Dr. José Hamilton: The Psychiatrist Trying to Put Himself Out of Business

Hamilton's app, AI-powered Youper, employs an "emotional health assistant" to help users regulate their emotions and track their moods

28.06.2019 | by Reve Fisher
Photo by TechCrunch/Youper
Photo by TechCrunch/Youper

With a current rating of 5/5 on the App Store and 4.9/5 on Google Play, mental health app Youper has a devoted following. The AI-powered startup is helping users to manage and monitor their emotions through an “emotional health assistant,” which the company claims is the “first of its kind.”

Youper wants to help its users track their feelings and their moods to become the best version of themselves; the name is a combination of “you” and “super.”

Clinical psychiatrist Dr José Hamilton founded the startup in 2016. As an experienced mental health practitioner who’s seen over 3,000 patients during his career, he’s highly aware of the numerous barriers that people face when trying to seek help.

“The first one is fear, taking care of yourself, talking about your mental health, understanding your mental health,” he told TechCrunch. “Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist is super intimidating. That’s why all of my patients used to say the same things. The second barrier is cost, of course. Psychiatrists and therapists are super expensive.”

He first tried to create an app to make mental health care more accessible, but it didn’t have a conversational interface. Eventually, Dr Hamilton and his team of co-founders, chief product and growth officer Diego Couto and CTO Thiago Marafon, realised that the app needed a more personalised experience to increase engagement.

“The feedback showed us that people were looking for something more personal, like a confidant or a friend to share sensitive things with and get support,” Dr. Hamilton told Augmented Mental Health.

Combining a range of appropriate psychological techniques, such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy with mental health research and user data, has given the company a winning combination to help over a million users

“On average, it takes 10 years for someone to finally talk to a health provider,” Dr Hamilton said. “This could become 10 minutes with an app like Youper. Having an app with a super low barrier to entry, no stigma, something that is about emotional health and taking care of yourself, shows that you don’t need to be afraid.”

Youper asks users to focus on their thoughts and how they are feeling. A scale allows them to rate the strength of that emotion, and additional questions help users to narrow down the cause of their feelings and track their moods. Over time, the app becomes attuned to their needs and can react accordingly, even providing mindfulness exercises and journaling prompts.

The app uses a freemium model, in that users can suscribe to premium features for an additional monthly fee. It can be used in conjunction with a therapist or other professional help.

Goodwater Capital invested $3 million in seed funding into the startup. The funds will be used to improve and expand the app’s AI capabilities and expand its user base.

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