[Ming Pao News] The social movement in 2019 and COVID-19 have cut off social life, "waves of social depression, Hong Kong people may "stuck" at any time." Dr. Albert Chan, PhD in clinical psychology and director of the start-up company "Solacetree Counselling", said that many people in Hong Kong have reached an emotional critical point. His company launched a psychological counselling web & app application "Solacetree" earlier this year. Users can interact with clinical psychologists through a web & app application. Thru voice or video chats with licensed psychologists, Dr. Chan hopes to encourage people to release their emotional issues with their “soulpanions” through professional counselling services. Ming Pao reporter Lam Ying Yin
Ms. Kate Lau, Business Development Manager of "Solacetree Counselling", who was originally a patient of Dr. Chan, discovered that many of her friends also had different levels of emotional distress. So she proposed to Dr. Chan to develop a counselling web/app application in 2019. Kate and her partner, which was a U.S. IT company specializing in healthcare solutions were responsible for the app development, while Dr. Chan was responsible for recruiting local clinical psychologists.
Accessible for people that need the services at night
Dr. Chan, who possesses professional qualifications in clinical psychology in the U.S. and Canada, said that similar online services existed in North America at least 10 years ago, and Hong Kong has not yet been popularized. He said that people in Hong Kong have long working hours and high mental pressure, coupled with social movements in 2019 and the recent pandemic, a backlog of negative emotions, which induced a huge demand for emotional support. Dr. Chan said most of the current psychological counselling services only go until 8 pm. However, emotions often erupt at night when people are alone. Hence, the program allows users to make appointments with clinical psychologists at anytime, anywhere for online counselling. The clients can also choose to turn off the camera for privacy issues.
Online counselling charges based on expert qualifications
At present, there are more than 10 clinical psychologists on the platform, who can consult on depression, family, personal relationships, parenting, career development, and other areas. The platform charges based on the qualifications of clinical psychologists, ranging from HK$560 to HK$960 for a 60 minutes session. Kate said there is a free diary feature that allows users to track and express their emotions, and they can also choose to share content with clinical psychologists so that the other party can evaluate their emotional conditions.
Dr. Chan said that face-to-face counselling can observe the client's body language. However, online counselling has a higher degree of privacy. Users can choose to turn off the camera and a nickname during counselling. He hopes that the program could help more people with emotional issues, and propagate in the mass public.