Million Dollar Monday

Revolutionizing Mental Health With CEO of MyWellbeing

November 22, 2021 Greg Muzzillo
Million Dollar Monday
Revolutionizing Mental Health With CEO of MyWellbeing
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

“I cannot count the amount of times where a successful business outcome hinges on the emotional health of the individuals involved as well as their ability to communicate with each other,” explains Alyssa Petersel. As Founder and CEO of MyWellbeing, Petersel is committed to creating mental health awareness and connecting people to therapists. Tune in to Million Dollar Monday to hear more about the importance of mental wellness to maximize success.

Chapter Summaries 

Key Takeaways 

  • We really make a point to try to be as accessible as possible. People who are thinking about starting therapy may be at different parts of their journey. Some people are hearing about mental health for the first time, and they may want to do a whole lot of reading or learning or dipping their toe in the water before getting started.
  • Other people have been actively trying to find a therapist for eight months and they are ready. All they want is for someone to say, hey, here's who you should call, they’re available, have the expertise that you need, and they understand your Identity background. We've created a platform that can really support people in each step of that journey.
  • I cannot count the amount of times where a successful business outcome or an unsuccessful business outcome really hinges on the health, emotional health of the individuals involved as well as their ability to communicate with each other and a lot of that is learned in therapy.

Resources

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Greg Muzzillo :

Hello and welcome to Million Dollar Monday. I'm your host, Greg Muzzillo bringing you real successful people with real useful advice for people with big dreams. I understand big dreams. I turned an investment of $200 and a lot of great advice from some really successful people into my big dream Proforma. That today is a half billion dollar company. Well, hello and welcome. I have a fascinating guest for today. A brilliant young lady on a wonderful journey that's very important she's been recognized by the prestigious Forbes, 30 under 30 listing. She's an entrepreneur, a public speaker, a social worker, a dog lover, which is good , and committed to a more empowered, inclusive, and emotionally aware future. Wow. What an introduction please, meet, And let's start talking with Alyssa, Petersel Alyssa. Thank you for joining us.

Alyssa Petersel :

Hi Greg. Thanks so much for having me. It's great to be here

Greg Muzzillo :

Well it's great to be chatting with you. And of course, I look forward to getting to the business that you founded, that you're getting a lot of great recognition for my MyWellbeing and MyWellbeing .com and it's a fascinating business model. But let's start at the beginning. If we could like talk to us a little bit about your youth. You're still pretty young. Talk to us about your youth, your growing up years, your family, your schooling, and what were those experiences that you had that led you to have a passion for mental wellness and business entrepreneurship?

Alyssa Petersel :

Yeah, that's a great question. So I grew up, I was born in long island and grew up in long island, the younger sister to two older brothers, two parents who grew up in Queens. And , my father was a doctor. My mother was a lawyer. Both of them worked extremely hard and were very ambitious and instilled quite a bit of work ethic and values into both my brothers and I, but I think more than anything else, they also instilled a lot of creative thinking and problem solving. So if there was something that bothered us, if there was something that caught our attention, we were encouraged to be pretty proactive, take a lot of initiative and to be pretty resourceful about how we might solve that thing. So growing up, I went to public school. I was pretty often volunteering at one place or another. What I understand now that I definitely didn't at the time is I do think my Jewish heritage and having grandparents who are Holocaust survivors, I think consciously or not, that really infused quite a bit of a attachment to contributing positively to social good and social impact in the world. I learned at my university, the mental health resources were in far more demand than there were resources to supply. There was a wait list at the , you know, sponsored university provided mental health resources, but some of the local resources were prohibitively expensive. So I started to get a sense of some of the systemic issues that surround mental health. And , as I started to gain my grasping and get my feet wet in various different career chapters, I started working in community organizing. So I worked on a three person team within the Ann and Robert H Lurie children's hospital at Chicago, looking toward reducing violence for young adults and teens in the Chicago area. And again, was exposed to quite how present mental health factors were and absence of mental health resources were and how much that impacted what were healthy or unhealthy outlets for stress and healthy or unhealthy grasping for community and meaning and belonging. So that inspired me even more to think about. Okay, what would it look like to have more accessible, more human, more personalized resources across the board and starting early. And from there, I actually used kick starter to crowdfund about a year's worth of budget to go and live in Hungary, to research and write about third generation Holocaust survivors.

