Lyra partners with Calm to bring meditation to mental health service

(Photo: Getty | Maria Korneeva)

Lyra Health, a richly funded start-up selling employee mental health services to businesses, is adding meditation, mindfulness and sleep support to its program through a new partnership with app-maker Calm.

By teaming up, the companies hope to treat a broader population of users and expand their base of employer customers. It’s also a way to preserve the limited time and availability of its therapists for patients who need clinical support.

Neither company would disclose the financial terms of the partnership.

Demand for mental health treatment has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, but there’s a widespread shortage of mental health professionals.

Lyra is trying to address this problem by giving its customers access to coaches with less clinical training than therapists. The start-up, which launched in 2015, sells its solution to employers looking for ways to boost productivity and retain talent by connecting workers with mental health services.

Now, it’s adding Calm to its treatment options.

“We’ve seen huge growth month over month in terms of usage and need,” Lyra Chief Medical Officer Dr. Connie Chen said. “And that’s both in terms of the volume of clients, and an increase in the baseline severity.”

Calm’s chief strategy officer, Alexander Will, said his team has seen a similar spike in demand from consumers and businesses.

Calm, which got its start in 2012, is free but the company charges $60 a year for subscriptions to its library of meditation, music and sleep content. The paid offerings include audio programs that guide users through daily sessions for managing stress and anxiety.

Calm initially started by targeting its app to consumers, but it has increasingly moved to enterprise sales channels. Studies are finding that mindfulness and meditation can have an impact on reducing stress in certain populations, although more research is needed.

Social networking company Pinterest is one of the first clients to move forward with Lyra and Calm.

“There’s been a huge demand for mental health, particularly lately,” said Alice Vichaita, Pinterest’s head of global benefits. “We’re hearing that mindfulness and medication are popular these days, and we want people to have more ways to decompress.”

The company has offered Lyra as a benefit to employees for several years and added on coaching in 2019. Since the start of the pandemic, the company said, employees have moved from in-person therapy to online-only.

Vichaita said the company’s employees and contractors will now get free access to Calm rather than paying for the subscription. Employees and their dependents can also access Lyra for online therapy and coaching.

Employees will either get access to 12 free sessions with a therapist or six with a coach, depending on the need, Vichaita said. Employees who need additional help can see a therapist on an ongoing basis, but that may be subject to a co-pay.

Calm is backed by more than $140 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. Lyra Health, which is run by Facebook’s former chief financial officer David Ebersman, has raised more than $288 million.

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