Now, in Keene, NH, you can get more than just a Lyft or Uber ride if you want to shuttle around the county seat of Cheshire County. Thanks to a 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan and some intrepid therapists, you and your travel mates can have the opportunity to discuss your deepest worries with a professional.
Call it what you will, but this strategy has started earning headlines across the northeast. Billed as a ride where you can “unload your burdens before you get to your destination”, it’s attracting plenty of people who say that it not only saves time but gives them an opportunity to engage in more than idle chatter with their Lyft or Uber drivers.
Turning Chitchat Into Purposeful Repartee
Everyone who’s been in a taxi – professional or personally driven – knows that eventually, conversation happens. Often, the dialogue takes turns around topics from the weather to deep secrets. Riders can even begin to see their driver as a sort of bartender, a Cheers-like Woody who cares about what they have to say and always gives great advice.
The problem is that most taxi drivers don’t give advice that has any kind of form. Instead, they can throw out ideas that might end up causing problems in the long run. And that’s why a group of therapists decided to foster more formalized therapy sessions while making a little extra money.
Kimberly Snitchers, a longtime psychologist who has worked around the country but decided to settle in a place that was “cold on the outside, warm on the inside” feels that an Uber trip is the perfect time to engage in therapy. “Most people don’t make time to schedule appointments with their therapists like they should, or they feel it’s too costly under their healthcare plans,” she explains. “Our special service allows them to not only get where they need to go but to achieve better mental health in the process. It’s the ideal way to ‘kill two birds with one stone,’ so to speak.”
Nathan Livingstone, another therapy pro who is from the region, has seen just how far-reaching this type of innovative intervention can be. As a driver with both Uber and Lyft, he has had the opportunity to ferry plenty of passengers hither, tither, to, and fro, and he’s been amazed at the epiphanies they’ve had during even short rides.
“I remember one guy who walked into my Caravan a total alcoholic,” Livingstone notes. “We got stuck in some weird traffic jam caused by a couple of elk who had decided to play house in the middle of the road. What should have been a simple 10-minute ride took more than an hour. Anyway, by the end of the journey, he had not only sobered up a little but was ready to call AA and try to help himself out of a dead-end life. That’s the power of therapy in a minivan.”
Both Snitchers and Livingstone have only worked in their vehicular therapy positions for about half a year, but feel that it has tremendous possibilities. They’ve even considered taking it on “Shark Tank,” but are fearful because they don’t have numbers in hand. “If Mr. Wonderful asks me how much we made, I’ll have difficulty explaining it to him,” admits Snitchers. “We don’t keep the best records, which will make it hard to scale the business. Still, I think there has to be a way to take this nationally.”
Riders Have Mixed Emotions About Therapeutic Lyfts
Of course, the success of any therapy ride focuses completely not on the therapist driver but on the willingness of the passengers to pipe up. For some riders, getting a dual therapist-chauffeur is a dream come true.
“I’ve never been to New Hampshire before,” says Dawn Whitehead. “I guess maybe this is what they do here, with the car therapy? Anyway, it’s really great. I got the chance to talk about my lousy boyfriend and the stupid things he’s done. By the time I paid my Uber driver/therapist with PayPal and gave a five-star rating, I was ready to dump the guy with a nasty text. I did it immediately. He’s my ex now, he’s blocked from my phone, and I’ve never been happier.”
Still, not everyone is as happy as Whitehead. Greg Shugarfield’s experience with his ride therapy was less meaningful than Whitehead’s. “I just wanted to listen to my music,” he recalls. “And the driver kept trying to ask me about my childhood. Really, I had a great childhood. I love my mom, my dad, and my little brother. In fact, I’m just not that into the idea of therapy at all. Honestly, I gave them two stars, not for the trip – which was a clean ride in a 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan – but because they just wouldn’t shut up.”
When Shugarfield’s experience was relayed to Livingstone, he accepted that therapy taxi drivers have a responsibility to know when to just turn off their professionalism. “Not everyone is ready for therapy, and some guests just want to be taken to a location without conversation. It’s just the way of the world. Even if they could benefit from having a good talk with a degreed professional, they can’t be forced out of their comfort zones. It’s up to everyone to do this the right way.”
As to why they feel a multi-passenger vehicle like the 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan was the right choice for their Uber and Lyft services, all the therapists were in agreement: Group therapy is just more fun. Said one therapist who asked that her name not be given for this article because her family wasn’t supportive of her becoming a contingent worker, “I love working with groups. Even groups of strangers who never met before and may never meet again can have amazing sessions. It’s just a joy to me when everyone starts revealing what’s in their hearts. And, of course, a big bonus is I get paid to do what I love.”
The next time you sign up for an Uber or Lyft in New Hampshire, be sure to ask if your driver gives gratis therapy. No co-pay needed.