Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… no doubt some of you will already be using some of these tools, and a myriad of others. Counselling, along with nearly any other industry, cannot avoid the changes that have happened in communications over the last decade.
Counsellors themselves are using social media both to boost their practice, and also in their personal lives. Social media is still a growing industry, and it’s definitely here to stay. Uptake in the counselling world has been a little slow compared to other industries, but to stay ahead of the curve it’s becoming very necessary.
When it comes to counselling and social media, wouldn’t it be great if there were some guidelines out there about which tools to use, and how to use them? Well, that’s where we’re jumping in! We’re going to look at some of the important social media trends in counselling, and how you can use various tools to help you with your practice.
Important tools for counselling and social media
Probably the most ubiquitous tool of the lot. If you’ve managed to get through life without having heard of Facebook yet, I salute you because you’re probably living in some super cool hippie commune where everyone drinks raw juices all day and listens to Jefferson Airplane on vinyl. Who am I kidding, even those people are using Facebook.
Yes, many of us use it in our personal lives to stay in touch with long lost school friends, or family halfway around the world. Or even your next-door neighbour if you’re as lazy as I am. But Facebook is a powerful tool for marketing and sharing your work. What you’ve been used to so far is actually only half of what Facebook has to offer – Facebook has a ‘personal’ component and a ‘Pages’ component.
Facebook Pages are the business equivalents of a profile. Only here, the focus is all on you and your practice, and people actually have to opt-in to follow what you’re saying. Rather than friends, you gain followers – people who want to hear the latest from you via your Facebook page.
This highly customisable platform can be edited to include pictures and images, contact details, maps to your practice, address details, summaries of your qualifications and work and much more.
Why should I use it?
Simple – Facebook has the highest proportion of people using it, with the highest proportion of time spent per person of any website in the world. It is overtaking other media in terms of where people get their news and entertainment.
In a nutshell, if you’re not on Facebook, you’ve got a massive gaping hole in your ability to reach people, such as potential clients. In addition, it allows for people to message you straight through the page, saving them the faff of emailing or calling you up.
Dos of Facebook
- Keep it updated – keep your information fresh, and don’t forget to change any contact details when needed.
- Share content of interest to users – this is the ultimate way to build up a community of interest, and to get your information spreading far and wide. Garner an interested community and it will reward you.
- Share images – Facebook loves images, and people love images. A picture speaks a thousand words, and these days more than ever, people won’t read a thousand words, but they will look at a picture.
- Videos and live streams – If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then a video is the next level. It may feel daunting but what better way to get a sense of your presence and personality across to potential clients? You could have a pinned post with a short introductory video, or post more frequently – such as around awareness days or sharing short bits of self-care advice or insights.
- Make the most of groups – Facebook groups can be great places to network with fellow counsellors in an informal setting. They can also be used for referrals – with therapists looking for peers they can refer onto with specialist experience. If the idea of promoting yourself feels daunting, such as with the above point about making use of videos or live streams, then that’s something you can discuss with peers or even share a video to a group first.
- Advertise – Facebook advertising is gob-smackingly cheap and very effective. For just a few quid a day you can be sending highly targeted advertising to the people you want to reach on, what’s likely to be, their favourite piece of media.
Don’ts of Facebook
- Write your life’s story into a post – you’re competing against hundreds of a person’s friends and other interests to grab attention. Nothing will get them flicking past your updates faster than seeing a great wall of text. Keep it simple, and include eye-catching imagery where possible.
- Delete comments – one of the greatest fears people have when stepping into the world of social media marketing is for someone to come on and slate their work. It might be rare in our field but it does happen. The good news is that if you handle the situation well (ie not deleting and ignoring) it’ll benefit everyone involved, including yourself. Apologise, communicate, find a solution. The exception to this is if you have someone posting hate speech on your profile such as racism, homophobia or transphobia – you don’t need to stand for this and can delete (and report to Facebook).
- Stray too far off track – people follow your page because you’re good at what you do, and they want to hear more from you. They’re interested. Don’t start losing the plot by posting funny cat videos or commenting on Boris Johnson’s haircut. Share the content that your readers want to read.
- Make it personal – one of the biggest struggles is in overcoming the mindset you’re used to if you’ve used Facebook in a personal capacity, and that’s talking from a professional standpoint. This doesn’t mean you have to be so formal it comes across as stiff, but remember that you’re not communicating with a bunch of mates but potential clients, and other therapists.
