In the summer of 2020, James Murray was facing a surprising personal dilemma. “I never thought that I would go to therapy,” he says, “but I found myself in a position where I really needed it.” Murray was not alone — as the world traversed an unfolding global pandemic, as well as an unprecedented racial reckoning in the United States, discussions of mental health became ubiquitous. Matters that were previously brushed aside or stigmatized were suddenly impossible to ignore, inspiring countless people to summon the courage to seek the care they needed. That first step, Murray knows from experience, is hard enough. But in the weeks following his momentous decision, he would encounter further, unexpected obstacles, ultimately leading him to leave a promising corporate career at Facebook to co-found Therify.
The first therapist Murray was matched with through his employer wasn’t the right fit. Neither was the second. Or the third. “I remember sitting in all these consultations, having to explain to different therapists what it felt like to be Black in America,” Murray recalls. The latent grief of losing his father to cancer as a child was a large motivator of his decision to seek mental healthcare, but he couldn’t begin to process that without a provider he trusted. “I really needed someone who understood me, understood my identity, and how my identity influences my well-being,” he says. Again, Murray was not alone: On average, people in the United States see 3 therapists before they establish a “therapeutic alliance,” the clinical term for the ideal level of empathy and understanding between a patient and provider.
“I remember sitting in all these consultations, having to explain to different therapists what it felt like to be Black in America”
Murray realized just how prevalent his predicament was after speaking with his co-workers — many had faced a similar situation, they told him, and had simply given up. Friends and family members, too, were frustrated after finding themselves incompatible with the therapists they tried. “I decided to take matters into my own hands,” Murray says, “and the first thing I did was start a Google form, where my colleagues could take a short assessment, and I would manually search for culturally sensitive providers to recommend to them.” The Google form was an immediate success. Within a month, he had matched 150 people to mental health practitioners suited to their needs. The sense of purpose he felt from this — until then a passion project — was unlike anything he had experienced so far in his career. What if, he thought, he could do this full-time? What would that look like?
Therify was born of a personal need that proved collective, and Murray sensed that the best way to assist the most people in the United States — where access to healthcare can be fraught with obstacles — was to offer his solution directly to employers, who could then offer it as a company benefit. Murray partnered with Warren Sadler, a friend, and former business partner whose background in data science and engineering within the healthcare industry made him uniquely suited for the task at hand: building a software system that matched patients to ideal providers, taking into account preferences like gender, ethnicity, sexuality, language, and even communication style. Sadler had also lost his father prematurely, and had later faced difficulties finding the care he needed. “So he understood the need for what we were setting out to do,” says Murray, who believes that, in building Therify, the pair found a shared purpose. “As Black men processing similar grief and loss, this was deeply personal to us,” he adds.
Since launching with its first client in the summer of 2021, Therify has built a network of more than 1,000 providers, facilitating thousands of therapy sessions for the 94% of members who report that their first practitioner was a great fit. “It takes courage to seek care, and if you make that decision, there shouldn’t be any additional barriers,” Murray says. It should be simple, and Therify is proving that it can be.
Therify has built a network of more than 1,000 providers, facilitating thousands of therapy sessions for the 94% of members who report that their first practitioner was a great fit.