How Social Media has Altered the Therapeutic Landscape
The emergence of Instagram and TikTok have shaped the way consumers of mental health services digest and understand clinical information. The profession of psychology is still learning, growing and de-stigmatizing mental health over the course of almost two centuries. Advocacy for mental health to be taken as seriously as physical health continues to change perceptions of mental illness, but again, this is all still relatively new.
Social media is in its infancy but has such a monumental reach that it is impossible for it to not intersect with mental health. Professionals in the field are using it to reach their clients outside of therapy and to reach broader audiences to share pieces of therapeutic advice or insight. This has in turn, promoted consumers of mental health services to regurgitate what they hear and spread it even further among the masses.
Let’s take for example the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyper-active Disorder (ADHD). In the past few years that diagnosis has for lack of a better word “exploded” into more mainstream rhetoric. I have been asked by my clients if they have the diagnosis because of something they saw on TikTok more times than I’d like to think about. What clinicians are seeing is people who have been diagnosed (accurately or inaccurately for that matter) are sharing very general symptoms of the diagnosis to their followers. What those consumers do not understand is that many symptoms of ADHD can also be symptoms of other mental health diagnoses.
Someone dancing and pointing to a symptom on TikTok that says “gets distracted easily”, with a caption that says “You might have ADHD if..” is a misrepresentation of the diagnosis entirely. That symptom can apply very plainly to anxiety or depression or other various illnesses too. The de-stigmatization and positive attention some of these diagnoses are receiving on social media is needed. However, it becomes tricky territory to have people who are consumers of mental health services to start sharing what they think applies to all people who experience the same symptoms they do.
As a clinician I have also seen therapists in graduate school or in training sharing over-generalizations about the field or diagnoses online. With great power comes great responsibility. Mental health is still a sensitive topic that psychologists, counselors and social workers have worked tirelessly to advocate to be taken seriously. Additionally, people we serve are vulnerable in their darkest times to subscribing themselves to something to make meaning out of their situation.
As a clinician I try to educate my client’s on what they are seeing on social media and work through in sessions if it really applies to their present situation. We aim to offer evidence-based support with clinicians who have over a decade of combined experience. Contact us today!
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