Greg Muzzillo :

Is this when you wrote your book? Is this when you had the experience and you wrote your book and the book is Somehow I'm Different.

Alyssa Petersel :

Yes, exactly.

Greg Muzzillo :

So what's that title about? And what's the book about,

Speaker 4:

Yeah, it's a great question. So the book started , when, so when I was in my last year of undergrad, I went to Hungary on a service trip of sorts it was 10 days. I went to volunteer on a couple of projects that were happening locally that needed a couple of hands on deck. And I went with the Hillel organization at Northwestern. So , community org at the school, a couple of other colleagues around my age went as well. What struck me is that in preparation for the trip, you know, I was doing research. I was looking into local culture, local economy, local politics, everything that I found from Google searches to even deeper searches was really ominous. It was, you know, the economy is on a downturn, everything's a nti-s emitic, it's really dark a nd dark gloomy, stormy. And then I went and we were exposed to people who w ere full of light, full of color, full of optimism, full of energy, initiating and driving a ton of efforts on the ground that were making really meaningful impact.

Alyssa Petersel :

So that inspired me to make it back to Hungary Budapest, specifically, to try to share, better understand and share some of these stories that were really from my experience, like more authentic to the day-to-day and more human of what was going on on the ground. And it's worth noting that a lot of the funding for some of those programs stemmed from philanthropy in the US, but because of the ominous macro systemic change that was happening in Hungary, a lot of that funding was vulnerable to be completely cut or significantly decreased. So I really wanted to do storytelling around why that funding should continue, how important those efforts were, what identity development looked like on the ground. So the book itself, Somehow I am Different, has multiple interpretations. So the book weaves my own narrative of being there my own day to day of going and discovering different aspects of culture and identity and spirituality as, non-local. And the, so the title is a little bit of me, myself being different than the people I was walking past, speaking a different language, looking different dressing differently. As well as the different people I was interviewing. So each chapter is really rooted in a different person's story and narrative. And , as I was transcribing, and as I was editing the manuscript, something that kept coming up chapter after chapter was , each individual saying somehow I just, I felt different. I felt different than my peers. I felt different than my parents. I felt different than my grandparents. I was trying to find this place that felt more comfortable or felt like I had a sense of belonging. And I really wanted to emphasize that in the title, because the books also really written for people who feel a little bit, maybe like an outsider, maybe they're craving, they have a gnawing or an appetite for something larger than life, larger than themselves, larger than what they're currently up to and really seeking some of that resonance. And some of that belonging,

Greg Muzzillo :

The older I've gotten more. I think, I think almost everybody's struggling with who they are, what their identity is. You know, I think of course there's the bell shaped curve and we know maybe there's some people that are out liars on the bell-shaped curve and maybe there's some more people that are, but I don't think that's maybe even a fair representation because at the end of the day, everybody, I know that's really honest is struggling with something. Everybody I know is struggling, whether it's finances or relationships or identity or mental wellness or whatever, it might be purpose in life. Why am I here? I know people my own age that don't even know like, wait, why am I even here? And what's my purpose in life. So I, think it's a common part of the whole journey. And when the more we listen , the more we understand that we're all a whole lot more, the same than we really are different. It's just, the differences are different. Like what's different is different, but we're all struggling with something and so backup cause you and I, before we got talking , we talked about that. You did take some time off before you graduated at Northwestern. Right. And you went and , I was it , Bodh Gaya University are you, were you studying the Bodh Gaya? Tell us a little bit about that experience because it had to have an impact somewhere.

