Aug. 11, 2021

Acertivo: the Romanian startup and therapy platform that helps you take charge of your mental fitness

Acertivo: the Romanian startup and therapy platform that helps you take charge of your mental fitness

In this episode of Innovators Can Laugh, I sat down with Irina Paraschiv, founder of Acertivo. We discuss how people have a big misunderstanding when it comes to mental health, signs to look for when your mental health starts to break down, and Acertivo - the low touch therapy platform that helps people take charge of their mental fitness.

 | In this episode of Innovators Can Laugh, I sat down with Irina Paraschiv, founder of Acertivo. We discuss how people have a big misunderstanding when it comes to mental health, signs to look for when your mental health starts to break down, and Acertivo - the low touch therapy platform that helps people take charge of their mental fitness.


Hi, everyone. I hope you are doing well and enjoy the nice weather we're having here in Bucharest. This past weekend, I went to a beautiful park called With my family and we met chip Rian cause at KU there with his kids. And if that name rings a bell chip Rian was a former guest on the show and is the co-founder of easy sales. So big thanks to him for recommending that awesome part. And if you have any recommendations on places that I should visit here or near Bucharest, please let me know. 

On the innovators can laugh. Facebook page or group. So I want to experience all the hidden gyms that Romania has to offer, but that can only be done. If I get suggestions from you guys. Now getting to our next guests, many people have a very big misunderstanding when it comes to mental health. They only talk about it when they feel, or when they don't feel good or something drastic happens in their life. 

Well, XIV is looking to change that. Edina is a very passionate psychotherapist who recently launched us at the table. An online tool that can help prevent clinical disorders. This was a very insightful conversation. As we discuss the increase of clients, she is starting to see. Not just high level executives, but more and more 30 something managers from all kinds of backgrounds. 

Hope you enjoy the conversation.  

Hi everyone. My guest today is emotional health specialists and co-founder of acid Divo, Irina, Paraschiv. Hi Irina. Welcome to the show.

Very nice to be here. Thank you.

Yeah. So happy to have you here. I thought we start off with a few fun questions just so that I can get to know you better. The audience can get to know you better.

Here's the first one. Okay. If you could live anywhere in the world. For a year, where would you live?

anywhere in the world for a year, man. That's I think I have different answers for that depending on my mood, maybe. So right now I'm after a few I think busy years. So I think that if I were to to choose a place to live next year, it would be Greece.

Okay. I

in my mind, Greece is so mild and very low pace and very good food and sun and worry less.

I think that would be that will be a thing. But other than that, I think my choice would be very conventional. I think it would be the Netherlands and it's very hard. The Netherlands. Yeah. I love their culture. I love their city. I don't like the weather because Greece earlier. Yeah. 



Yeah. Opposite. But, , I think it's a very entrepreneur mindset everywhere. I think it's very action-oriented but still a place where you can. And th that I think encourages slow pacing.

Yeah. And  a lot of bicycles

a lot bicycles. Yeah. And a lot of fish. So if you see that the common denominator is water in fish

I see.

And seafood.


Yeah. I haven't been to Greece yet, but I do plan on going now that I'm here in Romania and it's much closer,


maybe next year. Definitely.  Okay.

you should.

What celebrity would you be super nervous to meet?

Celebrity. I would be super nervous to meet, oh my God. 

Yeah. Living or dead.

living or dead. I think all of our stuff. Oliver Sacks famous neurologist. I think he he was the one that he was really unconventional as a neurologist, as a scientist. He actually really wanted to be a scientist, but he didn't have the structure for it. So he became a style storyteller.


And I think I would be really nervous to meet him because he lived the life that I admire, he was always on the move. He was always doing things. You, who would alternate periods of very deep focus in writing his books and seeing patients and a very keen interest in patients on a human level.

Not only clinical level. And I think, yeah, I would be really nervous to meet him. He died a few years ago, so that's why I said living or dead. Yeah.

Okay. Last question here. If you were famous for something else, what would you be famous for at either?

Man. I have so many answers in my head right now. I have to choose a very appropriate one. What I would be famous for. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. For telling other people what to do. I dunno. The first thing that came into my mind I have no idea what I would be famous for. I've never done anything else other than therapy in my life with so much passion. I can't imagine. 

The first thing I thought of when you said that was trying to imagine you as a drill, Sergeant holding a whistle in your mouth and blowing the whistle and saying, move it.

Yeah. Something like that. Yeah.

Really? When your patients come to visit you, that's not a, that's not how you treat them, right?

I don't. No. It's really very different. Yeah. Is really different than that.

Okay. Let's dive into your background a little bit. Tell me about university. What did you decide to study?


I started folk psychology when I was 14, I think in high school, I think I came across a book of therapy. It wasn't Freud, it was something else that I tried to read a few Freud books. I didn't quite get there. They seemed a bit too, literally for me. I think it was something a book.

