Video Game Mental Health Startup Hero Journey Club Lands $14.6M

A new startup that offers mental health support for individuals while playing video games like Minecraft, Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley has landed $14.6 million in funding.

San Francisco-based Hero Journey Club offers members small virtual group mental health support sessions while gaming. The group includes an expert facilitator who is a licensed and accredited therapist with a doctorate or master’s degree in the counseling field, and four members.

“Hero Journey Club started with two simple questions: Could you take therapy out of the clinic and into spaces where people spend time, where they feel safe, where they feel like they already authentically themselves?” Co-founder and CEO Brian Chhor told Behavioral Health Business. “Then secondly, could community be the starting point for mental health healing for so many people who are intimidated by what that means for them?”


Chhor came up with the idea for the company during the pandemic, when a family member was experiencing depression and isolation amid the lockdown. Chhor and his family found video games to help support the family member in need while providing a medium to talk about mental health challenges.

He took this concept and brought it to the public with the support of mental health clinicians.

While the expert facilitators are licensed therapists, the company specifies that this is mental health support — not therapy in the traditional sense.


How the platform works

Before a member of Hero Journey Club, called a “journeyer,” joins their gaming group, the company asks them several questions about their preferences, experiences with mental health and goals. Journeyers are asked to complete a GAD-7 and PHQ-9 before being matched with a group.

“When they do the onboarding with us, we match them into a group based on their life stage, their age, the mental health areas they are working on, and their stylistic preferences,” Chhor explained. “For example, do you want a more skills-based or psychodynamic guide? And then the schedule for games they play. We will match them to a group of four people who share similar values and needs, and a journey guide.”

Members can show up anonymously in their sessions and share as much or as little information with the group as they like. The organization runs on a subscription model, and the groups meet for 80 minutes a week. Members pay a fee of $30 a week, which includes the mental health session, worksheets and tools, access to a private discord channel with members and staff, and virtual peer events.

The mental health support may differ depending on the group leader and member preferences.

“Some groups will use the worlds that we built inside the games that are based on [cognitive behavioral therapy] CBT and [dialectical behavior therapy] DBT. For example, in Minecraft, where you can walk around and do activities together,” Chhor said. “In other groups, we will play existing games that members love. In Animal Crossing, for example, members can do activities where they decorate their islands to represent their inner child or parts of themselves. … And particularly for near-divergent communities, it’s a perfect way for them to express themselves without intense pressure on them to share painful stuff out loud until they’re ready to do so.”

Seventy percent of Hero Journey Club’s members come from marginalized communities, according to Chhor, who previous served as an executive with Boulder Care, another behavioral health startup company. Many individuals are part of the LGBTQ+ and neurodivergent communities.

An image showing Minecraft group session gameplay for Hero Journey. | Photo provided by Hero Journey

The next chapter

The new funding will help Hero Journey Club build out its team of mental health providers and grow its platform.

The infusion of capital is also expected to help the organization publish research that can be shared with academic institutions and others in the behavioral health community.

“We’re looking for more therapists and folks who have master’s or doctorate level who can provide care,” Chhor said. “We’re excited to continue our mission to de-stigmatize mental health by grounding people in a healing community. Loneliness has been one of the biggest drivers and co-morbidities that we’ve seen with folks coming to our program. And so helping people through a sense of belonging through a sense of connectedness feel like they can make more progress on their growth journey.”

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