Dr Mary Gregory is a clinical psychologist, entrepreneur and innovator. She is the founder and director of Sunshine Coast based PsychHelp, an online psychology service providing access to therapy via phone and video.
This year PsychHelp won a place in the SunRamp HealthTech Accelerator, which works with small or start-up firms that cater to the health and well-being sectors.
The multi-week program based on the Sunshine Coast supports promising local businesses with the tools and resources to scale up.
Dr Gregory describes the SunRamp program as “a super-intensive university course”, noting she found a similarly supportive framework at the University of Sunshine Coast where she completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology.
SunRamp is led by a skilled and well-connected team who have experience with successful innovation programs in Australia, the UK and the US.
Dr Gregory’s objective is to bring quality, accessible mental health care to more people across Australia. One in two Australians will experience mental ill-health at some point in their lives.
Breaking barriers with online therapy
From trying to figure out how to get a referral or a rebate, to wait lists and even finding time to visit a psychologist, many people face obstacles when seeking therapy.
For people living in remote or rural areas it can be an even greater challenge.
PsychHelp’s e-therapy model helps address many of these issues. Sessions are conducted via phone or video, which means appointment times can be more flexible.
Clients can make an appointment during their lunch break, between classes or while the baby is asleep. It is also more convenient for people who are less mobile or find it difficult to get out of the house.
PsychHelp has helped more than 1800 clients across Australia, north to Darwin, south to Tasmania and from coast to coast, including remote clients who live more than 200km from the nearest paved road.
A great place to live and work
Dr Gregory’s move to the Sunshine Coast eight years ago was for personal reasons and has turned out to be the perfect move for her business.
“I have found there is a strong entrepreneurial spirit and supportive business community on the Sunshine Coast, including a strong network of educated and highly skilled professionals,” says Dr Gregory.
PsychHelp has more than 25 psychologists who operate remotely and that number is growing. The local team is Sunshine Coast based and includes Dr Gregory plus four operational and client support staff.
“The best thing about working on the Sunshine Coast is that after work I can jump in the car with my family and in five minutes we’re at the beach!”
Behind the telehealth boom
Psychology services are a great fit with online delivery with evidence to show online psychological therapy is as effective as face-to-face therapy. It is no surprise that the industry is booming.
“In 2020 I could count the number of e-therapy services on one hand,” Dr Gregory states. “Now there are several competitors in the market.”
The boom in the industry was driven by the increase in referral rates through the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent increased public awareness of the convenience and ease of use of these services. At the same time the rules rebates for telehealth were broadened and greater funding for health services was made available so this is now a permanent part of the Australian health system. Now all Australians can access Medicare rebates for telehealth psychology appointments.
The growing demand for online psychology services is a great sign for PsychHelp.
When looking for a Psychologist, Dr Gregory suggests selecting a practitioner who is registered with Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). She says it is also important to check the person or organisation qualifies for the rebate scheme to avoid out of pocket expenses.
Could your business do with a boost?
With over 300 days of sunshine and a wealth of outdoor recreations spaces, there is plenty of opportunity to stoke the psychological benefits of being outdoors. Whether it is a walk on the beach to soak up some Vitamin D or enjoying one of the numerous local parks for some “tree time” as Dr Gregory calls it.