of power in feeling like you’ve helped someone else, while helping yourself.
To use a well-worn analogy, that can feel like making lemonade, BUT then sharing the lemonade you made with others who are parched. There’s lots of research on the healing power of that experience, alone.
Moderators are trained on a curriculum developed by two PhDs in psychology, and regularly coached by a psychology PhD and Certified Peer Support Specialists. The moderators serve many functions, from helping new users join a chat, to keeping chats safe, productive, and troll-free, to sharing hyper-precise resources for exactly what you’re going through. Supportiv was designed to be explicitly different from a random internet forum, to be safeguarded and productive at all times. Our moderators are the key to achieving that experience.
Supportiv is proud to offer less than a minute wait time, and most of the time, you’ll wait under 30 seconds. A lot of digital wellbeing services say they’re available 24/7, but that means you can submit an inquiry 24/7, or make a post to a message board 24/7 that others may or may not reply to. Or, god forbid, you’re connected to speak with a chat bot.
At Supportiv, 24/7 means 24 hours a day, you will receive real human attention, personalized to what you’re going through.
Life doesn’t wait for you or work around your mental emotional and social needs. I’m sure many of your listeners, like me, have woken up at 2am in a cold sweat, wishing you could just talk about that nightmare you had, or clear up some anxiety ahead of tomorrow’s stressful work day.
There will always be struggles when friends, family, therapists aren’t available (if you’re comfortable sharing with those individuals in the first place). That’s why it’s so important for us to make sure Supportiv chats are available 24 hours a day.
If there’s time, I’d love to share an interesting academic point regarding Supportiv’s 24/7 service. I was surprised to learn that after a difficult experience, one of the biggest predictors of developing lasting emotional problems is your perception of social support. I just want to reiterate what that means:
If you don’t feel supported immediately after a stressor, your brain is more likely to register that stressor as traumatic.
So, if you have a troubling experience and try to make a therapy appointment for a week from now, your brain registers that as: “Nobody is there for me.” That experience of having to wait can change how your brain processes an experience. So, even though Supportiv isn’t therapy, joining a chat immediately in the moment, while you wait for professional services, has the potential to set you up better for success.
Supportiv moderators are psychology students (undergraduate and graduate) from around the world, who have been trained on a curriculum first developed by a Stanford psychology professor. Moderators are trained, tested, and given regular grading, coaching, and feedback, to ensure they provide a smooth and empathetic experience to anyone who starts a chat.
I started with Supportiv as a moderator, and I think my experience is shared by many of the moderators who we hire: the people we select for these roles are people who have been through difficult experiences and who know how powerful it is not just to feel listened to, but to feel heard.
For everyone, your first visit to Supportiv is free. After that, Supportiv costs just pennies per minute: $15 for 24 hours of access.
It was really important to the co-founders to come up with a solution that’s both effective and affordable. Because financial barriers keep a lot of people from seeking support that could really help them.
I should also mention that Supportiv is a no-cost covered benefit for many people across the United States, either through their health plan or employer. So, if you’re interested in using Supportiv, check your employee handbook, EAP portal, or health plan dashboard because it might be available to you for free.
Yes, Supportiv works with some of the nation’s largest health insurance carriers to provide Supportiv at no cost to covered individuals. It’s not covered for all health plans, so please do inquire with your carrier if you’re interested.
To contact Supportiv and receive support, visit www.supportiv.com at any time of day or night, and click the “Chat Now” button. You’ll be asked to pick your preferred username (no need to give your real name), and to type a few words about your struggle. Then, it’s off to the races!
To get in contact about offering Supportiv through your organization, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.