Alyssa Petersel :

Yeah, absolutely. So I spent a couple months in India and in Bodh Gaya in the state of Bihar that was actually believe it or not It was an accredited program that provided school credit for studying a variety of different things in a small group. So there were about 20 of us that went and stayed in a monastery in Bodh Gaya and the program was really rooted in Buddhist studies. So we studied the philosophy of Buddhism, the religion of Buddhism. We studied meditation, we studied under some really established teachers and nuns and monks. And we lived locally with other people who are either living in the monastery or working at the monastery. And for about a month of that stay each of us designed an independent study as well. So we went to a different area of India and studied a topic of our choice. So I studied the impact of Buddhism on trauma recovery and wound up spending time in Sikkim where there was a recent earthquake. And I conducted a study around whether having a relationship with Buddhism and meditation helped people in that local community to cope with some of the loss around the earthquake loss of life, loss of property. And that what perhaps will surprise no one, it did help them. That's the, what I learned from that study, but really broadly, I mean, that trip was immensely impactful. Some of my best friends to this day are from that trip, but really it stripped down any expectations or any assumptions that all of us had about what we were just saying, like, what are we doing here? What's the purpose here?

Greg Muzzillo :

So in March, in March of last year, I was all scheduled to fly into Katmandu and do a months journey , following the path of Buddha. And I was going to study for a week in a monastery and then go to the, where the Bodhi tree was and then where Buddha gave his well, and then COVID put an end to all of that moment. I think it was June. I think it was in general, anyhow, I bought the tickets and anyhow I'm so jealous of you and we could talk on and on about it because I find Buddhism not to be so much a religion. Though I think it gets categorized is as a religion. I think it's more a way of living in thinking as opposed to a real religion. And I think there are pieces, parts of Buddhism that could apply to anybody in any religion or lack of religion. I know, we agree . All right . But we got to move on. I would love to talk more about that. Okay. So you get to the point that , a few, it looks like a few other things happened for you, but what , when did the whole idea of creating this company? When did the whole idea of MyWellbeing start to come into your mind?

Alyssa Petersel :

Yeah , it's a good question. So once I finished my book, I returned to Chicago to publish and promote it. I started working in the food industry as a hostess waitress, depending on, I was working at a couple of restaurants at the time and really was looking ahead. And I thought I really loved this experience. Something that I loved most about it was the one-on-one connection and turning experiences that could be really painful and were really painful into meaning . And that started to introduce for me the idea that, Hey, maybe I wanted to be a therapist. Maybe I wanted to have more of these really rich, thorough, deep connections and conversations with individuals and together reflect, make meaning, look ahead at what might that. So around the time that I started training as a social worker, I reprioritized my own therapist search. And at that point I had looked a few times because at this point I'd had a few experiences with anxiety and panic. There were a couple of directories out there, but the information was often incorrect or incomplete. If I contacted insurance, they sent me literally a PDF with a bunch of names and phone numbers, but I knew very little about who those people were. There was no website where I could learn more. So that really introduced for me. Hey, I have high confidence that the technology exists to make this smoother, make it cleaner, make it more dare. I say more pleasant or more delightful for a population of people who, even if they're not going through an extreme low , probably are having some symptomology of anxiety or depression or stress, which can reduce one's ability to have the endurance to really go through a friction full search process. So that's the idea really started. And then as I went through my graduate program, I committed full-time to the company. When I graduated, I was working as a therapist at the time as well. So the earliest stages of MyWellbeing, we did bootstrap our company. It was me, myself, and a massive spreadsheet for about a year. And then from there we had different chapters, a bit of fundraising, bit of team growth growing the company year over year. And here we are now, you know, four years in and very happy and excited to dive into and talk more about any piece of that along the way.

Greg Muzzillo :

So how many fundraising rounds did you have?

