Group therapy for like-minded people with peers

Corinna Herrmann

Startup Stories

Sustaining our own mental health is a lifelong journey. Founded in 2022 by Julia Maria Rüttgers, Philippe Driessen and Sophie Schürmann, the Aachen-based startup peers. uses the power of humanity to provide mutual mental support. Here, the users are accompanied by real psychologists. 

More precisely, peers. is about strong human support. The health startup is the first digital platform for all matters of mental health, which focuses on learning and growing together with like-minded people. Because only those who know what you're going through truly understand. In doing so, peers. offers professional psychological support for everyone (with or without a diagnosis).

In an interview with 5-HT, Julia Maria Rüttgers, Co-Founder & CEO, gives exciting insights into the work of peers. and talks, among other things, about the goals the startup wants to achieve in the coming years.

The founders of the health care startup peers. (f.l.t.r.): Julia Maria Rüttgers, Philippe Driessen and Sophie Schürmann

How would you explain your solution in three sentences to a healthcare professional?

"peers. is the first digital (web) app platform for all mental health needs, focused on learning and growing together with like-minded people. Through intelligent, AI-based group matching, we not only bring together the right people for a professionally led group course, but also match the right psychologists. This is how we guarantee the best results. Fast and affordable - for everyone, with or without a diagnosis."

What problem motivated you to found the company?

"In Germany, 18 million people currently suffer from mental health problems. Waiting times for individual therapy are 6 to 9 months. To close the current gap in care, 10 times as many sufferers would have to be treated per psychotherapist than is currently possible. This is a problem that is a burden for the affected persons and our social system. The way to a therapy place is frustrating, we unfortunately had to experience this ourselves and that is exactly what we want to change. Studies have proven how effective and helpful group therapy can be, even in an online setting. This is where we come in with peers. and create a solution that offers those affected fast, effective and sustainable help."

How do you convince a pharmaceutical company, a health insurance company or another potential customer to set up a pilot project with you?

"With peers. we focus on the group approach and thus enable those affected to get help quickly and unbureaucratically - online, from anywhere in the world. By offering the group courses outside the clinic context, we can reduce the current gap in care and thus relieve the healthcare system. What is special here is the composition of the group, which is done through AI-based matching. In this way, we ensure that the right people come together in a group led by psychologists and start the course quickly.

Unlike other digital mental health offerings, we avoid standardized, self-completion e-learning and focus on human exchange within the group through our peer-to-peer approach. Our vision: we grow by sharing with like-minded people. This also means that the matching algorithm we have developed continuously learns to make statements about which group composition is the most effective for success. In this way, we gain new scientific insights and can help sufferers even better in the future."

Who are your current customers (groups) and who should be the potential customers?

"Currently, peers. is a solution for all people living in Germany who are suffering acutely. peers. is suitable as a preventive measure - in the event of suffering, as a bridging measure or as an accompaniment to individual therapy, or as aftercare, for example after a stay in hospital or completion of individual therapy. peers. is suitable for all people who want to work on their mental health in a long-term and sustainable way, as well as digitally. In the future, we plan to expand into the DACH region and add further English-speaking countries."

Where do you see yourselves in 3 years and how can 5-HT support you?

"Our goal is to expand our platform holistically and to be THE everyday companion for all mental needs. In 3 years we want to be the market leader in the DACH region for online guided group courses and by then we will have expanded our offering to include more courses such as anxiety, self-worth or loneliness.

Through the 5-HT ecosystem; access to start-ups and other institutions in the health field, we hope to exchange with health experts to achieve our goals."

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