I’m going to be bold. I may be wrong. “They” always say the best way to build your online empire is to be controversial. Here goes, though you may just breathe a sigh of relief and thank me for relieving your anxiety or validating your gut instinct on this topic:
I don’t see therapists succeeding with social media.
I don’t see real people following therapists.
I see a lot of therapists talking at each other, sharing brilliant quotes, getting friendly with each other
The “social media” experts have a vested interest in you PAYING THEM to learn about social media. They DO succeed because they CAN be on social media due to zero issues of confidentiality or mental health stigma issues that therapists face. It’s the difference between finding people desperate for help on marketing vs finding people who need your HELP (therapy help.) Social media folks need to be on social media and can impress you by their following and ways they use it. But that’s their entire job….use their tool to sell their tool. You have to use a tool to sell a DIFFERENT tool (therapy isn’t really a tool, but you know what I mean.)
I think there are many reasons social media and therapy don’t mix well. Here are some reasons why I don’t think therapists need to be on social media at this point. The world changes fast so I make no promises for a radical change of opinion in weeks or months from now.
For one, social media is about fun, about connecting, about getting freebies and coupons, and about gathering news. Therapists aren’t in that “game.” Clients aren’t your friends. Prospective clients aren’t your friends. And “fun” is edgy and potentially offensive depending on who you work with…one has to be careful outside the therapy room with “fun.”
Secondly, social media is very public. Anyone I “friend” on Facebook or any group I join shows up to ALL my friends. Fortunately I can and do follow anything related to mental health and my friends know it’s my professional life. But if I were “just me”, there is no way I would follow any therapist – even someone I wasn’t seeing. I for sure wouldn’t be following the sexperts that I can follow since sex is part of marriage and I’m a marriage junkie.
Third, therapy is a personalized, one-time process. You go. You terminate. You move on. There are thousands of outlets to getting interesting mental health information. You don’t “need” your therapist the way someone twenty years ago may have needed a therapist for any/all mental health help.
Fourth, most therapists are just not that interesting. Sorry. And I love my therapist friends on Twitter and Facebook. This is NOT an insult, nor do I think I’d be doing anything real different if I were on as a therapist. Nor do I consider myself an amazing Twitter person and I don’t even, as of today, have a Facebook fan page. But beyond quotes and little “tips” and statements, really, is it that interesting that I need to follow you along side my real friends, my local businesses who impact my bottom line by offering coupons, and my local newspaper where I catch up on what’s going on in my community? I follow therapists to see what they do and stay up on trends and read interesting information as a mental health advocate. “Regular people” don’t do that.
Fifth, I have no interest in knowing much about my therapist. I certainly don’t need to see tweets about husband, or kids, or her personal life. There are few pure relationships anymore and many clients wish to keep the purity of the therapy relationship the way it is. “TMI”, too much information, can ruin the experience. Or, for people like me who are rather, well, curious and nosey, the extra information can detract from the therapy experience and healing. So if clients often don’t even want to follow their therapist, who are you social media connecting for? That’s the issue. Real people are not going to Twitter to find a therapist. And Facebook? I’m doing a Facebook therapy ad for my husband so I’ll let you know how THAT goes, but a Facebook ad is very different than a “fan page.”
Finally, social media is about interacting. Ignoring the issues with your own clients being your followers and interacting…Do I really feel a need to interact with you and all YOUR followers who I may not know and who may attack my viewpoint on your Facebook status? Do I need to be that visible to all YOUR “fans” by responding? Most therapy social media groups and even educational groups rarely get comments. People just don’t want to interact with strangers on what are often very personal issues.
All of this is not to say some therapists don’t do really well with social media. But most admit they make great colleague connections, sometimes hook up with journalists, but rarely do they actually get a real client out of the work. They have fun, which can not be undersold as a perk to social media. But unfortunately, I think it’s still too early and still to unproven that the time therapists spend on social media may not be better spent elsewhere IF the goal is to get new clients.
In a future blog post I will talk about ways I think therapists SHOULD or COULD use social media. Though I’ll fully admit it would be testing new waters, not any proven way of succeeding. As I enter the therapy world in a few years I am giving a lot of thought to these issues and will not be swayed into jumping on the social media bandwagon without a real purpose. Even though I already have two Twitter accounts, neither of those are “me as a therapist” writing for prospective clients.