The debate around the problems associated with social networking for therapists has been heated and complex (see Google and Facebook, Therapists and Clients by Dr. John Grohol). Regardless of this ongoing dialogue, the reality is many therapists are engaged in social networking and that’s likely not going to change any time soon.
What I’m curious to know is not the problems with social networking — there are loads of comments on Dr. Grohol’s article listed above if you’d like to sound off there — but why you are networking in this way in the first place?
Whether you’re active on Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz or any other of the growing list of networking spots sprouting up all over the online landscape, what are your goals in doing so?
Here are a few reasons that come to mind around why therapists might be socially networking…
- Reconnect and stay connected to friends: Perhaps you’re like millions of others who find social networking tools a wonderful way to stay in touch with people. Facebook has helped me dig up my old cronies from as far back as elementary school and throughout the different phases of my life; high school, university, my days working in the movie and television business in L.A. – and I find it to be a very easy way for us all to keep tabs on each other. The Facebook account I use for this purpose is locked and private so that clients cannot find me (Side note: If you have an account like this, be sure to check all of the privacy settings… As I was writing this I felt compelled to triple check my FB account and found that I missed checking a few boxes).
- Get connected to other therapists to share resources. This has been one of the most fun and useful aspects of Twitter for me. Being that there are so many therapists “tweeting” that means as you develop relationships with others you can throw questions out, search for resources and learn as you read the many useful links to articles and information that are posted every day by knowledgeable therapy folks out there.
- Help develop a secondary business alongside your private practice. There has been a massive surge in the therapist community around this idea, how to create a passive income alongside your private practice. Casey Truffo, MFT and founder of The Therapist Leadership Institute coaches therapists around the idea of “multiple streams of income” which includes developing products to sell online. Social networking is very important to help do this. I’m a therapist in private practice with a private practice website – and a therapist who writes workbooks for individuals and couples providing a cost effective alternative (not a replacement) to counseling — for some issues and some cases. My journey into this started just before the recession slide a number of years ago – and my business model turned out to be a good one considering what ensued economically in this country.
I have a separate website built for this purpose with all of my writing and articles by other professionals. This is part of my platform to sell my workbooks – and social networking is an important aspect. My intention had been to keep my private practice business and my online business separate but clearly there ends up being a bleed-over as people find my articles and such on the other. In fact, this is how many of my therapy clients find me. It’s become a bit blurry and has gotten me thinking a lot about the issues briefly touched upon at the beginning of this piece.
- Help build your private practice. Perhaps you believe that getting your name out there in the social networking world will help your phone ring a bit more as potential clients seek you out. I think a lot of therapists are hoping for this outcome for their own private practices. I don’t happen to use social networking in this way as my reasons really rest in the above three. I’ve typically not targeted my local community in my social networking but over time it’s organically happened that my list of local contacts is growing. Though very occasionally I’ll mention my practice, I don’t really consider this a personal “goal.”
Therapists who use social networking, why do you do so? Do any of the above reasons I cited fit for you? Are there others? Considering social networking is likely here to stay and will continue to be alive with more and more people “tweeting” and “facebooking” — I think it’s important for you to examine why you’re engaged in the activity and then contemplate how to manage the concerns around it as they relate to your practice — which are certainly valid and complex.
I’m still scratching my head a bit at how to navigate through it all in the best way. I think many of us are.