Cedar Rapids mental-health provider launches new virtual therapy platform

Covenant Family Solutions' StrengthenU aims to 'meet people where they are at'

A photo illustration shows a notebook and coffee mug over a laptop keyboard. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
A photo illustration shows a notebook and coffee mug over a laptop keyboard. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

“If the past year has taught us anything,” Covenant Family Solutions CEO Dr. Jacob Christenson said, “it is that those of us in the mental health field need to be prepared to meet people where they are at — quite literally.”

This past month Covenant, a Cedar Rapids-based mental health provider, launched a virtual mental health platform called StrengthenU.

“StrengthenU takes virtual care to a new level and we are excited to be on the cutting edge of this much needed service for mental health care,” Christenson said.

It offers a secure tool for members, through a subscription service, to connect with a personally assigned, licensed therapist via text, phone or video.

“Especially with COVID this year, it’s been amazing to be able to provide a service that eliminates barriers and allows people to get the support they need,” said therapist Catherine Norwood, who will be interacting with clients through StrengthenU.

“There are a lot of therapists who aren’t seeing people in person or there’s a lot of therapists who are really full.

“So to be able to have something literally at people’s fingertips, I think just really gives people the opportunity to have the help and support right now that we need in the middle of a pandemic and with the state of our country.”


Marketing and Communications Director Anna Patty agreed. She noted the platform was built between August and December.

“StrengthenU has been a brainchild of ours for a while, and then essentially the events of the last year drastically ramped up the process to make this single live,” she said.

“We’re hoping to be a light out of the darkness.”

Norwood added that this platform can be a great introduction to therapy for many.

“With StrengthenU, you can set up a 15-to-20-minute consult before you begin so you can even see if you’re comfortable,” she said.

“A lot of people haven’t even tried therapy, so that option is really great because then you get the opportunity to get a feel for it before you even subscribe to any of the programs.”

The first step is visiting the website to complete a brief survey to determine the type of support a client is looking for and specifics that are important, including whether you would prefer a male or female therapist and issues you are seeking to address.

The site generates a list of therapists for you to review.

“You hand pick who you are getting care from. It’s very personalized and really convenient,” Patty said.

What makes the platform unique in the teletherapy industry is that it was developed from the ground up by trained and licensed mental health providers.

“Therapists are the one’s driving this whole process,” Christenson said. “There are other services like this out there but they are created by tech companies and entrepreneurs who don’t really have any experience or knowledge is what people in the mental health world really need.


“One of the biggest things for us is trying to increase the quality of care for services. Other places will create a platform and it’ll allow you to be able to access the service, but their quality control and their ability to really have a personal aspect is not there.”

With StrengthenU, he continued, “the people working with setting up the appointments and working with the clients are very experienced mental health care providers.”

“We do look forward to being able to continue to develop the platform,” he added. “We are just so excited that this allows us to increase our interactions with our clients because it is real time and they may not have to wait a week between appointments.”

It also can be a great option when you need to touch base with someone quickly, they added.

“You can come to this for many reasons, but especially if you are not facing a crisis but need to talk to someone right away,” Patty said.

“This service is something that is innovative in our industry. Nobody really offers a kind of quick therapy that will help you to address a specific concern in a very short time. We want people to come to us feeling like they get to choose their own way of getting help that’s going to be most effective for them. We want people to be able to take control of their own health.”

StrengthenU also offers a series of self-guided mental health courses that can be accessed for a small fee.

The courses allow people to begin to understand their mental health diagnoses and build skills needed to strengthen their lives.

“That can be another great compliment to someone who is receiving therapy,” Christenson said.


Individuals interested in learning more or signing up for StrengthenU or the self-guided courses can do so by visiting StrengthenU therapy services are available online, on the Apple App Store, and on Google Play.

Services are available to all U.S. residents.

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