Alyssa Petersel :

Good question. So we we've gone through a handful of what might be called Angel rounds or friends and family rounds or pre seed rounds . And so far we've raised just shy of about $2 million to date.

Greg Muzzillo :

Congratulations. That's awesome. And so today, by what measures do you measure your company number of therapists , number of clients, a number of interactions, you know, what are the numbers?

Alyssa Petersel :

Yeah, that's a great question. So we work with about 500 providers right now. We've helped about a hundred thousand just over a hundred thousand people into therapy. And we interact with well over 30 million people on a month by month basis, over our social media channels, email channels , website , some of our resources, some of our blog pages. So we really make a point to try to be as accessible as possible. People who are thinking about starting therapy may be at very nuanced and very personalized, very different parts of their journey. So some people are hearing about mental health for the first time, and they may want to do a whole lot of reading or learning or dipping their toe in the water before getting started. Other people have been actively trying to find a therapist for eight months and they are ready. All they want is for someone to say, Hey, here's who you should call and yes, they're available. And yes, they have the expertise that you need and they understand your identity background. So we've created a platform that can really support people in each step of that journey.

Greg Muzzillo :

Does insurance, does health insurance , help support , people seeking mental wellness resources?

Alyssa Petersel :

Great question. So , it depends on the plan and it depends on what resource so most insurance does support to some degree, a lot of reimbursement rates for behavioral health care are relatively low for behavioral health care providers. So especially in large urban areas, a high of behavioral health providers or therapists when it being out of network. And even if a provider is quote, unquote out of network, you and your plan may have what's called out of network benefits. So , for example, you would probably have a quote unquote deductible, what a deductible means is that the amount of money you need to spend before your out of network benefits, kick in. So for example, if your out of network deductible is say a thousand dollars just to use a number, and if your therapist charges a hundred dollars again, just to choose a number, once you go to 10 sessions, you would have hit that thousand dollar mark, and then you're out of network. Benefits will kick in. So if your insurance at that point covers say 80%, you at that point start paying, you'd still pay your provider the a hundred dollars, but , your insurance would begin reimbursing you.

Greg Muzzillo :

I know when I looked at your site pretty quickly, it seems like also a value that you, the organization brings is group pricing. So the benefit of , rather than my, just trying to find a resource on my own, the pricing might be significantly different than the group pricing. If that's a fair way of saying it that are available for the providers that are at your site.

Alyssa Petersel :

Yeah, definitely. So for, we encourage many of our providers to offer something that's called a sliding scale. So, so if their full fee, for example, is $150, their sliding scale might be a hundred dollars. So if you were to go and seek that care and find that provider on your own, you'd probably be most aware of the 150 per session price point. Whereas through MyWellbeing, you'd have access to that a hundred per session price point, right ? And for the provider as well, we really prioritize, trying to holistically provide support for the provider and their business needs. So for example, we curate accountants, lawyers, marketers headshot photographers, so that behavioral health providers have all sorts of business needs, but haven't necessarily trained in business, or certainly didn't necessarily think, you know, Hey, I want to be a therapist, which means I'm going to need a headshot. You know, that means I'm going to have to familiarize with bookkeeping is I'm gonna have to familiarize with press and PR. So , we do prioritize making all of those resources and tools as streamlined, curated, and as possible for them.

Greg Muzzillo :

What's the economic model at the end of the day is the economic model, primarily that you get a percentage of the , fees that the providers charge.

Alyssa Petersel :

So currently, no. So we are a bit of a membership or a club for the providers . So the providers pay an annual membership fee of sorts to MyWellbeing consumers , match completely for free and in when they share their preferences for what they're looking for in a match, that's where they can choose near the fee per session that works for them and works for their budget. Then they pay the provider directly 100% of the fee that they pay goes to the provider. So we are different in that sense.

Greg Muzzillo :

I got it. So at the end of the day, you are a referral source, for lack of maybe lack of a better word for providers seeking clients. And it's more membership-based rather than , sharing in the fees space

Alyssa Petersel :

Exactly.