I don't quite remember which one. But it was a cognitive behavioral textbook. And I thought it was so structured and so clear and so actionable. And I said, this is what I'm going to be. I'm going to be a therapist. I'm going to be a cognitive behavioral therapist. And I had no idea. That meant, of course I was 14, barely in high school, 15, I think.

So that's when I decided to do that my parents who are engineers, all my blood relative family blood relatives are engineers of some sort They said, take a therapy. Now you're going to die. You're going to go hungry. You're never going to do anything with it, but I stuck to my guns and I went to psychology and Bucharest, actually wanted Cluge, but I went to Bucharest.

I don't regret it. Now that I see this in hindsight and yes, I studied psychology and Bucharest. And then I went to Cluj to do my master's degree in of course, cognitive behavioral therapy, because I stuck to my guns. I said, yo, I'm going to do that. And it was actually one of the best learning experiences of my life inclusion.

I think it's one of the best schools in this part of Europe who teaches cognitive behavioral therapy. And I learned the science, the evidence-based, science behind  therapy. And it was very good learning experience. I will always be grateful to the teachers and professors there.


Great.  And now after university, what road did you take in terms of occupation? What was the first role?

I went to therapy altogether because actually I worked my background, if you look at my resume, you'll see an advertising agency. And I worked in advertising at the GC in Bucharest as part time or when I went to university and in my master's degree, because that's what I could afford.

And it, in psychotherapy, you need to go through all the training until you get there. The certification to practice as a therapist. So I had to I couldn't begin sooner. So to speak actually begin. I cheated a little bit. I began a little bit sooner after my first year of masters degree, I could have see some clients and I started doing that pro bono.

And it was a really good experience because I got to practice all my skills that I did not have. Actually started to gain the skills. I only read about them, but doing them in practice, man, I thought it was so difficult. I didn't know how people could do it. Juggling all the things at the same time, in one session and at the same time looking professional and inspiring trust and everything else.

And it was like, oh, wow. But  when I got my certification, I actually resigned and  I just went blank. I was 24 at the time, so I didn't have that much to lose. It was like, I remember the, I was really happy when I got my second client because my first client was a pro bono and actually paid the the office where I did my session.

I came once a week. I paid, I think, $30. For the session. And from my own pocket, I did the session. I went home and when I had the two clients the second one was a paying customer, was a plane client. And I charged her, I think, 65 lei. So I paid two hours of the practice. It was 60 leir. And my bus ride, which was, I think too late, I had a profit of too late and it was so happy.

It, I like I'm not losing money, so that's a good thing. Yeah. And I think that this is how it works. We just we just, I started to do this, but it was a really, I remember it was a very learning enticive period for me because when I did not see the two clients that I had, I was reading a lot. 

I was researching a lot. I was doing it. Diagrams and worksheets and everything. I was translating them from English books to use them with my clients. And I really learned a lot. I remember I actually tried everything. I used to practice all my skills with these clients. It helped me a lot.

It's really helped me a lot. Yeah.

After you've been doing this, let's say a couple of years. And I'm assuming that you got a few more clients

I did, thankfully. Yes, I did.

you're bringing home more than too lei what is the average day to day look like for a licensed psychotherapist? What does your average day look like?

It's very different now, then it was a few years ago because afterwards after I started the two lay a business I started getting more and more clients actually yeah. Started to do a collaboration with privately clinic and that helped me a lot to be in contact with other senior therapist and learn from them.

And then my days were started to look like more and more clients. I actually, at one point or actually several years of my career,  I saw between five and seven clients. Including weekends. And then I started to cut down because I noticed the burnout. Yeah. I wasn't engaged anymore.

And I started to cut down first, the Saturdays then the late in the year, evening sessions. But for quite a few years it were, there were five to seven clients a day, mostly anxiety, panic attacks, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, clinical cases. Most of the times. So these were my days, and in between conferences, reading worksheets case summaries and so on.

So all the therapists work. Yeah, it was insane. Now I look at it in the back. I didn't know how I could do it because right now my days are very different. I don't see more than 15 clients. I actually put a cap to that as opposed to, I don't know, almost 30, so it was half the time. But my circumstances, my context and my of course objectives have priorities have changed drastically in the past four years.

And I think in 2019 ENBA came into my life, so to speak. And that changed everything actually that changed the the game altogether because I actually thought that at some point.


I love seeing clients. I love, I still love seeing clients. I liked the dynamics of it. I liked the challenge of it.

I like learning lots from my clients. But then my partner started to do an MBA and I always thought about it would be really cool to do that, but I always thought the MBAs are for bankers or for not for me, not for therapists. Lots of finance, lots of economics, whatever. And then he started talking and we started talking about what the classes were there, what the I don't know, atmosphere, what the vibe was there.

