Therapists, psychologists and even psychiatrists are dotting the online landscape with websites, blogs and even with their activity on social networking sites! Has a new norm in our field been established?
It’s been almost two years since the first post in my Psych Central series on the paradigm shift occurring for therapists in how we present ourselves on the web. In October 2009, in Psychotherapists Unmasked on the Internet, I used an exchange between my psychiatrist father (of 45 years) and myself, a new Marriage and Family Therapist, to demonstrate the clash of eras and belief systems occurring. He had given me a hard time about putting my picture up on my website several years back but in the end asked me to help him figure out how to get a website up for himself (sheepish grin).
About 6 months later, in Therapists, Social Networking and Blogging, Oh My! I observed that the “wave of the therapist new world order” was crashing down as demonstrated by a surge in website creation, article writing on topics related to therapy, emotional, mental and relationship health — as well as therapist involvement in social networking. I offered some pros and cons for the above mentioned.
In Therapists Busting Out Online, Where Are We Now?, written 7 months later, I looked at the fact that many therapists were fully embracing the change and putting out excellent and educational content for the public in a very ethical way. But technology itself seemed to be a stumbling block for many clinicians wanting to get online but unsure of where to start.
Melanie Gorman, Senior VP of YourTango Experts, offered, “My experience as the architect behind ProConnect (the web/marketing service for experts on YourTango.com) is that there are still lots of folks who are slow to adopt technology. Further, there appears to be a divide between those who embrace technology and those who don’t…We owe it to ourselves to understand what that really means and learn how to use all the tools available to create a thriving business so we can get back to doing the thing we really love, which is helping clients.”
Others pondered the “how to” of putting it all together.
Tom commented, “I look forward to more discussion and insight into how professionals ‘compose’ our online personae, and how that interacts with our theoretical and therapeutic frameworks.”
Now here we are, 8 months later. So many therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists are online that it is almost becoming a public expectation. Unless you have a fully established, heavily word of mouth practice (as some long-time therapists do) you might find your business begin to suffer if you don’t take the leap.
The opportunity is also there to create a secondary income stream on top of a solid online platform. For example, my Therapy-At-Home Workbooks® sell not only in the U.S. but all over the world. I find it exciting that the paradigm shift also allows us the opportunity to educate others about the topics in which we have unique training while expanding our own businesses via whatever delivery method resonates with us (e-books, webinars…).
Others in our field have also emerged as leaders, having embraced the online world with knowledge, integrity, passion and business savvy – while maintaining flourishing private practices. As I and others have experienced, the media tends to pursue interviews and comments from experts with a high level of visibility online, which only serves to further boost the therapist’s credibility.
Here are just a few of these standouts:
As therapists have made the shift online a new business has also emerged, one to train therapists how to effectively implement all of this – including website creation, article writing, the ins and outs of social networking, marketing and creating secondary income streams.
Here are a few examples of folks in our field who do just that:
- The Therapist Leadership Institute – Casey Truffo, MFT
- Private Practice from the Inside Out – Tamara Suttle, LPC
As much as I believe this evolution has been positive, there are things we all should continue to be monitor with the “new norm” including issues related to:
- boundary diffusion (particularly in the area of social networking and clients)
- presenting ourselves in a way that doesn’t play on psychological frailties (over-use of heavy marketing techniques used in other fields)
- time spent engaging in online activities overshadowing time spent continuing to educate ourselves to be the best we can be with the clients we work with
- keeping our own egos in check
For those of us who have practices and an online presence, we must remain cautious that our primary focus (therapy) isn’t compromised in some way by any of the above. If at any point you find this to be the case, you may want to re-assess. It can get sticky and remaining mindful of this fact is imperative.