TikTok psychological well being content material has exploded. However is it remedy?
In a video titled “Why Mental Health TikTok Is Powerful” last week, therapist Jaime Mahler shared a striking comment from one user: “10 years of therapy and what I had to hear I heard on TikTok past and look at myself now.”
Mental health content has exploded on the immensely popular social media platform. The hashtag #mentalhealth has 15.3 billion views and #therapistsoftiktok has 318 million. The therapists’ creators say the pandemic likely accelerated the development of the space, but they attribute its existence to the broader destigmatization of mental health issues, as well as the app’s younger users who are not only more comfortable disclosing everything, but also publicly process, from childhood trauma to relationship abuse.
TikTok offers people mental health education that they have never had before.
“We have a collection of things going on in TikTok for mental health,” said Mahler, who has a private practice in New York and can be found @recollectedself. “We have proponents who emerge, share, reduce the stigma of drugs, reduce the stigma of certain types of diseases. Then we also have therapists in the app who explain things in unique ways, create pictures or show the application how something would appear in a person’s life. Then we have the voices of real people with their faces that allow them to share authentic parts of their personalities. “
All of this, she said, helps make it a space where people can access language to help them analyze their partners, their parents, their past, and especially themselves.
However, therapists in the app emphasize that TikTok is not a therapy substitute. Mental health TikTok, they say, is where people can build basic knowledge, feel validated, and see themselves in the experiences of others. It is not a substitute for therapeutic care.
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For people not on the app, TikTok often escapes the description. It is still misunderstood by non-users as a video app with kids dancing in it. But Tristan Collazo, a licensed consultant who practices in Virginia and can be found at @risethriverepeat, calls it a “universe,” and each user can choose what that universe should look like. There can be dancing or cooking or comedy or therapy tips or dance and therapy tips (there are a lot of them).
The explosion of mental health content in the app, the creators say, is both a reflection of what’s going on for people outside of the app and a commentary on the app itself.
“We’re culturally in a place where we know it’s okay to openly share some of the wounds we carry in our everyday lives,” said Mahler.
TikTok’s user base is young. Many do not attribute the belief of many of their parents and grandparents that emotional pain is better endured than processed. Mahler said this is not a way to be successful, and the power of the app is in showing people that they can live differently.
“We empower people to know that treating and caring for their mental health is vital,” she said. “To be successful … we need to have a basic understanding of who we are and where we want to be.”
Another aspect of TikTok’s impact on mental health is that its algorithm makes it possible to reach audiences who may not even consider therapy, be it for lack of knowledge or introspection, cultural stigma, or access barriers. It makes people feel like they are not alone with everything they have to do.
When a single mom scrolls through TikTok at 11 p.m., she may come across a video that speaks directly to the toxic co-parenting relationship she has with her ex. A black woman struggling to find the right therapist may discover a video describing what depression can look like in black people. An LGBTQ child trying to come out to their parents can find strength and solidarity in the more than 18 million videos of other people doing the same.
“There’s a place in there for everyone,” said Shani Tran, a licensed clinical advisor in Minneapolis, also known as @theshaniproject. “You have therapists there who are Muslim, you have therapists there who are queer. You have therapists there who are men, women, non-binary. There is literally a therapist that you can see yourself in who is validating will.” You who will give you this safe space. “
#TherapyTikTok makes psychological concepts accessible
The beauty of TitkTok for mental health lies in its accessibility. Some of the most successful creators use esoteric psychological concepts and role-playing games to show viewers how this manifests itself in real life. It is much easier to show someone what an attachment disorder looks and sounds like than to rattle off a list of symptoms.
Creators are also helping users develop more solid language about mental health. It is one thing to think that your mother-in-law is difficult to be able to say that she has a narcissistic personality disorder.
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“Maybe someone in your life has a problem and you don’t have the language,” said Mahler. “You are unable to explain what is happening to you, you just know that it hurts. Now you have the words, you have now established the identifier for this connection. ‘”
Another reason for the response to the content, according to Collazo, is that therapists can be assigned more easily in the app than in real life. Because they share information and don’t treat patients, many therapists in the app feel that they can drop the barrier that normally exists between them and their patients, which some psychiatrists believe should be more porous anyway.
“When I was younger I sat across from the therapist and thought this person was perfect and had their life together, never been through anything,” said Collazo. “TikTok humanizes us.”
Collazo made a video last month telling his followers that he has experienced trauma, poverty, racism and divorce. He recently created a video for the Talk To Your Younger Self TikTok Trend in which he told his 4 year old self that his father’s abuse would stop, that he would grow up to be a therapist, that he would break the cycle of would abuse. That he would become a good father.
TikTok is not always therapy
The goal of the creators of therapists is to increase people’s exposure to concepts of mental health. But many therapists on TikTok expressly state in their biographies that TikTok is not just therapy.
Your intent is to improve people’s basic understanding of mental health and to encourage them to seek help when someone is in emotional turmoil or in trouble. In the app, therapists offer snippets, concept presentations and diagnostic overviews. It may be revealing, but it’s not enough.
“TikTok cannot be a therapy because the therapy involves individual care,” said Mahler. “The therapist creates the entire treatment plan for the client as an individual. In interpersonal exchanges, ethical standards and confidentiality are also observed.”
On TikTok, users consume information. There is no individualization and no confidentiality. Mahler says that when she posts in the app, she sees herself as an educator who happens to be a therapist.
She also cautions users not to be critical of the mental health content they consume, asking themselves, “Does this person have any training and credentials to provide me with this information? Could this information be biased or anecdotal?” “
Tran said if someone says they chose therapy because of interacting with their platform, it is the ultimate achievement. The app, she said, is now introducing people to the different forms of therapy that are out there and even what healing can be like with the right therapist. The app is also full of resources to help people find affordable, high quality care.
“I know for my platform, I am a Black woman who is a therapist and a lot of the supporters on my side are saying, ‘Wow! I feel seen in your work. I can show up and feel like someone looks like me and speaks.” about problems without my having to explain, ‘”she said.” I think what it really means for people is to give them a safe place to explore and maybe one day decide,’ Okay ‘Therapy could be just for me.’ “