The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) recently invested almost $17 million in Lantern, an evidence-based online mental health wellness service in the hope that the two organizations can provide much-needed support and resources to the millions of Americans who would benefit from psychological counseling. Lantern’s mission is summed up on its web site: “Accessing care is at best expensive, and at worst completely out of reach. And that’s where Lantern comes in…. We’re a team of researchers, technologists, and clinicians translating clinical research and expertise into simple, effective web and mobile programs based in cognitive behavioral therapy. We’re not about unrealistic promises or get-happy-quick schemes. We’re about removing the stigma and barriers that prevent people from strengthening their emotional selves, offering a holistic approach to making every day better.”
To that end, Lantern, which is available for any device, begins with a quiz to evaluate each user’s unique emotional needs, assessing a person’s strengths and weaknesses in 5 areas. It then offers daily exercises and matches users with a professional coach. The programs are designed by researchers from Stanford University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Penn State University. The service costs $49 per month and can be cancelled at any time. Unfortunately, at press time, the service was not covered by most insurance plans.
Lantern distinguishes itself from in-person psychotherapy by stating that its online service does not provide a clinical diagnosis. Instead it says: “Lantern involves a self-assessment that provides an overview of strengths and challenges, but does not provide diagnoses. Lantern also creates a personalized program but it is not meant to be treatment for a mental health disorder.” To further separate its services from traditional psychotherapy, it explains that “While Lantern’s coaches are experienced mental health professionals, their role at Lantern is as a coach, not a therapist, which is highlighted by the fact that they have only one live interactive experience with a user, the initial motivational interview. All other communications are asynchronous email communications. Coaching activities are restricted to assisting users in how to use Lantern’s tools and programs and encouraging them to do so.”