Since the COVID-19 epidemic began, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the number of people experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression has increased by 25 percent.
Social media has also seen an increase in mental health information. Information varies from promoting self-care to discussing complex conditions and symptoms to promoting the businesses of therapists online. Viral content on mental health may not be accurate. There needs to be substantial checks on the credibility of social media users and influencers. It’s our responsibility to decide on credibility.
Social media can be a valuable tool for sharing lived experiences. Social media can be an effective way to tell your story and build a community. As the mental health discussion grows, it is essential to differentiate between peer support from licensed practitioners and information.
An Abundance Of Mental Health Content
The report conducted on TikTok accounts and Instagram profiles shows more than 100,000 followers belong to my mental health professionals. This study concluded that these accounts could make mental health information easier to access but were not given any credibility check. Researchers concluded that people seeking mental health help should be able to browse content with critical thinking, keeping the findings of the study in mind.
The study only looked at the accounts of mental health professionals, but people who claim to be experts in the field may have reserves that share mental health information. They might not be licensed mental healthcare professionals. Confusion over credibility may lead to people not getting the treatment that they need.
Clients who find unlicensed or unqualified individuals through social media and work with them may be frustrated by the ineffective therapeutic process, as they need to see a real professional. It may discourage them from seeking services in the future, and they will not receive needed treatment.
How can we check the credibility of a website?
Professional titles are used to indicate that a person has the qualifications of a mental health professional. The person must have met state licensing requirements and specific educational requirements. Here are some examples:
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT)
Licensed Clinical Social Workers
Psychologists (PsyD or PhD)
There are some titles that don’t require any education or licensing, like:
The Trauma-Informed Coach
Mental Health Advocate
It is illegal to use a professional title without a license, but it’s not illegal to use other tags that suggest similar expertise and knowledge. You can see that some unregulated titles are credible and imply the same services licensed professionals provide.
The confusion is compounded when social media influencers post high-quality videos and images that perform well on algorithms and suggest a more professional experience.
How can I tell if someone is a licensed therapist?
1. ) Find credentials. Most therapists list their credentials following their names. For example, Dr. Smith may be an LCSW, LMFT, or PsyD. You can see their educational background and license.
Here are some questions you may want to ask a potential psychotherapist you have found on social media.
What degree have you earned that allows you to be a clinical therapist?
What is the license number and your license that allows you to practice Clinical Therapy?
2. ) Verify credentials. Regulatory boards license all mental health professionals. The public can easily verify the status of a license online. The state and license type will vary, but you can easily find them using first and last names. The search is even easier if you know the kind of license and the number.
Three of the most popular boards in the United States and Canada are listed below:
Association of Social Work Board: For unlicensed ACSWs and licensed LCSWs
Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards: Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. or Psy.D.
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: AMFT or LMFT
3. ) Verify the credibility of the social media account. It is possible for social media accounts, such as Instagram, to be bought likes and followers. Avoid working with someone who is engaging in such behavior on social media. This could be a sign that they need to be more honest and transparent about their qualifications.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Also, it is essential to remember that non-mental health professionals, such as life coaches, can also be beneficial to your well-being. They are not a substitute for qualified, evidence-based therapists. In some states, the professional titles and requirements for licensure vary.
Social media is an excellent tool for spreading mental health awareness and destigmatizing mental illness. We must, however, consume mental health information critically – just as we would any other online content. It is essential to be discerning when it comes to the source and messenger of information—clinical professionals.