#Therapy TikTok: A Substitute For Actual Therapy?

By Rachel Eichberger, True North Counseling MSCFT Intern

I’ve been there- scrolling away and all of the sudden I find myself on an unexpected side of TikTok – that algorithm is getting a little too good. Eventually, after several likes and follows I realize that I found #Therapy TikTok. While there is some encouraging, validating, and even eye-opening content it makes me wonder- could people view this as a substitute for actual therapy? Since “#mentalhealth has 15.3 billion views and #therapistsoftiktok has 318 million” it is fair to assume that consumers are latching onto the de-stigmatization of mental health and potentially considering the content as guidance1. A study completed in 2022 gathered data on TikTok mental health content specific to ADHD and exposed some stirring evidence. Of “100 videos, 52% were classified as misleading and non-healthcare providers uploaded the majority of these videos”2.

While educational and inspirational content can leave consumers feeling supported, it is clear that TikTok is not an appropriate or effective substitute for therapy. A USA Today article highlighting the benefits and downside of #Therapy TikTok quoted therapist Jamie Mahler stating “TikTok can’t be therapy because therapy involves individualized care. The therapist creates the entire treatment plan around the client as an individual. It also is held to ethical standards and confidentiality in an interpersonal exchange”1.

So, should I even spend time on #Therapy TikTok? I would say, yes! The upside of this content is that users can find a welcoming environment to explore concepts and consider trying therapy. Ideally, this would provide connections to qualified providers and open doors to users who truly need the individualized care that psychotherapy provides. As with all of social media- consider the source before believing content as truth and enjoy those daily validations!

1. Dastagir, A. E. (2021, September 3). Mental health TikTok is powerful. But is it therapy?. USA TODAY. https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/health-wellness/2021/09/03/tiktok-mental-health-content-has-exploded-but-therapy/5694716001/

2. Yeung, A., Ng, E., & Abi-Jaoude, E. (2022). Tiktok and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a cross-sectional study of social media content quality. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne De Psychiatrie, 7067437221082854, 7067437221082854–7067437221082854. https://doi.org/10.1177/07067437221082854