Health Services, Payers

After struggling to find a therapist, Headway founder built his own network

The New York based startup is working to build a network of therapists and other mental health providers. It recently raised a $26 million series A round led by Thrive and GV.

Headway’s platform lets users search for in-network therapists. The company manages back-end paperwork and billing, and hires therapists as independent contractors.

When Andrew Adams moved to New York five years ago, he struggled to find a therapist that would take his insurance. He’s not alone — a little over one in four people struggled to find a therapist in their network, according to a survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2015.

A shortage of healthcare professionals, coupled with a crippling pandemic, has exacerbated a longstanding problem with access to mental healthcare. Another challenge is that many therapists have independent practices, which can make processing claims and negotiating with insurers more difficult.

Adams started Headway with the idea of building his own network of therapists by creating a system to manage the administrative burden, such as claims and insurance credentialing. In turn, they become independent contractors of Headway, which is paid by insurers every time they see a patient.

“Pre-pandemic, there was a crippling access shortage. There’s a real shortage of therapists accepting insurance,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re proud to be radically growing that.”

Since March, the company has seen a surge of patient demand. Visits nearly quadrupled, Adams said. But Headway also saw increased interest from providers. Many of them referenced a “call to arms feeling,” he added.

Headway claims to have more than 1,600 therapists and psychiatrists on its platform. Roughly two-thirds of them didn’t accept insurance beforehand.

Users can search on Headway’s platform to see if a therapist is covered in-network. Its services are covered by several major insurers, including Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, and startup Oscar.

The company recently raised a $26 million series A round led by Thrive and GV (formerly known as Google Ventures). Accel, which led Headway’s seed round, as well as GFC and IA Ventures also participated in the round. To date, it has raised a total of $32 million.

Adams plans to use the funds to expand Headway’s services into other states. Although many patients are currently seeing mental health providers of telehealth visits, they might want to see them in-person in the future.

“We do see our patients typically want to go in person when they can, which is why we’re building a large, geographically dense network,” he said. “We’re really excited to use this capital to expand across the U.S. and do what we’re doing now, not just in the market of New York.”