I snarled as I scrolled past yet another one of those patronizing posts on Instagram from a therapy practice. You’ve seen something similar, I’m sure. There’s usually a mountain or some other form of nature background along with a silhouette of a person you are supposed to identify with who may or may not appear to be in some form of pain…or maybe they are leaping or climbing on something? This particular post indicated that it was “proud” of me and implied that, because of this, I had accomplished enough for the day. My first thought: “f^^^^^^*k youuuuuu.”
Why so bitter, you ask? Don’t even get me started. Anyone who knows me knows that I am anti “ woo-woo” therapy marketing. [As an aside, I freaking DARE you to try to find an online template for anything related to mental health that is not nature or Buddha related.] So here’s the thing…I’m not irritated because I don’t “believe in the woo-woo” therapy techniques. Believe it or not, I actually use (almost) alllll of the same stuff in therapy with my own clients (breath work, guided visualization, “inner child” work, positive thinking, nature, lovingkindness, meditation, etc.). We do what works. We don’t care what it is that works. We just do it. The problem is, there are a ton of people who think those sorts of things are weird and won’t help. They CERTAINLY don’t want or need anyone to say they are “proud” of them and thus, they conclude that therapy isn’t for them. That’s why I get angry. I can’t help people if I can’t get even them through the door because they think all therapy is “woo-woo.” Most of the men I treat, and many of the women, HATE being associated with that kind of thing, so they were pretty desperate to consider therapy in the first place. They ended up with us mainly because our message was different. It seemed to fit them better. More “practical.” Less “touchy feely.” It gets them in the door. Then, the drum circle is something we work up to. Just kidding on that last bit.
The mental health industry has this whole schtick now about erasing the stigma (of having a mental illness, of seeking mental health treatment, etc.) but we clearly aren’t the brightest crayons in the box about how to actually go about doing so. This whole branding thing is pretty new to us all since historically, we were discouraged from even marketing at all. In my #notsopopularopinion therapy practices need to take a look at how their message accidentally perpetuates the very stigma they are trying to erase because they aren’t appealing to different personalities. The PSYCHē brand appeals to men, cynics, workaholics, people who are skeptical of therapy, and those who pride themselves on being hardcore-badass-tough types. 90% of other therapy brands appear to be aimed at boho women in their late 20’s-early 30s. Unless it involves substance abuse treatment which seems a little more diverse, although there is DEFINITELY a sunshine and/or a plant somewhere on that webpage.
In short, some therapists could stand to diversify and re-brand so people can be more confident there could be a model of therapy and a style that fits them and that don’t have to be embarrassed to be a part of. The fact is, some people aren’t coming to the party because the party looks… CRINGY.
—Stephanie Vaughn, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist-HSP, owner of PSYCHē