Connect with Brighton Therapy Partnership on Facebook
Probably the second most referred to social media tool on the planet is Twitter. Characterised by short, sharp bursts of chatter, primarily because of its infamous character limit on updates. You have just 280 characters to get your point across, so every letter counts.
Unlike Facebook, there’s only one type of account. This means your practice’s account is interspersed with people’s personal accounts and other organisations, and you can communicate with them directly.
It works via followers – there are no ‘friends’ in the Twitter universe. You can follow other accounts, and people can follow your account. When someone is being followed, their updates will appear in a feed to the follower.
In addition, Twitter makes it very simple to communicate directly with someone else by including the character ‘@’ followed by the user’s account name at the start of a tweet. Try it with us! Just start a tweet with @btontherapy.
Why should I use it?
Twitter, when used well, is incredibly effective. It allows its users to share real-time updates on a very frequent basis, and also allows you to gather the latest information from other users and organisations.
It’s one of the few social media tools that doesn’t have a distinct feeling of ‘us & them’ when it comes to people and organisations, and as such, many people are very welcoming of organisational Twitter accounts contacting them, whilst directly contacting people on other social networks and promoting your practice could be viewed as invasive.
Dos of Twitter
- Keep it chatty – as mentioned, Twitter has less of a divide between people and organisations, but that requires a certain etiquette. Users want you to be chatty, informal, and human-feeling. It should be easy… you are a human after all… but it takes a little bit of getting used to compared to the more formal atmosphere of other social networks.
- Share thoughts and opinions on topics, counselling or not – because of this informal vibe, it’s safe to put yourself out there a bit. Whilst this may seem risky at first, as some people might not like your views, Twitter is often the tool where a brand or company culture can be at its most palpable. Again, this is about being warm, friendly, but above all, human.
- Listen to others – Twitter is an incredible way to gather information on the industry. Following key accounts and sharers of news will keep you up to date. Why not start with @btontherapy to hear about our latest events and articles?
- Connect with peers – We can view social media as a form of marketing to gain clients, but a big part of it is connecting with peers. The Therapist’s Connect account was created for this purpose, after Dr Peter Blundell’s prompt for therapists to share their details and connect really took off. Follow their account for updates on connection opportunities (such as their regular #TraineeTalk discussions) or include #TherapistsConnect in your tweet for it to reach more people.
- Get stuck in – Twitter is a hubbub of different conversations on topics of the moment. Don’t be afraid to meet someone new and get involved. Sure, not everyone’s friendly, but discussion is a lot of fun and gets your name out there.
- Build lists – Twitter allows for users to build ‘lists’ segmenting who you’re following. This allows you to build groups around specific interests. Perhaps you could set up a list of CPD providers, and stick Brighton Therapy Partnership in there?
Don’ts of Twitter
- Be overly friendly – ok, we mentioned the informal chatty thing. But still keep some distance. Remember you’re representing yourself in a professional capacity.
- Spam – Twitter allows for very, very frequent interaction. There’s a difference between that, and being irritating by sharing the same thing repeatedly within the space of about 10 seconds.
- Neglect it – there’s a reason why big companies have an entire team manning their Twitter channel: because it is one of the more informal channels, people feel safer about sending messages and complaints to a company Twitter. Letting those sit there for days on end doesn’t look good and doesn’t help the person. If someone’s asked you a question, get back to them.
- Expect too much – because it offers a direct communication method to celebrities and major organisations, people often assume they can directly tweet Beyoncé and that she’ll pick it up. I’m afraid it ain’t that simple – celebs could be receiving literally hundreds of tweets per minute and the chance of your tweet even being read by them, let alone retweeted or replied to is incredibly small.
Not just all about selfies, food and holiday snaps anymore, so many businesses and professionals are now on Instagram. By its nature it’s a visual platform – allowing you to connect with clients with your presence and your insights, whether through grid posts or via Stories, Reels or IGTV.
If you’re finding it hard to imagine what being a therapist on Instagram might look like, here’s a few accounts we’d recommend:
What you’ll notice with all these accounts are helpful insights on mental health, consistent professional looking branding yet with a genuine, authentic sense of the individual coming through in their videos (including a sense of humour where appropriate!).
Why should I use it?
