Technology of Japanese start-up featured by doctors (Series ＃29）
The Second Part: cotree, Creating a Society Connected by Kindness
cotree’s Challenges and Vision for the Future
In the first part of this issue, I explained the online counseling service “cotree” provided by cotree Co., Ltd (hereafter cotree). In this part, I will introduce an interview with Ms. Keiko Nishioka, CEO of cotree.
Q1: With the increasing need to address presenteeism (a condition in which a person’s labor productivity declines due to health problems, but not absenteeism) *1 in companies and schools, there is finally a growing awareness of the need to address presenteeism. I sense a change in understanding for those who receive counseling. What has changed at cotree since its founding in 2014, and what has not?
Ms. Nishioka: At the time of its founding, there was resistance within the psychology industry to conducting “counseling” online. However, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts of counselors who have made online counseling possible, alternative forms of psychological support to “face-to-face” therapy have become very popular. As a result of this change in perception within the psychology industry, there has been a significant increase in the number of mental health professionals who apply to work at cotree.
In the early days, we only offered “talking counseling” via video call. Still, as more psychologists with various specialties joined cotree, we began to provide “writing counseling,” “assessment coaching,” “couples counseling,” “career counseling programs,” etc., and we have become able to provide diverse value by utilizing the expertise of each specialist.
While our services have focused on supporting individuals, we now focus on providing psychological support to corporations, local governments, universities, and other organizations. More corporations are engaging in Health and Productivity Management, and along with this, more companies are focusing on the mental health of their employees. Against this backdrop, we have developed corporate plans for companies and educational institutions, and to date, we have provided programs to more than 50,000 eligible individuals.
Since our founding, we have made various attempts to make mental health care permeate society and become commonplace, based on our mission of “creating a society connected by kindness.” We have and will continue to work under this mission. In the process, we will focus on what we can do at cotree and value the horizontal connections across the industry. We hope to expand the circle of a “society connected by kindness” by becoming a social hub and actively promoting demonstration experiments and external collaborations.
Q2: When recruiting engineers, your company mentioned, “We are looking for people who can communicate well and who can incorporate their ideas into the system.” How do you work out what you aim for with the engineers, and how do you implement it and create a feedback loop from actual users?
Ms. Nishioka: At cotree, our development is based on Scrum development, with short sprints of about one week, always aiming to promote convenience and continuous use for users and partners who use our counseling service.
The development team includes not only engineers but also people with experience in customer support for users and counselors, and people with academic knowledge of psychological support, who conduct detailed reviews from development to implementation.
We are carefully examining the features and products that are planned or already implemented to ensure that they do not increase the psychological burden for both the person receiving or providing counseling and that they align with the users’ desired mental care, among other factors. We are advancing development while conducting a detailed review of these issues.
Q3: During an interview with founder Ms. Sakuramoto, she stated that “kindness is made of imagination and intelligence.” This philosophy is reflected in the company’s efforts to prioritize and show consideration for the anonymity of individuals seeking counseling through technology. Are there other examples of “kindness” the company aims to achieve through technology?
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