Toronto company connecting people to therapists — with a click

Toronto woman coping with mental health issues launched TranQool, a place for people to access counselling sessions through video interaction in their own home.

TranQool, launched by Toronto woman with anxiety, provides access to video counselling online

"I had a lot of a internal battles with my anxiety," says Toronto resident Chakameh Shafii, creator of an online therapy centre called TranQool. (Devin Heroux/CBC News)

In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians copes with a mental health problem.

It's something Chakameh Shafii knows well. From the outside, the Toronto resident — a highly-motivated mechanical engineer — looked like she had it all.

But under the surface, she grappled with mental health issues.

"I had a lot of a internal battles with my anxiety," Shafii told CBC Toronto.

After working with a therapist, and experiencing the helpful nature of cognitive behavioural therapy in combating her anxiety, Shafii wanted to give back.

She developed an online therapy centre called TranQool — a place for people to access counseling sessions through video interaction in the safety and comfort of their own home.

TranQool founder hopes to expand nationwide 

The Toronto-based company launched about a year ago and connects therapists and clients across Ontario, and Shafii aims to expand it nation-wide in the next year. 

Dana Kendel is one of therapists who uses the service to interact with patients, and she stressed the importance of talking about mental health. 

"If it's affecting how you work, how you are at school... that's serious stuff and people aren't talking about it enough," she said.

TranQool founder Chakameh Shafii (left) and therapist Dana Kendel (right) at the offices of the therapy-by-video company. (Devin Heroux/CBC News)

Video therapy the 'wave of the future'

Steve Lurie, executive director for the Canadian Mental Health Association's Toronto branch, called video therapy the "wave of the future."

"There's emerging literature on the effectiveness of video therapy and tele-mental health… and some patients actually prefer it," he said.

Lurie, who is not affiliated with TranQool, said video options can help reduce barriers to mental health care, particularly for people in remote areas.

TranQool touts itself as an affordable option, with rates of $80 per session, compared to, typically, more than $120 for an in-person session.

But Lurie stressed that improving access also means breaking down cost barriers. 

"If this is just for people who can afford to pay, it improves access for them, but we should be talking about how to use these more broadly," he said.

With files from Devin Heroux