Using Instagram might make sense if you’re comfortable with the platform already – knowing your way around Stories and potentially feeling comfortable talking to camera. A bit of basic graphic design can also be needed if you are wanting to share posts to your grid like quotes or infographics. If you’re intimidated by creating professional looking branding, have a play with Canva – it’s a brilliant free design tool that makes more possible than you’d imagine.
Dos of Instagram
- Keep branding consistent – This is as simple as choosing a colour and a font that you stick with when creating posts. You can make a template on Canva and then replicate this for consistency.
- Consider what you’re sharing on Stories – As always, think about how much of yourself you are disclosing and keep to confidentiality. This includes talking about “a great session you had”. Clients don’t consent to being talked about, and we don’t know how this would feel for them, so keep the session chat to supervision.
- Caption your videos – When putting together Stories or videos uploaded to your grid, ensure you’re including captions. This is crucial for access, but also many people without any access needs watch stories on mute and will skip by if captions aren’t included. It’s easier than ever now too with an automated function within the app.
- Include hashtags – This is how your posts may be discovered so make the most of hashtags, just keep them relevant. So if you’re talking about therapy itself include that (you can look at other accounts to see which hashtags they’re using), but get specific too – there are people learning about trauma and attachment through this platform. It can be a quick way for people to take in information and to feel understood.
- Reply to comments – If you have people engaging with your posts, great! Just remember to always reply and engage. Commenting on other therapist’s pages is also a great way of building connections.
- Have a link in your bio – A simple one but key – make sure your practice link is included in the bio of your page. If you’re talking about blogposts you’ve written in posts, you can also use something like Tailwind App to create a basic landing page that then displays the posts with the links you’re signposting to.
- Maintain boundaries – If you’re sharing insights on Instagram you may find that people contact you asking for advice or sharing their stories. It’s a good idea to have something on your profile about not being able to engage in a therapeutic manner in this way. You can reply to messages like this by sharing your session booking details or other sources of support. It’s not about abandoning warmth and being human, but knowing the limits of the platform.
Don’ts of Instagram
- Neglect it – There are times we get busy and it’s not possible, but if you’re going to use Instagram it’s good to be posting regularly. Post too infrequently and your posts will be less likely to be shown to your followers (the algorithm favours regular engaging content).
- Post too often – Equally on the other end of the scale, if you’re posting throughout the working day and after it – that is a lot of contact with clients. We can over worry how posts might be perceived, but it’s worth clocking if you find yourself posting more and more – and how that might be received.
- Be too familiar – You might use Instagram Stories in your personal life for documenting your day. An element of being human and relatable is great, but again – keep a mindset of how would you feel about existing or new clients seeing your content? For example – if you’re exhausted by your day and share that – what message might your clients from that day take from that? Or, do clients need to see you enjoying your tea and biscuit between sessions? There’s no hard and fast rules about this so like always, just be mindful and intentional with it.
Less of a social network, more of a professionals network. LinkedIn works very similarly to Facebook, but with a much more professional vibe to it. Whilst the similarities far outweigh the differences, the culture and etiquette around LinkedIn cannot be overstated.
Whilst on Facebook we mentioned setting up a page, you’ll more likely use LinkedIn in a personal capacity, as it is directly linked to your qualifications and work experience.
LinkedIn initially has you setting up your page with all your education and work history, and any other interesting traits and qualifications you may have earned. This isn’t dissimilar to an online CV which everyone can view. Rather than ‘friending’ people onto your personal network, you ‘connect’ with them instead. The idea is to breakdown the ideology of this being social, but being about networking.
This means that you’ll be connecting not just with old school friends, as with Facebook, but colleagues and even your boss if applicable.
Why should I use it?
LinkedIn provides you with a tool to network online. Meet people within the counselling industry and hear updates from them and their practice.
LinkedIn is a terrific tool for staying current with the industry and events that are coming up in your industry. In addition, if you’re looking for a job, or if your practice is growing and you’d like to recruit some fellow counsellors to be part of it, then LinkedIn is one of the foremost methods of recruitment these days.
Dos of LinkedIn
- Get involved with groups – numerous groups exist on LinkedIn for any interest you can think of, and there are a heap of counselling and psychotherapy groups out there. These provide stimulating conversations on the nuances of practice, as well as share news and articles that are of interest.
- Connect with people in a work capacity – it’s a little hard to shift gears if you’re a Facebook user from simply adding friends, to adding those you’ve met in a work capacity. Whilst it may be frowned upon to add someone you sat across the table from in a meeting on Facebook, to do so on LinkedIn is common practice and is perfectly acceptable.
