What to Pay Therapists in Tech

Survey results from therapists working in digital mental health

David Cooper
Therapists in Tech
6 min readOct 13, 2021

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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Therapists in Tech (TnT) is a collective of more than 700 mental health professionals who consult for or work in industry and tech roles — from start-up to corporate life. Together, we work in some of the most familiar companies in digital health.

The Problem: No one knows what to pay therapists in tech

The most frequent questions asked by members on our private Slack space relates to understanding compensation in tech. When these questions first popped up, the more experienced health-tech members chimed in with their stories and sage wisdom. But over time, even these tech-veterans realized that there was huge variation, misunderstanding, and a lack of data on how to benchmark the salaries, consulting, and equity for the wide range of roles for therapists in tech spaces.

It’s not just our members that are wondering about salary bands. Large-scale organizations regularly turn to us for guidance on the appropriate compensation for prospective employees. Amazingly, hiring directors of start-ups valued in the billions continue to turn to Therapists in Tech to informally understand how to hire and compensate other therapists in tech. As the field of mental health technology is relatively new, there is currently little data to guide decisions on appropriate compensation for mental health professionals in tech.

Our Solution: Ask our community

To approach this problem, we first benchmarked ourselves against resources like Morgan Stanley’s VCECS database and the Aequitas Partner’s Digital Health Survey. Then we surveyed our members to gather information about fair and appropriate compensation for mental health professionals in tech. Our 2021 Therapists in Tech Compensation Survey received 71 responses in total.

The Results

Although geographically diverse, respondents were predominantly clustered in high-tech cities like Seattle, New York, and the Bay Area in the United States. Respondents of the survey were involved in a wide array of professional activities, including clinical strategy, content strategy, behavioral design, diversity and inclusion strategy, employee well-being, and research within consultation and direct employment capacities.

62% of the 71 survey respondents had a doctoral degree, 35% had a master’s degree and 3% had some joint degree.

72% of respondents identified as white — and 71% identified as female. The TnT respondents reflected more representation from women and people of color when compared to the field of psychology as a whole but not when compared to other disciplines in mental health like social work (see the most recent APA demographic survey here). For example, 86% of psychologists identify as white and 58% of social workers are white.

Salaries ranged from $59K per year to $290K with an average salary of $134k per year. This is higher than the average for the field — with psychologists earning $82k per year on average.

Two other data points stand out. First, respondents who did not use their clinical license in their current position tended to earn more — about $20k USD — than those that did. It’s possible that clinical work is valued less in the market than work in other roles like executive leadership or research-based positions, but this trend could be a result of the smaller sample size and not interpretable.

Secondly, our data revealed that a pay gap similar to US national norms where women earn 80 cents for every dollar that men earn. Our female respondents earned 91 cents to the dollar compared to men hired in similar positions. This is more equitable than what is seen in the market as a whole but still not equal.

Recommendations

Our first recommendation is a set of suggested salary ranges that take into account the responses to our survey, other surveys of salary data and ranges, and interviews with expert leadership. We will return with additional specific recommendations and feedback from the TnT community after the publication of this piece.

Suggested Salary Ranges

Therapists in Tech suggests the following ranges for a base annual salary for clinicians, therapists, researchers, and other mental health experts in leadership positions. Equity and bonuses should be included in a total compensation package in addition to the annual base salary.

2021 Therapists in Tech.com Salary Recommendations 10/1/2021

Mental health professionals in Lead and Director positions at public companies may receive greater compensation than the ranges above.

And one more note to job-seekers: equity particularly impacts the salary for founding team members or those at early-stage companies. You should expect higher equity and low compensation when you are joining a very early start-up.

Note: These membership survey findings should be considered only a “snapshot” of our community at this point in time, the results are limited in generalizability due to our low sample size. Just as the field of digital behavioral health is growing day by day, so is our network and the opportunities that our members employ. We plan to publish more describing TnT membership broadly, note that these results are a subsample of membership for those who responded to this compensation survey. Finally, since most of our respondents are employed within the United States, the salaries reported here used will be in USD.

Discussion of Results

Therapists in Tech leaders reflected on the results of the study and discussed the following points of consideration for companies hiring mental health experts in tech:

Promoting Equity and Justice. We encourage majority voices in tech to hold themselves and their organizations to values of justice and liberation. Women outnumber men in the mental health professions, making up more than 75% of new psychology doctorates. Therapists in Tech advocates for equal compensation for women and other marginalized groups, aiming to rectify racial and gender wage gaps in the behavioral health tech field.

Additionally, in mental health professions, people of color including Black, Indigenous, Asian American Pacific Islander, Latinx groups are in the minority (e.g., 86% of psychologists are white, 58% of social workers are white), and they receive less compensation for their work. Structural racism continues to maintain this pay gap, especially for women of color. If racial pay gaps were closed the United States GDP would increase by 14% or 2 Trillion.

Acknowledging Value. Understanding and treating mental health problems is invaluable, yet therapists often experience a severe lack of monetary compensation from the beginning of their training. When therapists do not receive proper payment, they may be implicitly informed that they are not valued by society or that mental health care is not worth financial reimbursement.

Consistent with the American Psychological Association’s recommendations for parity for mental and medical health reimbursement, we also recommend compensation parity for psychologists with nurse practitioners, physicians, psychiatrists, and other similar roles in tech.

Understanding Unique Skills. Mental health clinicians have typically amassed 4 to 7 years of post-graduate clinical and research training. They contribute unique and high-value perspectives to tech organizations on clinical strategy, behavioral design, employee wellness, diversity and inclusion, and more. Mental health providers also possess relational skills useful for cultivating cultures of empathy, well–being, and mental health, which in turn contribute to effective products. We encourage tech companies to invite mental health experts into positions that take full advantage of these unique skillsets.

Going forward

To our knowledge, this is the first pulse check of the occupational opportunities within digital mental health leadership and their associated salaries. Goals for further research include:

  • Expanding the reach of the survey by opening up to other related organizations.
  • Gathering more information from part-time and contract members to help inform members of typical contract rates.
  • Conducting more group to group comparisons to assess how our community is doing with respect to fostering and supporting DEIB initiatives in the workplace.

If you are a tech-curious clinician or therapist dedicated to improving mental health and are interested in using technology to improve human connection, join over 700+ leaders in digital mental health in our free Therapists in Tech Slack group.

Thanks to all the members who contributed their data, expertise, and time to make this article possible. While David Cooper, PsyD is the contributing author over twenty therapists and psychologists contributed to the development of this piece.

We welcome your feedback by writing to us at info@therapistsintech.com

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