The truth is I didn’t want to write this. I intended to post a more upbeat, universally relevant topic like “The Beginner’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety + 5 Tips to Get Calm…but I’m angry.
Not the fired up, balls-to-the-wall type that gets you going after someone’s wronged you. You know — when they tell you you can’t, and you set out to prove them wrong?
Not that one.
And not the “I’m so pissed I could drive down the street, windows open, Imagine Dragons blaring, and scream ‘Arrrghhhh!’ to random people.”
Oh, you’ve never done that?
Well, if you did –negative on that ballast, too.
This anger stems from what could be. When you look at someone going down the wrong path and shake your head because you know there’s an easier way. The problem is this person refuses to listen.
Or these people.
Namely, the majority of individuals in your professional network.
Which brings me to the point of this article–therapists who don’t do social media, and how this negatively impacts psychotherapy clients and society.
Facebook and The Therapy Room:
I found out he was seeing someone else from a status update one of our mutual friend’s shared. I felt sick to my stomach that he’s moved on. And it’s so…public. ~Client composite
Facebook has made its way into the therapy room. And if you’re unfamiliar with the platform, you’re missing the biggest, boldest social network impacting our culture since television. About the only demographic not using Facebook is children 9 and under. To call Facebook huge is an understatement.
According to Gary Vaynerchuk, author of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook:
~Facebook had 1 billion+ monthly users as of December 2012
~ One out of every five internet page views in the U.S. is on Facebook
Cyber culture is here to stay. Maybe you’ve had a client discuss a break-up similar to the one above. You’re dealing with two issues: The pain of the breakup in real life, as well as her rejection being aired publicly.
“Facebook Depression” was cited by Pediatrics as a very real threat to the emotional well-being of many youth who spend time on Facebook and other social media platforms.
Sure you can read about social media, but you’ll have a richer frame of reference if you experience it organically.
Facebook and Business
So I was about to go to the meeting when I saw what my buddy posted on Instagram…I was furious! Oh, wait–you probably don’t know about Instagram, huh? ~Client composite
Perhaps a client has referenced a social media platform you’re unfamiliar with?
I know. It’s hard to keep up.
And though you may not see the immediate benefits of joining social networks, the exposure to relevant, up-to-date knowledge about psychology and mental health could help move your clients off the couch quicker.
I often share therapy exercises, downloadable stress management posters, and free relaxation Mp3 files on my Facebook business page. More than a few clinicians have messaged me to say thank you. And it feels great to pay it forward. Imagine if we all shared our best therapeutic go-tos…
Besides a free platform to market your services, it’s a great tool to pass along solid information about your niche. And if clients can’t find YOU and your uniqueness, they will go elsewhere and maybe not get the best intervention.
Caveat: Facebook recently made drastic changes to its algorithms and it’s difficult to get traffic to your page without paying for ads. But it’s still a helpful tool to check out newsworthy sites such as CNN, HuffPost, and NPR.
Case in point: A Cyberbully expert and fellow @HuffPost Contributor recently shared that teens receive an average of 30 texts per day from their ex. Whoa. So if I’m counseling a teen or young adult client and the subject of ex’s comes up, you bet I’m going to inquire about post break-up communication and texting. And if I’m working with a family, this statistic will be shared and discussed.
I believe we have an ethical imperative to keep abreast of the latest trends in cyber culture.
Another case in point: I recently attended a community forum about adolescent brain development. While the mental health presenters shared solid information, they fell short when the Q & A inevitably lead to teens and social media. Since it wasn’t my gig, I only briefly mentioned the concept of “edited reality.” Many questions went unanswered as the meeting adjourned. So I did what any self-respecting, social media-savvy therapist and family advocate would do, and I took it to @HuffPost and wrote 7 Practical Tips for Parenting Digital Natives.
And just last night I participated in a tweet chat #InnoPsy (Innovative Psychology) with other therapists. When the topic of social media came up, @TherapyOnline, @Susan Giurleo and @DrBeckerShutte tweeted about the lack of mental health professionals online.
Where’s Your Mobile Device?
You could make a valid argument against the necessity of being on social media in order to do good therapy. I’ll give you that. Our profession is made up of different credentials, training, and expertise, and there’s myriad client issues which aren’t centered around the use of technology and social media.
But this is not your mama’s therapy room…
Which leads me to why I’m really angry…
I learned about the daunting statistic of 46+ million adults in the U.S. prescribed Xanax yearly while…wait for it — scanning my iPhone in the grocery checkout.
This cultural trend bothers me more than you know. Mostly because anxious adults raise anxious children. I’ll save that rant for another post, however.
Regarding Xanax Nation — about the only reason I can come up with as to why the masses would rather pop a pill than make lifestyle and other changes is that people are too often psychologically lazy and don’t like to think.
Change takes time and grunt work.
And maybe therein lies the issue around the reluctance of mental health professionals to get with the social media program.
But since when did not thinking about a problem and not doing something positive ever get us on the other side of anxiety?
When did it ever teach us that to connect with humans – whether on the couch, on Twitter, or in real life — that we don’t have to inhabit their world?
Our clients live online. Maybe you do, too. Chances are if you’re not reading this on your mobile, it’s within arms reach, am I right? There’s nearly 325 million mobile subscriptions in the U.S. alone. It’s probable that almost half of us network on social media. We shop, check out consumer reviews, and make dinner reservations.
And search for therapists to help with relationship issues, school problems, and sleep deprivation.
In summary, the therapy profession must find a way to navigate the digital divide. We need to understand how and why to use social media to better connect with our clients’ issues and the unique boundary challenges that social media presents. And we should all have a vested interest in the bigger mental health picture.
But in order to de-stigmatize mental illness we must become more brand and tech-savvy.
The scale and reach of social media is staggering. And the possibilities to effect change on local, national, and global levels are endless. So if you’re a therapist and you’re not on social media, you’re like yesterday’s news: Boring, outdated, and only slightly relevant.
What about you?
Should therapists be on social media?
Leave your brilliance in the comment box below.
And please share this post on social media to help therapists get out of the dark ages!
Yours in mental wellness,