I was like, Hey, this should be interesting. And I got to thinking, what if I do something like that? And because I thought I felt a bit kept, I don't know how to explain this. I felt that it was I didn't know where to go from there. I was 30, I think, almost

but when you're doing what you love, though, you're doing what you love, what do you imagine as a kid? But you felt like there was something missing 

Yeah. It was something missing and it was really hard and it took me awhile because sometimes I always, I almost felt ungrateful. Something like I always wanted to do this. It's something that most people find very difficult to do. And I actually managed to live and to live well with doing therapy, doing what I learned, doing what I love.

I didn't feel like work. I didn't actually feel like until one point when it started to feel like work, but not in the good sense, but actually in the bad sense, and it says that I felt like it was hard for me to. To do something more. I wanted to do something more. I didn't know what more, but something more.

And that's when I started to to look for something else.

so you looked for an E MBA program and,

Yes. I didn't actually look for it. It found me, so it was really simple.

So how long was that program? Was it a year? Was it two years?

it was two years, two years almost. Full-time I don't know how they say, but it was for them. We went to class for Friday, Saturday, Sunday, every two weeks for two years almost. Yeah.

Okay. Okay. And was it during that time that sparked the idea of perhaps creating a business.

It definitely was a Acertivo would not be here without the MBA at that visit is certain I think it was, there were many factors that contributed to this. One of them was that previously my collaboration was with an online platform with therapy and Romania. They work mostly with clinical cases.

I 100% with clinical clay cases. And I thought, Hey, We did that, but for people who are not clinical yet because mental health is on a spectrum, so you don't need to get to anxiety to get help. That was one factor. The other factor was that I started to see more and more clients with panic attacks and anxiety, performance, anxiety, social anxiety.


Sprung from the workplace. Yeah. People who are burned out in the workplace who developed anxiety or depression came to therapy and actually changed their course of career, maybe gave up or take took long leaves of absences. Some never returned or sought other positions who are more or less demanding for them.

And I thought, Hey, that all these people could prevent them. We actually could prevent this. It's not that complicated. It's not that difficult to do. So that was another thing. And the third factor was like you said, the MBA and the fact that everything changed it w it what I went through was a very entrepreneurial MBA entrepreneurial led MBA And it changed the mindset for me.

It was, I was an entrepreneur because I was a freelancer of course, but it's not the type of entrepreneur that we, that I met since. And it actually changed the game for me. I cannot see myself employed somewhere. I cannot see myself working. For someone else and not because there's something wrong with that, but because I think that I have , what it takes to do something and to build something with other people.

So I think these three factors contributed really much to my decision at that point. And I still feel a bit.


Am I doing the right thing. It's a constant but it's, I think it's natural. I just thank my mind for this thought. And I said, okay, thank you mind for reminding me. I just carry on with my day.

So it's a work in progress.

So Irina, you mentioned that you're seeing a lot of people from the workforce, more and more people or more clients that are experiencing panic attacks, anxiety, stress. Now, is there a certain age group, like as the majority of these people, between the ages of, let's say 25 and 35 or 36 and 45 or older than 45?

Like what age group is this?

I think it's mostly 30. Mostly thirties, maybe late twenties, early thirties, up until I was 36 37 all ages, all genders from mostly from banking from it. Mostly from banking. I said that twice. 

I'm glad I didn't go in there.

yeah. Yeah, but I think it's Yeah. So this is the age the question thirties, late twenties.

And third is most most of them are very at the beginning of you. Maybe seven years ago, I used to see many top management or managers, but now I'm seeing not managers or middle managers, or even lower than that. So it's spreading , my conclusion is that the the problems are spreading, so to speak.


Okay. That's unfortunate. But tell us more about what acertivo, the name of the startup that you recently launched. What are you looking to solve? What is the vision for it?

I think that big What I've seen very much in my practice and talking to people and reading about this is that many people have a very biased view on mental health. I think the first thing that came into my mind that actually it looked for this. If you type in Google images physical health, you'll see people, images of people who are healthy and doing sports and jogging and so on.

If you type mental health you will see people. People who are depressed. And this is really crazy. I can say because they actually refer to the same thing too. What works? Not what doesn't work. Yeah. Mental health refers to what works in.

in the

Emotional and mental health of a person just like physical health refers to what was when bodies work well.

And I think that people have a very big misunderstanding on this. They think that mental health is something bad. It's something that You only talk about it when you don't feel good or have negative emotions, you have negative interactions and so on and so forth. So what I'm seeing is that we developed an emotional perfectionism.

I call it, I don't know if it's the right, I'm sure it's not only me that says this, but I think this is the term it's like the The rule, the rigid rule that we should have positive emotions that we should feel good if not happy. That if I feel. Physical sensations with negative emotions, that's a bad sign.

