Popular Article Summary
Blum’s (2021) article titled “Therapists are on TikTok” discusses the growing prominence of accounts set by clinical mental health professionals on social media. The article points out that the rise in the counselors’ popularity was to be expected after a year when “everyone’s been high-functioning depressed” (Blum, 2021, para. 3). It also states that many followers express their which to use the counseling services of the professionals posted online (Blum, 2021). The text suggests that people see social media as a route toward rather a substitute for face-to-face therapy. Blum (2021) also claims that the use of social media raises ethical questions essential for the professional community. A prominent example is identifying the boundary between “educating young people about mental health and offering therapeutic advice” (Blum, 2021, para. 7). The author also notes specifically that professional ethics is a major concern for counselors on social media, who come together to carefully discuss “the ethical dilemmas that come with creating content.” The article concludes that, whatever the difficulties, the massive popularity of counselors on social media is a fact in the making that entails certain ethical responsibilities.
Original Journal Article Summary
An article by Stawarz et al. (2019) explores the use of contemporary technological means, such as Web-based resources, social media, and smartphone applications, for mental health well-being. It offers a quantitative correlational study that included surveying 81 eligible participants to identify their use of multiple types of technology-enhanced means of promoting mental health (Stawarz et al., 2019). Key variables were the use of social media, Web-based resources, and smartphone apps, and the different motivations for their use reported by the study participants. One key finding of the article is that, while people willingly engage mental health counselors in social media, they still do not perceive it as a full-fledged alternative to the more traditional substitute for traditional face-to-face therapy (Stawarz et al., 2019). Another finding was that the participants generally wanted more “personalized and actionable recommendations” than those available on Web-based resources or social media (Stawarz et al., 2019). The article concludes that people use several types of technology to improve their mental health, often simultaneously, but want said technologies to develop better before relying on them more.
Analysis of the Journal Coverage
One important point that Blum (2021) got right in her article is that people perceive social media interactions with mental health counseling professionals as equivalent to traditional counseling. As mentioned above, Stawarz et al. (2019) established that people did not view social media as an equal substitute for face-to-face interactions. Blum’s (2021) article also points out that the counseling professionals’ followers of TikTok wanted to learn how to make an appointment with them. It suggests that, even when a mental health professional becomes highly popular in a given social network, people still do not perceive social media as equivalent to personal communication within the same physical space (Blum, 2021). In this respect, the journal article gets one of the findings of the scholarly article right, even though it does not focus on it to the same degree.
Another thing that the journal article gets rights to is that people generally seek personalized advice they could act upon rather than general educational materials related to their mental health. Blum (2021) notes that establishing a clear distinction between “educating young people about mental health and offering therapeutic advice” is one of the greatest challenges that emerged throughout the counselors’ experiences on TikTok (para. 7). According to one of the professionals interviewed for Blum’s (2021) article, TikTok followers can mistake general educational materials for “actual therapeutic advice” suited to their needs (para. 9). The journalist does not claim specifically that this happens because people want personalized recommendations, but the implicit causal connection is clear. In this regard, the popular article reiterates another finding of the journal article. However, it could have been clearer if the author specifically pointed out the causality and mentioned that people seek therapeutic advice suited to their needs and, therefore, tend to find it even where there is none.
One thing that the popular article could have expressed better and with more clarity is the professional ethical implications of TikTok’s presence for mental health counseling professionals. Admittedly, Blum (2021) notes that certain ethical issues inevitably arise when counselors start acting as social media influencers and that the professional community is acutely aware of those. At one point, when speaking of these ethical issues, the article even quotes Lisa Henderson, “a licensed professional counselor and past southern region chairwoman at the American Counseling Association” (Blum, 2021, para. 8). However, the article never mentions that the Association’s Code of Ethics, issued in 2014, unequivocally refers to social media use. The Code stresses specifically that mental health counseling professionals have an obligation to “manage their professional as well as their personal social media interactions in a manner that is congruent with their roles as professional counselors” (Willow et al., 2018, 3). Without this information, the popular article does not provide sufficient context and can leave the audience with an incomplete perception of the ethical principles that govern professional counselors’ digital presence.
Blum, D. (2021). Therapists are on TikTok. And how does that make you feel? The New York Times. Web.
Stawarz, K., Preist, C., & Coyle, D. (2019). Use of smartphone apps, social media, and Web-based resources to support mental health and well-being: Online survey. JMIR Mental Health, 6(7), e12546. Web.
Willow, R. A., Tobin, D., Chong, W. Y., Jeffery, A., Strohmeyer, D., & Morine, N. (2018). A social media policy for clinical mental health counseling programs. The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 11(2). Web.