Making money from depression? –
August 7, 2020 – As Mr. Lori drank a tall glass of red wine and watched, he noticed that a few employees kept glancing his way. Afterward, a member of the marketing department approached and asked if he was OK. Later, Oren Frank, Ms. Frank’s husband and the chief executive, thanked him in the elevator. Somehow, word had gotten around that Mr. Lori was the client in the re-enactment.
Mr. Lori began to reconsider whether Talkspace was the dream employer he’d imagined — and whether it could be trusted to protect the privacy of its users.
“Everything was done with employee-informed consent,” said Ms. Sacco, who no longer works at Talkspace. John Reilly, a lawyer for Talkspace, said, “At the time, the employee expressed great pride over their Talkspace treatment with their therapist, and willingly told multiple co-workers that the transcript was theirs.” Mr. Lori said he did so only after it became clear that his identity was widely known. Despite the embarrassing episode, Mr. Lori stayed with the company for two more years, until he was let go in 2018. He sued Talkspace for discrimination and wrongful termination, claiming he was told that his anxiety and depression were interfering with his work. The lawsuit settled at the beginning of 2020. Mr. Lori asked the company to take down his blog post; the company didn’t, which is part of why Mr. Lori decided to share his story with a reporter.
Mr. Lori and other former Talkspace employees, who asked not to be named for fear of being sued, describe a company with an admirable ambition to destigmatize therapy — but that they say has questionable marketing practices and regards treatment transcripts as another data resource to be mined. Their accounts suggest that the needs of a venture capital-backed start-up to grow quickly can sometimes be in conflict with the core values of professional therapy, including strict confidentiality and patient welfare.