By the time Shalom Tzvi Shore was 24 years old, he found himself with two kids, a rabbinical ordination, and a failing marriage. Struggling financially to support his family, he could not afford therapy, but managed to find a life coach who was willing to work with him for free.
Raised in Jerusalem, Israel, as the eldest of nine children in an English speaking family, Shore found the experience transformational. They worked together for three years, during which time he worked on his confidence and boundary settings, culminating in a painful but amicable divorce.
The end of his marriage led to a crisis of faith, and the young Rabbi left his strict Orthodox upbringing behind. Instead, he discovered meditation through a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. Learning to meditate changed his life – but the way the meditation center operated also deeply impacted him: attendance is completely free, paid for by the generosity of others; at the end of the retreat, participants are given the chance to anonymously gift the same experience to others.
Fast forward six years later, and Shore is now a tech entrepreneur living in Canada. With strong experience in crowdfunding platforms – he’s been heavily involved in the success of two popular Jewish crowdfunding sites – his latest venture strives to use crowdfunding to transform the way people pay for therapy.
“The current therapy payment model is broken,” says Shore, who trained as a hypnotherapist and volunteers his time helping other ex-Jews process religious trauma. “On the one hand, often the people who most need therapy are the least able to afford it. On the other hand, a therapist can completely change your life, and at best you’re paying them $125 an hour for something that’s worth a whole lot more.”
Shore’s new technology platform, Prodana, aims to break the transactional nature currently inherent to therapy. Therapists create a fundraising page where past clients can make a contribution to help others benefit from the same experience. The therapist only gets paid when they complete sessions with new clients, who, in turn can leave an anonymous rating and testimonial about the positive impact the therapeutic experience has been for them.
Shore believes that people would often give more, over a longer period of time, if they were allowed to define their own value for the session and it were framed as being a gift for others. Prodana supports both one-time and recurring contributions, which can accumulate into significant sums over time. “I’ve been giving regular donations to the Vipassana meditation centers for the last six years,” explains Shore. “It’s only $15, but I plan on continuing to make these payments for the rest of my life.”
Many therapists already operate with a sliding scale or a pay-what-you-can model, with the goal of making therapy more accessible. Prodana aims to streamline and improve on this process by transforming it into a pay-it-forward model: each month, all contributors get an email with an update on how many new therapy sessions their funds have helped enable.
Will this approach one day become the go-to method for paying for therapy? Shore remains realistic. “There will always be therapists who charge $250 an hour and have a three month waiting list,” he says. “But to create a mental wellness revolution, we need everyone who can support others, to do so. Prodana creates a frictionless way for mental health practitioners to focus on doing more good while being sustained by the generosity of their clients and the community.”