So we developed all kinds of strategies to over work that I don't know, maybe positive affirmations, maybe just getting on with my day and not thinking about it. Or exercising a lot, or I dunno, stuff like that. Up until two negative reactions, such as I know, drinking drugs compulsive something and so on and so forth.

To answer your question, what I want through acertivo, or because it's not a tool that reads clinical disorders, it's a tool that prevents and then. What we call education in psycho psychology. It's called it's very, didactical, it's very, we're not using this in marketing because people don't respond well to the educational part.

But what I want is to, Show people that mental health is not actually that invisible, not trained to look for it. And that you can't learn to be more self-aware to have rich and meaningful life. Like we call it in psychotherapy by developing some emotional skills, just like you're building anything.

Yeah. It's not something that you should only do when you're feeling bad or you have depression. You don't have to wait until you cannot sleep anymore. Or you just yell at your children every day or yell at your boss every day to go to therapy or to do something about it. You can learn to recognize the smaller size you can learn to intervene.

And this is really simple things that you can.

W what are some signs that people often miss?

Sleeping. That is one that is yeah, impair, sleeping. I think I'm I had just a quick parenthesis of this. I used to think that I sleep very well until I got an apple watch. And then I learned that I'm actually having a bit of problem sleeping because my treks are all over the place.

So it shows that I'm not having a really healthy sleep. So it's, I'm going to do something about it. Yeah.

And two I'm so envious of my wife, because one time we use this application on a mobile phone that tracked how you're sleeping. She sleeps so well. So peacefully, the things are not all over the place hard and she can sleep easily 10 hours myself.

I'm lucky if I get seven hours and it's really bad and it's really awful asleep. I wish I could sleep well. So if maybe I should see you for therapy and there's some solution to that. My problem with that is the one thing that I'm guilty of is not getting good sleep.

Yeah. So one is sleep. The other one is getting irritable at some point. Do you think you read book being or developing? I think that one, one thing that people often miss and it's really. It's really important to see are the physical science. Yeah, the fact that I start to feel, I don't know what ThingLink in my breath or hard breathing, or I feel nervousness in my muscles or in my body.

I'm having trouble to keep my My attention on one thing I tend, when I'm at work, I go from one thing to another. It's not because I'm busy because I can keep my attention right to a point. I engage in so all sorts of of compulsive or distracting activities such as bingeing, Netflix, or shows in the evening or, gaming Mia in the evening as a way to.

I dunno, screen everything out. Yeah. And in, instead of doing things that  could be more productive and more satisfying to me, such as seeing friends or reading a book or listening to, innovators have fun podcast  these are the few things that come into mind.

Oh negative feelings, right? Guilt or shame that I feel often yeah. The need to isolate myself. The fact that sometimes I don't have the patience for things that I used to have. I cannot play with my children anymore. I don't have, even though I love them, I want to do this, of course, but I don't feel like I have the patience to do this.

So these are four things just top of mind and a really subtle signs, I think subtle signs. And it's it's something like, the broken windows theory. In the eighties. I think it's something like that. You have a building one day, a window breaks. Nobody does something about it the next day, another window breaks and so on and so forth.

And in one month's time, the building is totally abandoned. And we have I don't know, how do you call that? It's something like that. Yeah. You miss the small things and you get to a bigger thing.

It was like New York city in the eighties, I think. Yeah.  Okay. Irina, what is the one key takeaway that you want to make sure that the audience gets about Acertivodeep level? What you're looking to do or everything that you shared today? 

It is a really hard question. I'm a therapist I'm used to narratives. Yeah. I tell stories. I talk a lot. No, but I think that if I want people to go with with one idea is that, mental health is far from Freud's couch right now. And it's really It's on a spectrum. And it's really easy to intervene in very small steps and skills.

 Not every day, but every two days, every weekly, if you do something about it, your life will be reaching meaningful, more rich and more meaningful. Yeah. This is I think, a takeaway . It's really simple. It's nothing to complicate the everybody. Yeah. And I know someone like Tele shopping in the eighties and nineties, but it is like that.

Yeah, it's not difficult. It's not something that you have to roll your sleeves and go to therapy and spend a whole lot of money and talk about your childhood. It's something small stuff that you can do every day. And this is what a acertivo is. It's not sitting on a couch virtually. It's just more.

Small wins, small takeaways, small skills that you can do everyday to make your emotional life better.

Good to hear. Wonderful. At any time. Thank you so much for being on innovators can laugh. Okay. For everybody else. Until next week, this is Eric melchor you're saying goodbye.

Thank you. Bye.

Bye, bye. 

Hey, thanks for listening to the show. If you enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate it. If, if you could give us a review. And a star rating on Spotify or apple also sign up for the innovators can laugh newsletter at innovators,, where you can get our newsletter and details about each guest. Thanks.