The one-stop-shop for the mental health of minorities in the EU – Arab Therapy

Arab Therapy healthcare startup vision health pioneers incubator

The one-stop-shop for the mental health of minorities in the EU – Arab Therapy

Moving to a new country can be both daunting and exciting. A new challenge in a new environment with new connections. One of the most important of these connections is a doctor or psychologist. Although not always the first thing someone secures, and often put off until it’s needed, finding the best person is essential. By best, this also means someone who can understand your needs and aspects that can be overlooked – the language spoken and an understanding of the culture, history and religion of someone’s heritage. How does someone new to a country find this person? A doctor or psychologist they can trust and know will understand them. It’s difficult and this is where Arab Therapy wants to play the most important of roles. Their mental health platform is being built for both Arabs and other expats living in Europe and facilitates a meeting between the best doctor or psychologist for each patient. We recently interviewed the team, who were originally called Jalsaat when they entered the program, to find out more about their healthcare startup, their vision for the future and why now is exactly the right time for Arab Therapy.

Tareq Dalbah founded Arab Therapy following his time working as a Psychiatrist and Medical Doctor. It was one particular experience that would spark the idea behind Arab Therapy and eventually lead to the team joining Vision Health Pioneers Incubator as part of the fifth cohort. Tareq explains what happened, “Whilst I was working as a Psychiatrist in Berlin, a woman from Syria approached me and asked if I spoke Arabic. I could see her sheer relief at being able to have a conversation in a language she was a hundred percent comfortable with. I saw a face that I will never forget for the rest of my life. We had a short conversation and she shared that she had lived in Germany for five years but had struggled in that time to find someone who could understand cultural differences. She spoke German but it was easier for her to speak in her mother tongue and importantly, needed to speak to someone who understood her childhood, stereotypes and religion. I went home that day and told my wife about the experience. It literally changed my world overnight.”

Tareq’s wife, Hala Almikhy, would become integral to the project and together they researched and realised that 20 million Arabs among 150 million expats live outside the Arab world and their home countries, mostly in western countries. Tareq continues, “We saw these numbers and realised we could make a difference. I began speaking to psychologists within my network and asked them to direct any of their patients towards me who faced similar problems. One of these patients reached out and wanted to find a psychologist who spoke Arabic and asked how best to pay for this service. I connected her with a therapist, offered the first session for free and then suggested any follow up sessions would cost 40 euros. They happily accepted and that’s when I realised that the idea to connect people had the potential for a solid financial model behind it.” This was the beginning of Arab Therapy.

Hala Almikhy, integral for launching Arab Therapy
Hala Almikhy, integral for launching Arab Therapy

Those first interactions and experiences were a little while ago and after discovering Vision Health Pioneers Incubator, Tareq would meet Olga Driglova. “It was Olga who opened my eyes to how Arab Therapy could equally support people from the former USSR who are living outside of the country where they grew up.” Tareq shares. Olga joined the team alongside Tareq’s brother Omar Dalbah and wife, Hala Almikhy and this powerful team of four stepped into the healthcare incubator in Berlin.

“Being an expat is not easy”

Tareq Dalbah Jalsaat startup cohort 5 Vision Health Pioneers Incubator
Tareq Dalbah, Founder, Arab Therapy

Arab Therapy is a platform that focuses on caring for the mental health of minorities in the west. Tareq explains, “Being an expat is not easy. The difficulty of new cultures, often a new working environment and new people – both building friendships and having intimate relationships. My family are from Jordan where we are used to the sunshine, even not having much sun during the colder months in Germany is something that needs to be dealt with. I mentioned all of this because they can each impact someone’s mental health and you need support for it.”

This is the problem that Arab Therapy is trying to solve. Olga shares her own experience of moving to Germany from Ukraine and spending six months trying to find a therapist who spoke the same language and who was also raised in the former USSR. “Today people want to come and live in Germany and Europe and they believe the feelings they have during this experience aren’t normal. But they are. It is typical to move somewhere new and receive therapy for everything you are going through. However once this is accepted, it is then very difficult to try and find the right doctor or psychologist.”

Arab Therapy’s Vision 

The team have built their MVP and are currently in the testing and development phase. Tareq explains the vision for the startup. “We are taking care of people’s mental health and providing a professional option. We want to be the one stop-shop for expats’ mental health. We’ll focus on Arabic to begin with and then move onto  Ukrainian and Russian speakers after. The website is currently our main area and by early 2024 we may have an app available.

Olga, who joined the team following the hard decision to stop another company due to the war in Ukraine, shares why she believes in the vision for Arab Therapy. “Tareq is very serious about making this work. It’s important that Founders love what they do and believe in it. This and living through the experience we are trying to improve and hopefully solve has inspired me. Your doctor must understand deep traditions, religious beliefs and even your childhood. It’s different when compared to Europe. The small details improve the overall understanding greatly.

Meet the team behind Arab Therapy 

Tareq shares that Hala has now stepped away slightly following the birth of their child. “Hala is our Head of Operations and we were highly operational at the beginning because we had no technology to begin with! She also looked after our customer care and the psychologists and employee management. Hala was integral for putting together the processes we used today.

“My role is focused on overall management and ensuring all tasks are being completed. I’m the product person but also lead the investment strategy and make sure we always have money in the bank. My background also includes marketing, so I support Omar who looks after our marketing and is strongly focused on campaigns on Google and Facebook as we look to grow our awareness. He is good at connecting with both influencers to support our brand and with doctors to help grow our network.”

Omar Dalbah jalsaat healthcare startup vision health pioneers incubator
Omar Dalbah, Marketing, Arab Therapy

Olga shares that she heads their B2B sales, “I’m responsible for bringing in new customers and business partners and then keeping strong relationships with our existing contacts. As well as being a presence at events and networking with investors.”

Tareq explains something he once told the Program Manager Lucie Avelange, “If you want to build a healthcare startup, Vision Health Pioneers incubator is not a luxury, but a must. Berlin is bureaucratic and it’s not easy to build a healthcare business. As an owner, you must be aware of a lot of different factors. The program allows us to focus on our startup, build connections and absorb important information.”

Olga Driglova jalsaat healthcare startup - vision health pioneers incubator
Olga Driglova, Head of B2B Sales, Arab Therapy

Olga adds to this, “I have previously been involved with building a startup in another country and had no external help or advice like we have here. It’s so difficult without it. The support we receive here really benefits the business and we love meeting with the coaches and mentors and getting not only support, but real knowledge. An important point is that we can also ask for help anytime, we don’t feel like a burden. As a bonus, there’s also a friendly atmosphere in our cohort – it feels like a family, but a family where everyone knows what they want.”

On coaches and mentors who have inspired and helped the team, Olga and Tareq share that investment expert Videesha Böckle, Lisa Schwarz, expert for Brand & Communication and Jana Scharfschwerdt, a proven CFO, have been integral. “There are lots of great people in the community, but these three stand out at the moment.” Olga shares, before continuing, “Videesha helps you find the answer, rather than giving it to you. Jana was perfect for building our financial model and it was so nice to have someone like Lisa who specialises in marketing to support us.”

Arab Therapy aims to be the one-stop-shop for the mental health of minorities in the EU and is driven in their desire to achieve this vision. With personal experiences and a deep understanding of the problem, the team is on the road to success and become the place for anyone struggling to find the right connection.

As Arab Therapy continues to build, you can watch Tareq present the startup at the next Vision Health Pioneers Incubator Demo Day on March 28, 2023.

🗓️ Tuesday, March 28, 2023
⏰16:00 CEST