Stories from the Climb

Changing the Conversation: How LifeStance is Transforming the Mental Health Landscape

LifeStance Health was founded with a mission to improve access to mental health services, unlock opportunities for clinicians and staff, and change the conversation about mental health conditions. From its beginnings in 2017, LifeStance has quickly grown to become one of the nation’s largest outpatient mental health platforms. In 2021, LifeStance completed its initial public offering (NASDAQ: LFST) and launched the Not1Face campaign, both efforts that we believe underscore a growing awareness of the magnitude of the mental health crisis in the U.S. and the recognition that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health

“Over the course of a few short years, Mike and the LifeStance team have built a leading national behavioral health platform designed to deliver convenient, compassionate services nationwide. We are proud to support LifeStance in its mission to help people lead healthier, more fulfilling lives by improving access to trusted, affordable and personalized mental healthcare.”

Darren Black, Managing Director, Summit Partners

Tackling the Challenge Head-On

Mental illness affects more than 50 million – or 1 in every 5 – people in the United States. Its impact is real, rapidly growing and unbounded by demographics or geography. Yet, many millions go undiagnosed or untreated, unable to access or afford quality mental health treatment. This national challenge has a devastating impact on individuals and families, as well as a significant cost to the healthcare system and economy. Its reach has only been exacerbated by COVID and social unrest.

Summit partnered with Founder Mike Lester, the LifeStance team and co-investor Silversmith Partners in 2017 with a shared vision to build a national platform of behavioral health providers and address this growing, but often overlooked challenge. The LifeStance model is designed to bring together psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, psychologists and licensed therapists to provide comprehensive outpatient mental health treatment services through telehealth and in-person appointments. An experienced healthcare executive, Mike understands the powerful imperatives of lower healthcare costs, improved patient outcomes and empowered clinicians – and he designed LifeStance to serve all three, building a growth platform focused on addressing the challenges inherent in the system and expanding access to care.

Below, Mike shares his perspective on the critical importance of removing barriers to mental health care and the keys to LifeStance’s rapid growth.

Build with Trust. Build for Growth.

“I’ve had the great fortune over my career to work with some truly outstanding team members – each with deep experience building healthcare services businesses. And it is with this core team of three that we identified the acute need in behavioral health and developed our strategy to enter the market. When you work with a team for over a decade, you know you’re aligned and you’re able to skip a lot of steps as a result. Everyone just puts on whatever hat they need to wear to get the job done.”

“LifeStance’s strategy required a fair amount of capital at the outset so it was equally critical to partner with investors who were also fully aligned with our vision, philosophy and playbook for execution. We found that alignment in working with Summit Partners early on, so much so that we hired an executive from Summit to lead our M&A efforts. This cohesiveness in our strategic direction helped us to scale LifeStance into a national platform, which we believe was a key element in creating the kind of value we sought to deliver to patients and clinicians.”

Fix What’s Broken: Rethinking Supply, Demand and Patient Access

“One of the biggest issues in the behavioral health space is a supply-demand issue. Most people think this is driven by a shortage of clinicians. It’s not a shortage of clinicians – as evidenced by LifeStance’s ability to hire more than 300+ clinicians a quarter at our current pace. In reality, the supply-demand issue is rooted in third-party payors not willing to pay enough to smaller and independent clinicians, forcing them to go into a cash-pay market, which many patients can’t afford. This is why the national scale of LifeStance is critical.  When patients can afford mental health treatment, and clinicians are empowered to deliver it, we see a tremendous positive impact to the healthcare system overall. Research has shown that patients being treated for their mental health illnesses have significantly lower overall medical care costs than those that go untreated. By bridging the gap between patients and clinicians, LifeStance is truly on the right side of health care cost containment.”

Embrace Digital Transformation: Lowering Barriers with Telemedicine

“Across industries, technology has made it possible – a requirement, really – to reach customers where they are. This is especially true in healthcare, where geography has always created barriers to care, but it is even more critical in the COVID environment.”

“From its earliest days, LifeStance was built on a digital foundation. Since our founding, we’ve viewed telemedicine as a key component to improving patient access, but COVID dramatically accelerated our timeline. What we had planned to roll-out over the course of about a year, got condensed into a 10-day timeframe. In March 2020, our team went from an average of 300 telepsych visits per week to more than 40,000 per week – and that number continues to grow. I credit the continued growth of our telemedicine offering to our strong team, to the national network of committed clinicians we have built, and to our collective commitment to delivering high quality care and changing the conversation about mental health care.”

Growth Timeline

LifeStance: Growth Timeline


LifeStance founded with backing from Summit Partners and Silversmith Capital Partners


930k patient visits, 125 centers and 800 clinicians


1.4M patient visits, 170 centers and 1,400 clinicians


2.3M patient visits, 370 centers and 3,000+ clinicians


LifeStance completes 50th acquisition. With COVID onset, transitioned from 300 telepsych visits per week to more than 40,000


Announces majority recapitalization


Completes IPO (NASDAQ: LFST) on June 10

In 2020, LifeStance served approximately 2.3 million patient visits, both in person and online. We are proud to support LifeStance in this next chapter as the team continues their work to change the conversation around mental health and revolutionize the way mental healthcare is delivered. The timeline below follows LifeStance’s journey – from a standing start in 2017 to a 2021 IPO (NASDAQ: LFST).

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Cae Keys

“We believe this is the time, now more than ever, to create more mental health access for patients and to grow opportunities for our clinicians and staff. With our IPO, we look forward to driving the next phase of growth for LifeStance, as we seek to expand our geographic and online digital health footprint, and ultimately serve more patients nationwide seeking mental health services both in-person and online.”

Mikes Lester, Founder and Former CEO, LifeStance Health

Related Experience

(1) 2018: 930k patient visits, 125 centers and 800 clinicians (source: LifeStance S-1)

(2) 2019: 1.4M patient visits, 170 centers and 1,400 clinicians (source: LifeStance S-1)

(3) 2020: 2.3M patient visits, 370 centers and 3,000+ clinicians (source: LifeStance S-1)

The content herein reflects the views of Mike Lester and is intended for executives and operators considering partnering with Summit Partners. For a complete list of Summit Partners portfolio companies, please click here.

Stories from the Climb

At Summit, it’s the stories that inspire us – the problems being solved and the different paths each team takes to grow a business. Stories from the Climb is a series dedicated to celebrating and sharing the challenges of building a growth company. For more Stories and other Summit perspectives, please visit our Growth Company Resource Center.

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