Therapists are turning out in droves to the online landscape, making our marks with blogging, article writing, social networking and other creative efforts. In Psychotherapists Unmasked on the Internet last October, I examined how this landscape had changed with the increasing prevalence of therapist websites with photos (ethically taboo not so long ago), raising interesting conversation about how we are “supposed” to be presenting (or not presenting) ourselves.
The wave of the “therapist new world order” has crashed down, and many of us are now swirling around in it. The question, “Should I have a website with a picture of myself?” is passé. The question, “Is it ethical for a therapist to publicly engage in social networking?” has been hashed over (albeit, with some debate still gurgling).
I’m a therapist with a private practice — and a writer. I have enjoyed cultivating my online presence for almost five years now, writing about topics that resonate with people and more recently, connecting with other therapists via social networking. As this rapid change in the online landscape for therapists has unfolded, I’ve been curiously observing and have taken mental note of a few things perhaps helpful to others who are considering jumping into the “swirl” with the rest of us.
Here are some of my observations around the “upsides” and “downsides” to therapists having the sort of online life I’ve described above:
- Perfect venue for writer-therapists. All you need is to attach a blog to your site and you can clickity-clack away. For more proactive types, there are plenty of places you can submit your articles — and local sites that would probably welcome your columns! I dreamed of being a writer as a little girl so for me, writing has been an enjoyable supplement to my private practice.
- Makes sense for therapists with helping products. This can be things like online seminars, books, workshops, retreats, etc.
- Social networking can be fun and educational. I have met some of the most interesting people from all over the world this way, including many therapists like me who are doing “their thing” online. It’s like a collective knowledge base of helpful links, interesting ideas and thought provoking quotes that make you go, “Hmmm…”
- Huge amount of work. Unless you can afford to pay someone else to set you up online, make sure your articles are seen and tweeted for you (kind of defeats the purpose of creating relationships but some people have someone else do this) — be ready to put in a lot of hours.
- Watch out for the rabbit holes. Most of us know just by having internet access that there are endless potential “rabbit holes” while surfing. They can serve to distract and take you away from more important tasks — such as work or family obligations. Social networking in and of itself can be the worst of them all — with so many interesting people to check out, exchange information and chit-chat with! Take it from me, a “rabbit-hole-slipper” in recovery.
- Remember what’s really important. Recently, seeing a number of therapy clients struggling with being consumed with social networking, blogging, and being “out there,” it’s clear that there is great potential for any of us to let it consume our lives in an unhelpful manner. My first love is my face-to-face private practice and I stay mindful not to let the online activities detract any time thinking about how to help my clients, doing research, and other practice-specific activities.
Though there are many more options for therapists than there ever have been — it’s not for everyone. There are likely many traditional therapists who want nothing to do with all of this “nonsense.” Like in life, different things resonate with different people. I’ve enjoyed the synchronicity of the two parts of my therapy-related world, distinct yet connected. It works for me.