Tech Thursday: Former tech executive changes careers, launches mental health website

DENVER – A Colorado psychologist who got his start in the technology sector is using his expertise to try improve access to mental health care.

Doctor Michael LeBlond spent years working at some of the biggest names in tech, including Apple, Sun Microsystems and WebEx. But a few years ago, he decided to change courses to pursue something more rewarding – personally, not financially.

“I felt compelled to move from a focus on success to a focus on significance and giving back,” LeBlond said.

So LeBlond quit his job, got a PhD in clinical psychology and launched WebPsychology.com, a site that offers depression and anxiety assessments and then provides videos, exercises and other information that can help.

LeBlond said he wanted to focus on closing the so-called “treatment gap” between those who get mental health treatment and those who don’t. More than half of people with mental health problems don’t get the help they need, he said.

“I was troubled that the whole profession, with thousands of quality caring therapists, was costing billions of dollars while less than half of those in need were getting help,” LeBlond said. “What kept haunting me was, how can we help the other 55 percent?”

LeBlond’s solution: Take the whole process online, thereby reducing the hurdles of cost and access that so often prevent people from seeking out help.

Whereas traditional psychotherapy sessions are conducted in an office and can costs hundreds of dollars per hour, WebPsychology runs on a subscription-based model, like Netflix or or Amazon Prime. Users pay $9.95 per month for access to the site’s content.

WebPsychology’s approach is based on cognitive behavioral therapy, a widely-used and well-respected form of psychotherapy that aims to change a person’s pattern of negative thoughts and behaviors. LeBlond teamed up with researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus’ Depression Center to develop his program.

Right now, the site is focused on depression and anxiety, but LeBlond hopes to add other mental health diagnoses in the future.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and LeBlond hopes that by making mental health information more easily accessible, he may be able to help some of the thousands of people who take their lives every year.

RELATED: Preventing suicide in Colorado: Resources from in-person help to phone lines, apps and more

About ninety percent of people who kill themselves are dealing with some kind of mental health issue, LeBlond said, and since treatment is so often expensive and can be very hard to come by – especially in rural areas – WebPsychology offers a new route to getting help.

In the end, WebPsychology is about giving people the information and tools they need to overcome their struggles and transform their lives, according to LeBlond.

“You’re not your depression,” he said.

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