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Innovative therapy practice gets $750K grant for expansion

DiveThru is the brainchild of St. Albert-raised Sophie Gray; it opened a St. Albert location earlier this year
What started as a guided journalling app for St. Albert-raised entrepreneur Sophie Gray has evolved into a psychology practice in Edmonton. DIVETHRU/Twitter

DiveThru, a journaling app turned full-fledged digital and in-person therapy practice, has received $750,000 to open two new Edmonton locations.

DiveThru is the brainchild of St. Albert-raised Sophie Gray, who launched the journaling app in 2018 after she started writing down her thoughts to overcome panic attacks.

The grant is from the Edmonton Edge Fund, a $5 million fund that supports businesses to “start, scale and grow” in Edmonton.

Gray is looking to open one practice on Edmonton’s north side and another on the city’s south side.   

DiveThru’s growth has been faster than Gray expected, she said. It opened its first brick-and-mortar location near Whyte Avenue just over a year ago and launched a St. Albert studio this year.

“We really want to be intentional about our growth,” she said. “But looking at the response that we've been receiving from the community, and seeing that our services are registering and connecting with our target demographic, and then also having the city's vote of confidence, is allowing us to expand without overextending ourselves.”

DiveThru offers in-person and virtual therapy, as well as an online client-therapist matching service and a suite of digital mental health tools.

Gray said the practice’s main demographic is “anyone that resonates with [DiveThru’s] less-than-traditional approach, with really colourful spaces, really relatable language and our technology.” Clients who show up to the clinics have mostly been in the 18-40 age range, but St. Albert has seen more children and youth accessing services, she said.

DiveThru met the Edmonton Edge Fund’s main criteria of job creation, economic growth and downstream benefits, Gray said. “We had a really strong application when it came to the social benefits,” she said.

Gray said with the expansion, DiveThru is exploring adding assessments for disorders such as ADHD and autism to its service offerings.

DiveThru has roughly 29 therapists spread across its two Alberta studios and its virtual studios in Ontario and B.C., according to Cass Bishay, DiveThru’s director of clinical operations.

“The hope is that as we expand with these different locations, we want to have a studio that's present in all the different areas of Edmonton,” Bishay said. “We want to make sure that we are creating that brand, that accessibility, that reach that is going to enable us to support as many people as we can.”

Dr. Lily Le, DiveThru’s director of clinical innovation, said anecdotally that DiveThru seems to be attracting many therapy first-timers.

“I think that says something about how we're talking about mental health, the intentionality behind the relatability and … reducing clinical jargon,” Le said.

The aim with the studios is to create a storefront-type space that invites passersby to walk in off the street and start working on their mental health, Le said.

Bishay said she has noticed therapy is becoming attractive for people who aren’t suffering from a major mental health crisis.

“Therapy can be for anybody,” Bishay said. “It can be immensely helpful, no matter what is going on in your life … that ability to have an unbiased, supportive and safe space to go is really our mission.”

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