By Dominique Dove
6 min read
Anyone else’s Instagram feed flooded with mental health advice, or is it just me? Every time I log in, I’m inundated with posts urging me to “feel my feelings,” teaching me how to communicate with my partner, and offering journal prompts to help me get in touch with my inner child. I love that mental health influencers are sharing their knowledge on my favorite app, but I find myself wondering: is consuming such a high volume of mental health content even helpful?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormous amount of mental health advice on Instagram. But don’t give up on it just yet! It is possible to use Instagram to help improve your mental health–it just requires a little work on your part. By clarifying that Instagram is not therapy, curating your feed, critiquing each post, and creating change through action, you can turn Instagram into a useful tool in your mental health toolkit.
CLARIFY that Instagram is not therapy
This is one of the most important things to remember: Instagram is not a replacement for therapy. Even accounts run by licensed therapists are not the same as therapy. Therapy is relational, confidential, and personalized. Therapists’ accounts on Instagram are one-sided, public, and general.
So if Instagram posts by therapists aren’t therapy, then what are they? Mental health Instagram posts generally fall into 4 categories:
- Psychoeducational posts provide research-based information about psychology and mental health.
- Self-help posts suggest tools to help you help yourself
- Self-disclosure posts reveal personal stories and information about the creator
- Marketing posts share information about products or services.
All of these can play a valid role in your mental health journey, but they’re not the same as individual therapy.
CURATE your feed
Following too many mental health accounts can be like drinking water from a firehose. Opt for quality over quantity by carefully curating your feed.
First, take some time to think about what your current mental health goals are. Are you looking to decrease anxiety? Improve your sex life? Make peace with your body? Narrow it down to 2-3 concrete goals.
Then, locate around 3-4 accounts that can help you with each goal. Searching hashtags can be a great way to find accounts that share on the topics that are most important to you. Consider the creator’s educational background, professional licensing status, and area of expertise.
Every few months, audit the mental health accounts that you do follow. Dump the accounts that don’t align with your goals or that lack credibility.
CRITIQUE each post
Not every mental health post on Instagram will apply to you, and that’s okay. Learn to identify the things that are helpful to you and filter out the things that aren’t. Here are some questions to help you consciously critique each post you read:
- What is the creator’s intention? What are they trying to get me to do or think? Beware of posts that push specific values or products, and ones that don’t leave room for gray areas.
- Who is the intended audience for this post? Does it apply to someone like me? If not, scroll past! (For some of our suggested BIPOC-friendly Instagram accounts click here).
- How does reading this post make me feel? Am I encouraged and inspired? Triggered and challenged? Hurt and misunderstood? If a particular account is causing you distress, don’t think twice about unfollowing.
CREATE CHANGE through action
Skimming posts about mental health won’t do anything to improve your mood or your life. While educating yourself is a nice first step, action is necessary to create change! After reading a post that resonates with you, ask yourself 2 questions:
- What’s the key takeaway from this post?
- How will I put this into action this week?
It’s more valuable to take action on 1 post a week than to read 20 a day without acting on any of them. Want to take it even further? Show your therapist an Instagram post that inspired or challenged you. They may be able to help you process, explore, and apply it.
Mental health accounts on Instagram are great resources. They can help you learn more about your diagnosis, find new coping skills, and encourage you throughout the week. When used mindfully, these accounts can be an amazing supplement to therapy and counseling, and can support you in meeting your mental health goals.
Based in Pittsburgh, PA, Dominique counsels college students struggling with depression, anxiety, and suicidality. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Counseling Psychology, however, she believes that you shouldn’t have to pay expensive tuition or hospital bill to learn how to live life with calm, confidence, and purpose. Dominique is passionate about bringing mental health education to everyone, sharing mental health tools and mindset shifts on Instagram at @yourmindinbloom
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