ShockTalk pilot: Increasing access to culturally appropriate telemental health services for Indigenous clients

Project Intro

ShockTalk is a culturally tailored telemental health platform and linkage-to-care for Indigenous peoples, by Indigenous people. This app leverages Facebook Messenger as the point of entry for clients to interface with the ShockTalk AI which gathers basic contact information, syncs their calendar, and allows them to schedule an introductory 15-minute intake session with one of therapists from the vetted ShockTalk directory, and sends a reminder message to ensure client and therapists connect. After the intake session, the client and therapist decide if the therapeutic fit is appropriate and begin a therapeutic relationship or refer to other services. Clients continue to schedule their sessions through ShockTalk using the calendar functions.

The aims of this research were as follows: 1) Assess changes in client attitudes related to telemental health treatment value and trust in ShockTalk technology; 2) assess the accessibility, experience, and value of ShockTalk for practitioners and clients interested in providing or receiving culturally responsive mental health treatment; and 3) estimate the potential benefit of the culturally responsive mental health treatment facilitated by ShockTalk. Further evaluation of this pilot program will assess the prospective benefits of telemental health care linkage for Indigenous individuals living in urban settings.

Project Outcomes

  1. Identified and brought on 3 Indigenous therapists as partner providers for ShockTalk app in New York State
  2. Identified 3 additional Indigenous therapists interested in joining the ShockTalk platform and directory in the coming months
  3. Recruited 12 Indigenous therapy seekers in New York State
  4. Provided 4 Indigenous therapy seekers with at least 5 ($600 equivalent) free therapeutic sessions with Indigenous licensed therapists
  5. So far, 2 Indigenous therapy seekers have continued
  6. Initial findings from the baseline surveys and in-depth interviews include:
    1. Experience with therapy prior to ShockTalk Pilot:
      1. All participants have met with a therapist before, only one participant had met with a therapist online or virtually. On average, participants had met with their therapist between 2 and 9 times. However, the only respondent who said they met with a therapist virtually, only attended one session with them.
      2. All participants agreed or strongly agreed that the race or ethnicity of a therapist should align with their identity. Further all participants agreed that not needing to explain what being Indigenous or Native means to a therapist was important in identifying a therapist.
      3. All participants agreed that a therapist who offered a sliding scale fee was important
    2. Using the ShockTalk App:
      1. All participants agreed or partially agreed that they were in control when using ShockTalk and that it was an app that they can trust
      2. All participants agreed or partially agreed that The in-app scheduling made scheduling an intake appointment with a therapist easy.The automatic reminder before my intake appointment helped me attend my appointment on time.
      3. All participants agreed or partially agreed that they would suggest this app to a friend or family member
    3. In-depth Interviews:
      1. Overall, participants were happy that there was an app just for them as an Indigenous person. They were excited to share their thoughts about ShockTalk and be part of the research process.
      2. “You did the hard work of finding Indigenous therapists that I could trust.” –Participant quote, 27 year old Indigenous person in the New York City Tri-State Area
  7. To view and Early platform preview and our  Website
  8. We will publish both a protocol and outcome paper in peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, we will seek funding to expand the pilot to continue making improvements to ShockTalk. We recently received seed funding to implement the technological improvements and fully develop this app. We can’t wait to make ShockTalk available to all Indigenous people and ensure they have access to quality mental health care.

Team Members

Austin Serio | Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer | Chicoran Shakori

Austin is a member of the Chicoran Shakori tribe of South Carolina. As part of the Great Migration of the 60s, some Shakori and other peoples of color walked away from sharecropping by migrating to the northeast “for the good union jobs”. Growing up as a Two-Spirit urban native in the Simsbury area of Hartford, Austin has found himself at powerful intersections between the forces of Technology and Globalization.

Sutton King, MPH | Co-founder & Chief Financial Officer | Menominee/Oneida

Sutton King, MPH, Nāēqtaw-Pianakiw (comes first woman), is the co-founder, president and chairperson of UIC and the Co-Founder of ShockTalk. Sutton King MPH, a descendant of the Menominee and Oneida Nations of Wisconsin, is a nationally recognized Afro-Indigenous public health leader and social entrepreneur.

Ariel Richer, LMSW (CSSW PhD candidate) | Principle Investigator | Venezuela/Trinidad & Tobago

Ariel is Afro-Indigenous and white, descendant of Carib Indians, the Indigenous people of Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago. Ariel is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University School of Social Work working within the Social Intervention Group (SIG), under the direction of Professor Louisa Gilbert. She focuses on increasing access to and use of culturally-tailored interventions and services. She engages in community-based participatory research to better understand the syndemic of substance use, intimate partner violence, and HIV and STI risk. Ariel works with Black, Indigenous, and queer communities who use drugs and have been affected by the criminal-legal system.