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This blog post was written by Ellie Gershenwald (Steinhardt '22) based on an interview with March 2022 Founder of the Month, Alyssa Petersel (Silver ‘17), Founder & CEO of MyWellbeing.
MyWellbeing is a platform designed to help to combat the mental health toll by efficiently and effectively connecting therapy seekers with therapists.
Alyssa Petersel didn’t expect to be where she is today as the Founder and CEO of MyWellbeing. Although she has been focused on social impact for a long time, hosting lemonade stands and volunteering from a young age, her primary drive has always been towards science. Recognizing her strong potential, Alyssa’s biggest mentor, her high school chemistry teacher, encouraged her to be an engineer. Through her first semester of college at Northwestern University, she was a Biomedical Engineering major with a future goal of building prosthetic limbs for war victims. However, Alyssa came to realize that her strengths were in public speaking and community organizing. So, she quickly shifted her studies to Psychology and International Studies. She spent a significant amount of time in the School of Education and Social Policy and pursued internships and jobs working at non-profits, doing policy work and strategic organizing specifically focused on violence reduction in Chicago.
Shortly after graduating, with her entrepreneurial spirit developing, she used Kickstarter to fundraise for an 8-month stay in Hungary where she conducted research for her first book, Somehow I Am Different. The book, about 3rd Generation Holocaust survivors rebuilding Jewish life in Hungary, was rooted in deep interviews that enabled her to understand people’s lives and family history. Alyssa notes that while the work was incredibly fulfilling, she knew it would not be financially sustainable. She planned to train as a therapist and split her time between working at a private practice and writing.
Alyssa attended NYU’s Silver School of Social Work to complete her Masters in Social Work while pursuing a writing certification from The Writer’s Institute at CUNY Graduate Center. During her time training to be a therapist, she started to look for one for herself. Alyssa had a history of anxiety and depression and, knowing that she would soon be taking on a significant amount of emotional baggage from clients, she wanted to find her own outlet. After facing numerous challenges in finding a therapist, including delayed replies, the wrong fit, and cost, she knew that she was not alone in this experience. Seventy-three percent of people who seek therapy never end up finding a therapist because they get stuck in the search process. Many of those who do go, end up dropping out early. Alyssa summed it up this way: “I was committed to finding a therapist, I was not in crisis, I was not going through a panic attack, and I still couldn’t do it. If I can’t do it, how are people in life or death situations going to find someone?” Discovering this pain point was the seed for MyWellbeing. Alyssa says the “business found [her].” From her studies in graduate school and her personal search for therapy, she knew she could be the solution.
Alyssa’s well-rounded experience and understanding of both the consumer tech side and the clinical health provider side gave her a unique viewpoint. With the seeds now planted, she arranged to take all of her electives in the NYU Wagner School of Public Service and the NYU Stern School of Business and lobbied for these classes to count towards her Masters degree. In 2017, she was excited to be the first social worker to participate in the NYU Summer Launchpad. With new resources, knowledge, and funding, Alyssa launched MyWellbeing with the goal of simplifying the process of connecting therapy seekers with therapists. A few years later, MyWellbeing has now successfully matched over 200,000 people with thousands of therapists, is raising its Series A with $2 million raised to date in previous rounds, has over 30 million impressions on social media each year, and has a growing email list of interested users. Their continued momentum has been boosted by the overwhelmingly positive feedback they have received.
In light of Women’s History Month, Alyssa understands how crucial it is to reflect on women entrepreneurs who have contributed so much, but who have not always been given the credit they deserve. She recognizes the need to understand the biases in the narratives we are exposed to, and the importance of being curious about who we look up to and why. When asked for a piece of advice for young women entrepreneurs, Alyssa shared that they must surround themselves with and be honest about the support they need. "Trust your instincts and don't doubt your strengths", she says – advice that has guided her own work and propelled her forward through each new experience and challenge.