Greg Muzzillo :

So for me, anyhow , as I think this whole through, because all of the people at the gym are fat and unhealthy people, a lot of the people at the gym are very healthy people who are there to stay and keep themselves healthy. How can we as a society? How can we as a world make emotional wellness as popular and well accepted as physical wellness?

Alyssa Petersel :

It's a great question. And I think about this a lot, especially my role becomes more and more in people and people management. I think something that I find fascinating having experienced both in therapy and in facilitating therapy. So I run a monthly founder group of sorts where a bunch of founders, of various different companies come together. We talk about the highs and lows. We resource share , we troubleshoot and in reading, I've done and some of those gatherings and some of my own experience, I cannot tell you, I cannot count the amount of times where a successful business outcome or an unsuccessful business outcome really hinges on the health, emotional health of the individuals involved as well as their ability to communicate with each other, their interpersonal skills and how much of that is learned in therapy. Because if you have say you have a strange relationship with your sibling and or your mother, and you are holding onto pieces of that in the absence of therapy, you have limited understanding of how that's impacted you. You have limited understanding of how that's uniquely affecting the way you view the world and the way you operate, the way you go about your day to day, which can also then lead to limited understanding of how that might reappear in every other relationship. So it's going to reappear in your romantic life, it's going to reappear in your professional life. So it's really interesting is for those who are actively tending to their mental health they're therapy, or they're in coaching, their amount of self-awareness growth is really palpable. And those are, you see that self-awareness and you see that empathy and you see that emotional intelligence that EQ being really important. The more you continue to grow in your career and your life and your relationships and parenthood. So I think the more that we can emphasize that the better, and I will say, I think in the last year and a half, I think COVID has been an absolute catastrophe, but it has given people a common language. It has given people a scapegoat of sorts to open the door to quite how common stress and mental health obstacles really are and has created a slew of public conversations with people who, as a society. We really respect. We really look up to. So the more, these incredibly accomplished athletes and actors and public figures come out say , Hey, my mental health really matters, and this is what I need to do for it. Or I am in therapy. And I don't think I could do what I do without it, or Hey , I don't necessarily need it for some of those dips and valleys. I look forward to it because it's time and space just for me. If the rest of my day is really full, then this is the place that that's really carved out. So I think that helps.

Greg Muzzillo :

And good for us as a nation and good for us as a world. I know I have met. I told you that before we got started, I meet with a therapist for an hour and a half every Saturday morning and it is really helped. I'm a hard charging Italian sob. I can be. And what she has a wonderful way of saying is Greg, what served you well to get to where you are, is not going to serve you well, getting to where you're trying to go. And, she has so made me so much more emotionally intelligent. Not that I'm, I certainly have a long way to go still, but I , I just loved the time because the insights I get into my family of origin relationships, which just about everybody listening has issues with your family of origin. I think, I think part of it's karma, I think maybe you might agree with that, but it doesn't really matter. Everybody has issues with their family of origin and everybody has issues in their life and it, and if you want to be healthy and stay healthy, just like somebody at the gym go to the gym to not only get healthy, but then stay healthy. I think we all need therapists, therapy to get healthy and stay emotionally healthy. And I think anybody that resonates with any of that ought to check out MyWellbeing .com And just go check it out. It's free to sort of surf there and discover there. And the brilliant future you can have not only being physically well, but mentally, well, it could be very exciting and one person at a time make this world a much better place. Anyhow, listen, Alyssa, thank you so much for your time. I wish you great luck , and Godspeed in growing your business because it's truly a business that our nation and our world needs. Thanks again for your time.

:

Thank you so much, Greg. Great to talk with you.

Introducing Alyssa Petersel
Somehow I am Different
Studying Buddhism in India
Creating MyWellbeing
Growing MyWellbeing
The Economic Model
Making Emotional Wellness Popular