Two Qatari women have come up with a new app, which will go live soon and is supported by Qatar Foundation (QF), providing online access to psychological counselling through video sessions, messaging and calls to face the challenges of new motherhood and the pressures of child rearing.

Najla AlKuwari and Noof Almahmoud have come up with the new app, Therappy, finding themselves in the midst of new motherhood and facing the pressures of child rearing and postpartum issues. They were looking to mental health resources for support but found out that not much was tailored to their specific needs. Thus began their journey to developing Therappy.

Therappy is a recent winner of the Product Development Fund – a funding opportunity offered by Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), part of Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation.

Connecting users directly to counsellors, it aims to eliminate the additional inconvenience of long waiting times and appointments associated with traditional psychologists’ visits. The app will host everything - from booking to sessions and payment - securely to ensure confidentiality and a better user experience.

Alkuwari, co-founder of the app, said Therappy will help curtail some of the hesitation around seeking help for mental health in Qatar and the region.

“There is definitely a stigma associated with seeking help in some cultures, and with limited counselling resources available, people often find themselves running into those they know while feeling vulnerable. Being recognised or confronted about matters they may wish to keep private often hinders people from pursuing the help they need,” she explained.

Emphasising complete privacy for users, Alkuwari hopes that the privacy and comfort offered by Therappy will encourage more members of the community to seek help and receive it unencumbered.

Navigating the challenges of early motherhood can be overwhelming and may greatly impact one’s mental health. There is often a lack of understanding about the struggles of a new mother intending to seek help – finding a mental health resource is only the first step. Recovering physically, managing housework and taking care of toddlers and older children are only some of the reasons women delay addressing mental health issues of postpartum.

While Therappy had been in the works before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the drastic global shift in lifestyle only strengthened the need for a service like it in Qatar. “Unexpectedly for us, the pandemic began to require people to stay home, which affects even those already accessing counselling, and makes a service like ours all the more a necessity – it can be accessed any time and from anywhere," noted Alkuwari.

The app currently aims to enlist psychologists and counsellors from across the Middle East, tailored to a variety of people, issues and their needs. It will also be available for use across the Middle East.

The goal is to ensure that users are connected to counsellors they feel comfortable speaking to, whether in regard to their gender, background or experience. It also hopes to help mental health professionals expand their client base through the platform.

“Of course, the added anxieties of the entire situation – be it working from home, schooling children at home or the many precautions being taken have caused more people to face mental health challenges and seek help. This has really pushed us to accelerate our development efforts and make it available to users as soon as possible,” added Alkuwari.