Spill product manifesto

All revolutions need a manifesto and the one Spill is trying to start in the world of online therapy is no different.

4min read

All revolutions need a manifesto and the one Spill is trying to start in the world of online therapy is no different. These are the principles that guide our mission: to put high quality talk therapy in the pocket of every person on Earth.

1. Spill is for everyone

We believe that therapy can benefit everyone, because therapy is not just about solving problems, it’s also about living a better life.

Spill is a humanistic psychotherapeutic organisation. Humanistic psychotherapy does not operate within an illness model. Our clients are not ‘patients’ to be cured, they are people to be understood, held in unconditional positive regards, and encouraged to grow and thrive. Our approach is holistic — it looks at people’s lives as a whole, because we recognise life is complex and much of it is out of our control.

Spill can help you to reorient yourself towards your true wants and needs, keep calm and light-hearted in the face of adversity, train yourself in the art of self-compassion, build better, less judgemental relationships with yourself and others, and better understand, respect, and communicate your feelings.

Everyone would be better off if they tried Spill.

2. Humans are an integral part of the Spill product

We believe technology cannot replace humans at what humans do best: care. Relationships lie at the heart of what makes Spill Spill.

We’re not a technical solution, we’re a people solution enabled by technology.

When people talk about therapy, they talk about their a-ha moments. Therapists have a comprehensive, nuanced understanding of human emotions, through years of training and experience and by just generally being loving, caring human beings. This makes them uniquely qualified to guide clients to these moments of realisation.

3. Spill is responsible for the experience you have on Spill

We believe that the guidelines and technology which are necessary to build quality at scale should never obscure the human judgement that allows true insight to flourish. Tools and processes should be like the bone structure of an organism — essential and invisible.

Individual human judgement should operate within a system of clear guidelines and effective technology, but not be oppressed by it.

Processes lead to uniformity. A McKinsey consultant will deliver the same high quality service, whichever McKinsey consultant you go to.

Spill isn’t McKinsey. But while we don’t want every user to have the exact same experience on Spill, we do want every user to experience the same high quality bar.

Over time, we believe Spill’s growing body of knowledge, its style guides, messaging guidelines, and skills-training tracks will combine to create a consistent user experience on Spill.

4. The hard work of therapy can be made easier

We believe that the process of therapy, while still requiring a lot of work from clients and therapists alike, can be made easier through technology.

Technology has successfully been used to build trust, create habits and educate. We believe we can use these proven techniques to make the work of delivering therapy easier and more efficient.

We want to combine the best of psychotherapeutic thinking with the best of interaction design, information retrieval, and data analysis, in order to make Spill usable, beautiful, insightful, and feedback- and data-driven.

5. The psychotherapeutic knowledge bases around the world must be collated, organised, and made easily accessible and useful

We believe therapy on Spill should draw on all the best knowledge and insights that a century of psychotherapy has given us.

Too many therapists work in isolation, from limited knowledge bases, using outdated information-sharing technologies, and sometimes even outdated information — unindexed, unranked, and unreviewed. This needs to change.

Everything from Freud to Carl Rogers to Donald Winnicott to the latest self-help books in the bookshops should be readily available to therapists working at Spill.

We want this knowledge base to be indexed, annotated, hyperlinked, and ranked — both by what counsellors judge to be most useful and by what users themselves actually find most useful. Therapeutic outcomes, counsellor judgement, and user feedback should combine to reveal the most effective therapeutic knowledge and psychoeducation in existence.

6. Technology works best when it approaches a new domain with humility

We believe the best approach to rethinking therapy for online is to ship and iterate. Building Spill should be systematic, evidence-based, and data-driven.

Evolution works like this, social change works like this, growing our scientific understanding of the world works like this. What we create must be in accordance with reality.

This is not claiming that creativity must always be neat, iterative, slow, or even logical. But all insights, no matter how crazy or magical, must work in the real world, for real people.

Our commitment to iteration is an acknowledgement of the humbling truth that even life-changing discoveries build upon the effort of failing and failing and failing again, but failing a little less each time.

7. It’s crucial we think 10x not 10% for people & product ops

We believe Spill should work for billions, not millions.

Therapy is already an elite past-time. We want to make it a tool for everyone’s everyday toolkit. This means thinking about scale in everything we do. Yes, it’s OK to build things that don’t scale, while exploring new ideas. But this question should always inform our thinking: will this scale and then scale again. We won’t get there by improving as we go.

Nowhere is this more important than in people and product ops. The sheer scale of building a world-class counselling organisation with hundreds of thousands of counsellors presents its own, unique challenge. This is why Spill must think huge scale from day one.

8. Owning the training is crucial to building a great experience at scale

We believe Spill should own the training experience. There are two reasons for this.

The first reason is that we don’t want to depend on external infrastructure for training therapists. In the UK, we are fortunate that there are many great training institutions that we can recruit from. However, if we want to scale therapy to billions, we’ll need more graduates than these institutions can provide. This will be even more the case in other countries.

The second reason is that Spill is operating in unexplored territory. We cannot merely take offline therapy and move it online. We must rethink therapy for online, combining offline’s best insights with online’s most promising potential. We need to train therapists for a world of access anytime anywhere, retrievable records, data mining, multimedia communication, and modern UX. We’ve started doing this already, but we will need to do it even more.

9. We will always act in the best interest of our users

We believe that above all else we’re accountable to our end users.

If we are going to put Spill in the pocket of every person on Earth, we’re going to need partners to help spread our mission — businesses, universities, health insurers, or government organisations. However, no matter who’s paying for Spill, we will never sacrifice our users’ safety or humanity for business interests.

Providing mental health support beats reading about it.