Designing digital access to mental-health care

TranQool homepage

Engineering + Design + Imagination

Ask someone to draw you a picture of a “therapy session” and there’s a good chance you’ll wind up with a sad-faced guy stretched out on a chaise longue. Nearby, a bewhiskered, Freud-looking therapist will be taking notes and looking terribly wise. How old-school is that?

Like so much else in our world, the new school of mental-health care is digital, and it’s all about increasing access to therapy and making it more affordable.

That’s the vision of Chakameh Shafii, the co-founder and CEO of TranQool – launched on February 1, 2016. An engineer by training, Chakameh and her three colleagues (who are also engineers and co-founded the company) are members of OCAD University’s Imagination Catalyst. Together, they have applied the power of design to shape technology into a human-centric portal to mental-health care.

InStudio caught up with Chakameh last week to learn more about her work and to see whether she had some advice for other entrepreneurs – read the short Q&A that follows. Then check out the two short videos. In the first one, Chakameh describes the origins and aims of TranQool, and talks about the union of human-centric design, science and technology. In the second video, she takes us inside her work with OCAD U’s business incubator and gives a shout out to the astonishing power of imagination.


Photo By Martin Iskander
TranQool team, Left to right: Chakameh Shafii, Mohamad Ahmadi, Saeed Zeinali, Babak Shahabi


Digital access to therapy

InStudio (IS): What is TranQool?

Chakameh Shafii (CS): TranQool is a mental health platform designed for everyday people who need psychological therapy. It makes feeling better simple by providing quick, seamless and cost-effective access to qualified therapists.

IS: What need does TranQool address, and who will it help?

CS:  Over 70 million North Americans live with mental distress, but less than a third of the people who need therapy actually seek help (I’ve blogged about this in the Huffington Post). TranQool aims to simplify the process by empowering users to overcome the barrier to access therapy.

TranQool users won’t have to navigate the complicated health system to find a therapist they can trust. They will be able to have their therapy sessions from the comfort of home, at any time, at a cost-effective price.

IS: What steps have you taken to develop TranQool?

CS: We started by building a great core team and then assembling a network of advisors. With funding from a National Research Council grant, we then created our beta product in partnership with George Brown College. We’ve also made sure that TranQool is in line with all the applicable regulations around personal health information and therapy. And we’re finding that the TranQool blog is becoming a trusted source for people to get information they need to manage day-to-day stress and improve their mood.

Video By Martin Iskander

TranQool feelings matrix



IS: What are the main benefits of belonging to the Imagination Catalyst?

CS: Being an iCat means we have access to a pool of highly creative people inside OCAD U as well as an external network. This has helped us build a truly human-centric product.

An added benefit has been the ability to access the level of mentorship and training we need to build our business on a solid foundation.

IS: What’s your advice for other entrepreneurs?

CS: Figure out the “why” of your life. Why are you doing what you are doing? Why are you doing it now? Why should you be doing it?

Knowing the answers to those questions will help you to keep yourself motivated and on track. I also strongly recommend never shying away from asking for help and, when you’re able, to be open to helping others. It’s not just good karma. It’s good business.

Video By Martin Iskander

TranQool Web therapy interface


Morgan Holmes
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