- Keep it professional – whilst Twitter was much about being human and informal, LinkedIn is by comparison very formal. Keep yourself presentable at all times, from your profile picture to your status updates. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun, but maintain the professional appearance online… even if you’re actually sat at the computer in your pyjamas nursing a hangover.
Don’ts of LinkedIn
- Make it personal – this is about your worklife first and foremost, don’t forget that! That’s not to say you can’t share the odd opinion or weigh in on an issue (indeed, discussion can be personal and forthcoming in the aforementioned groups) but you should certainly refrain from posting about what you had for breakfast.
- View people’s profiles willy-nilly (they’ll know) – unlike Facebook and Twitter where you can browse other people’s profiles anonymously with them being none the wiser, LinkedIn informs its users if their profile has been browsed. So don’t go looking through your old crush’s work history – they will know.
- Add everyone under the sun – we mentioned that LinkedIn is a networking tool, and it’s therefore fine to connect with others whom you’ve worked with, even if only briefly. However, that’s not an excuse to add everyone in your organisation, just because you’ve walked past them in the corridor. If you’re running your own private practice, there’s a temptation to network with as many counsellors in your area as possible, but it’s best to do this in real life first.
We won’t cover LinkedIn pages in this post, although these are very similar to Facebook pages. They offer less functionality than personal profiles, as they cannot participate in groups. However, as your practice or organisation grows, it can be a useful way to help others stay in the loop with what you’re up to without having to connect with your personal profile. If you’re just starting out, we recommend the personal profile first.
Connect with Brighton Therapy Partnership on LinkedIn
Social media and mental health
Before wrapping up, we wanted to weigh in on the issue of social media and mental health. Many mental health professionals, including counsellors, have bypassed social media entirely based on claims that social media can lead to poor mental health.
Whilst this is a consideration, the evidence is not concrete and it is perhaps naive to take it as so. This article on social media and mental health (excuse the headline!) sums this up nicely.
In addition, approximately 74% of the UK is using social media. This figure is skewed demographically, so if you are working with young people, you can safely up that to nearly 100%. As counsellors our job requires empathy and understanding. Trialling social media for yourself is an excellent way to help with this empathy.
A few final pointers
- These tools are the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more to social media, including TikTok, Clubhouse, Pinterest, YouTube, Reddit, and more. While there’s opportunities with all of these, to greater and lesser extents (Therapist TikTok is now definitely a thing), we’ll leave it at these main four for now. We may add to this post over time though, so take a look back from time to time.
- Choose your platform – remember, you don’t need to be on all of the social media platforms. It makes sense to find the one that works best for you, perhaps in line with what you’re comfortable using but also where your clients are likely to be (or prioritising connections with peers if that is what you’re craving).
- Throughout use of all these tools, remember not to break any confidentiality agreements with clients, and we recommend keeping any contact with clients private.
- None of these, in our opinion, beat having a good website and traditional contact details such as email and telephone. They should always come first.
- However, don’t ignore the might of social media. It’s continuing to grow exponentially, and with the mobile generation it’s almost unavoidable as people are browsing new media more and more from devices that fit in their pocket.
- In addition to this, counselling is one of the few industries that is still a little behind with uptake of social media. It’s almost guaranteed to happen though. Be ahead of the curve by adopting these tools now and keeping up to date with changes within them.
- Finally, don’t forget to add us on all these platforms and we want to hear from you! Let us know how you’re getting on.
For more from Brighton Therapy Partnership, follow us on the social media tools mentioned. We look forward to seeing you at our events in the near future.
Friday 1st March 2024. ONLINE via Zoom and CATCH-UP for 28 days. Event Times: 10.00am – 4.00pm GMT (London)/ 11.00am – 5.00pm CET (Paris)/ 5.00am – 11.00am EST (New York).…
Friday 22nd March 2024. ONLINE via Zoom and CATCH-UP for 28 days. Event Times: 10.00am – 4.00pm GMT (London)/ 11.00am – 5.00pm CET (Paris)/ 5.00am – 11.00am EST (New York).…
Friday 19th April 2024. ONLINE via Zoom and CATCH-UP for 28 days. Event Times: 10.00am – 4.00pm GMT (London)/ 11.00am – 5.00pm CET (Paris)/ 5.00am – 11.00am EST (New York).…
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