This post was written by WhiteCoat Partner Psychologist, Dr Annabelle Chow. Find out more about WhiteCoat’s Mental Wellness service here.
It is important to first clarify is that “Instagram therapy” is not a form of therapy. In fact, it is not therapy at all!
Psychotherapy requires committed engagement with trained psychologists. Psychologists are trained professionals who utilise evidence-based techniques and approaches to investigate a mental health concern. By working with the client collaboratively, these professionals can reduce or minimise the impairment or impact of the mental health concern. Therapy must be specific and customised as no two persons are completely alike; we each have unique life experiences and circumstances.
Accordingly, we cannot regard content or engagement published on Instagram or Facebook for mass consumption as actual therapy. To reiterate, Instagram therapy is not therapy! At best, we can only regarded these content as psychoeducation, or sources that provide information and education about mental disorders.
Therefore, we must think about how the mental health content we consume is delivered, and whether they are truly credible or helpful.
There are roughly 1 billion users on Instagram, 1.2 billion users on Tik Tok, and 2.9 billion users on Facebook. Social media has become a ubiquitous medium for content consumption that can be harnessed for a good cause.
But not everything you read might be applicable or useful, or worse, true.
Many users of social media use these platforms to follow or create interesting content. Users often create content to advance personal or professional goals, or associate with like-minded people. It should come as no surprise that content creators will want to create content that users want to consume.
In order to achieve this, creators have to product content likely to increase engagement or followers. Often, the end goal for these creators us to be able to monetise their followers and content. Similarly, it is important that we examine the information that we see being shared online every day, often by self-proclaimed experts with little research experience or actual clinical practice. Is the content that we have been consuming created with the same aim of gaining followers or likes?
Over time, many come to rely on these celebrity psychologists for their daily dose of ‘feel-good’ metal health content. Some may even mistake this as a genuine connection, or worse, as actual online or group therapy.
Some say that mental health channels on social media are like self-help books: addictive, sometimes unhelpful, and designed to keep you coming back for more.
It is against this backdrop that we should analyse the content that we consume on the internet.
The next time scroll through the pages of your favourite Instagram therapists or psychologists, please consider these questions:
- Is the content from a reliable source?
- What are the factors motivating the content creator to produce this content?
- Does this person spend more time on clinical practice or on social media?
Social media is not a substitute for therapy.
Reading information online can help you understand or learn something about yourself, but it is not a replacement for formal therapy.
No therapy can be done over social media.
While well-meaning psychologists might create content to educate the general public, we cannot assume the same for every single piece of social media content. Non-professionals can produce or reproduce material to attract likes and followers, without providing credible mental health information.
You should not rely on social media during a mental health crisis.
You should view such content purely for what they are – generic, non-specific and informational in nature that serves a broad psychoeducational purpose within the community. While these psychoeducational material by non-mental health professionals can be a useful supplement to your mental health journey, you should not regard it as professional support that can sufficiently help you in a mental health crisis.
If you are experiencing challenges in your mental and emotional state, it is best that you consider seeking actual professional help. One great option is teleconsulting a mental wellness professional on the WhiteCoat app. Speak to our panel of psychologists and mental health professionals. This way, you can receive actual support relevant to your unique mental health journey, from professionals who have been clinically trained to dispense credible mental health information.
When presented responsibly, psychologists on social media can help to break the stigma associated with mental health. They break down complex mental health conditions into digestible bite-sized chunks for anyone to consume. They are also capable of explaining difficult psychological disorders and concepts with infographics, animation, and beautiful pictures.
However, if you require meaningful, ongoing professional support for your mental health journey, understand that Instagram therapy might not present you with a solution.
If you are struggling mentally or know someone who needs help, please know that you are not alone. Consider teleconsulting a mental wellness professional on the WhiteCoat app at your discretion, and receive the help you need at your discretion. Click here for more information on our Mental Wellness service, or click here to go back to the blog.