Kellogg students create bekome: “Hinge for therapy”


Photo courtesy of Shanna Traphoner-Liu

bekome co-founders and second-year Kellogg students Shanna Traphoner-Liu and Vanessa Gottlieb. bekome works to match its clients with therapists based on personal fit and chemistry, providing an in-depth therapist directory.

Avani Kalra, Reporter

After struggling for more than ten years to find the right therapist, second-year Kellogg student Shanna Traphoner-Liu decided to take action.

“I thought, ‘Okay, something has to be done about this,’” Traphoner-Liu said. “It’s continuing to be such an emotionally exhausting, tedious, time-consuming process.”

As a result, Traphoner-Liu had the idea to create bekome, a web platform “helping Gen-Z, millennials and people of color find their right therapist based on personality, lifestyle and cultural fit.”

She met her co-founder, second-year Kellogg student Vanessa Gottlieb, in Kellogg’s New Venture Discovery class. Together, they developed bekome in The Garage, an 11,000 foot space that’s home to more than 500 student founded startups and projects at Northwestern. Traphoner-Liu participated in The Garage’s Propel program, a mentorship and networking experience that offers female student participants up to $1,000 to begin a startup.

Now, as a Resident Team in The Garage, bekome receives funding, advice, community and mentorship.

bekome has paired around 18 clients with therapists since launching in the spring, Gottlieb said. The website matches its initial clients, or beta testers, with therapists based on a survey, or allows users to select their own from a detailed “therapist directory” on the organization’s website.

Gottlieb said therapist profiles include descriptions of therapy styles and testimonials from other clients. The system is similar to Hinge, a popular dating app, Traphoner-Liu said.

Unlike other platforms, bekome’s therapists are required to record a video introduction. A successful therapist-client relationship often depends on chemistry and body language, Gottlieb said, so it’s important for clients to see the mannerisms and speaking styles of potential therapists. bekome’s real goal, though, is to humanize, Gottlieb said.

“If you go to a Psychology Today profile, it’s often more like a resume than a human,” Gottlieb said. “You have no idea who this person is, whether you relate to them and whether you’re going to be comfortable being vulnerable with them.”

Second-year Kellogg student and bekome beta tester Emma Lichtenstein said the videos were the most helpful part of her journey.

Lichtenstein selected two therapists from bekome’s directory in July and was able to meet with both for a 15-minute consultation before making her choice.

“As a biracial woman, something that was important for me was navigating those relationships with cultural competency and different backgrounds,” Lichtenstein said. “That’s not something that was necessarily on a therapist profile, but I was able to directly ask questions during that 15-minute conversation.”

bekome works to offer access to therapists from an array of backgrounds, Gottlieb said, because power structures in therapy have made it a primarily white practice.

Traphoner-Liu said cultural competency in bekome’s partner therapists was important to her. Growing up in Birmingham, Ala., she said, her options were further limited by a lack of therapists of color –– her first therapist didn’t quite understand Traphoner-Liu’s struggles to “assimilate and fit in.”

“At the time, I had no idea what a ‘fit’ in a therapist meant,” Traphoner-Liu said. “I just knew it didn’t help me after multiple sessions, and I stopped therapy thinking that it wasn’t for me.”

Later in life, Traphoner-Liu said, she returned to therapy but was unsuccessful in finding a good fit in college. She said she was disappointed again when she arrived at NU and found Counseling and Psychological Services unhelpful.

Bekome and Traphoner-Liu were recently accepted into the Kellogg Zell Fellows program, an entrepreneurship fellowship that will allow bekome to further expand.

“We want to be the one-stop shop, the go-to place for young adults to pursue their mental health,” Traphoner-Liu said. “Making change and truly destigmatizing something is a grassroots movement, and we want to be at the helm of that.”

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Twitter: @avanidkalra

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