I think by now you all have deduced that I enjoy my social media. I tweet (professionally as UltreyaTherapy) and I am on facebook. I tend to focus these blogs on technology in counseling, but I have found myself this last week feeling a need to talk about a trend that I’ve been seeing in my twitter and facebook feeds lately.
I follow The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and so any legislation regarding equal rights has been linked for my perusal through my twitter feed. I also have a few celebrities that I follow that feed links to the NOH8 campaign. So in other words, I’m seeing trends in discussion about marriage equality and the LGBTQ community reaching out to youth to help them know it gets better. And today, I had a link from the HRC to an article they did about the Lies and Dangers of Reparative Therapy (http://www.hrc.org/reparativetherapy/).
This is a prime example of the usefulness and impact of social media within counseling. IF we as therapists can help clients and as educators help our students find resources in a quick, relatively non-intrusive way, then our job truly does not stop at the therapy door.
What I mean is simply this, I tend to tell my clients that most of the therapy we do actually occurs outside of our sessions because I meet with them at most 2 times a week, they have to live with themselves the rest of the time. But if I could give them resources throughout the week to match the discussion had during the session, perhaps I can help them focus on the topic at hand. Let me take the aforementioned resources for an example. If I have an adolescent gay male coming to me struggling with his identity development and wondering if something is wrong with him because he doesn’t fit the conservative values of his parents and is therefore curious about reparative therapy, I can throughout the week tweet links to this kind of article and youtube videos of the It Gets Better project and linking him up with NOH8 materials where he can see that he is not the only one out there feeling this way. I can be a silent support system for him even when he is not in my therapy room and honestly, maybe that is all he really needs, someone to stand with him through the battle for identity.
If I am honest, it is the HRC and similar postings that help me stay connected to a community that I support so completely. As a therapist I strive to help my clients live authentically and then I see posts from the HRC and realize that so many people are forced to live inauthentically because of politics and religious morals? The use of social media to get a stifled voice heard is so incredibly powerful. Let’s take that same adolescent gay male and give him an anonymous twitter feed that he can speak his own thoughts and ideas and doubts. Through that he can find support and find out he isn’t alone…and now he can feel as if it really will get better. I’m not proposing we move all our counseling to the cyber world. I truly believe that in person contact helps establish the rapport. But the technology is not going anywhere and I want us as a profession to begin using it to the benefit of our clients as well as our own education. There are so many great twitter feeds geared towards mental health professionals that help me generate new thoughts as well as new interventions for clients. I also get different input than just those that I associate with regularly which helps challenge my own thought processes.
Michelle E. Wade is a counselor and doctoral student focusing on in-home therapy and technology in counseling.