Psychotherapy and Web 2.0

Recently, I had two referrals to offer to colleagues.  Although I like to make personal referrals, these patients had already had problems finding in-network providers.  So I mailed a general query to a listserv I am in.  Within an hour I received 5 emails back from therapists saying they had availability and providing phone numbers and their emails.  Only one had a website however.  I cut and pasted all five into a note to my patients, and I can guarantee you they will only call the therapist with the website initially.  This event provides us with a perfect example of the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0

Web 1.0 refers to websites and internet technologies that were historically non-interactive, sites that we can read but not actually actively interact with.  Remember those?  Nowadays it is hard to find any examples of them.  Email and listservs, while still VERY valuable, and not at all disposable, would probably be considered Web 0.5.0 .  They are not going anywhere soon according to the recent tech experts I’ve read, but they are more limited in their nimbleness.  They also tend to give people burnout more quickly, as many experience them as intrusive emails from strangers who lob their opinions into the group, then someone lobs back an equally long rebuttal, and so on.  The majority of folks on listservs quickly become passive and resentful, and soon create that sort rule which sends all of the information into the infamous “folder” many of us have.

First let’s look at what all five therapists did that was marketable, in terms of 1.0  They are on listservs, they respond rapidly and include email as a way to be in touch with them.  These are great things, they position these 5 therapists ahead of the pack.   They are responsive and accessible in the manner needed for growing or maintaining a practice.  Anyone who responds after two hours is too late.  When I told my patients I would gladly forward other names if they came in, they basically said, don’t bother.  So that is the power of Web 1.0, that is what these clinicians are doing right, and that is the barest minimum, the barely bare minimum of where you should be with technology if you want to have a private practice in the next 2 years.

If you are reading this, you are at least at Web 1.0, so now let’s look at the therapist above who has begun to make the jump to Web 2.0.  But first, what is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 basically refers to web-based social media and social networking websites, like Facebook, and LinkedIn.  What makes it 2.0 is the interaction.  We don’t just read what someone somewhere put up on a site, we participate.  We respond to information; comment on videos; share links with friends and colleagues; post blogs; make podcasts for websites or continuing education that others can download; host webinars; IM with friends while we share news or music.  In particular to LinkedIn, which is designed for our work world, we can sign up for discussion groups (and there are hundreds) but also create an online profile which can be as specific or vague as one likes.  The profile can include publications, and links to them, and a professional version of Twitter called your status.  Mine sometimes says “Michael Langlois is accepting new patients.” Folks looking at my profile can see that I have experience in gamer-affirmative therapy and learning disabilities, which makes it easier for people to refer to me or ask me different questions.

The therapist above has much of that.  He has a website, it has an interactive copy of his book, a picture of him, links to other sites and information.  He even has links for professionals and I joined a email list as a result of his site.  If I were providing consultation to this guy, we would be able to devote a lot of time right from the start on webinars and podcasts, because he has a lot of Web 2.0 down pat!  He gets that the rules of engagement for therapist and patients have changed significantly.  Patients want to see your face, hear your voice, think about what you have written, read recommendations from colleagues about you.  And they want to do all that before they meet you.  Remember the saying that therapy begins when you say “hello” to a potential patient on the phone?  Well, in a Web 2.0 world therapy begins before you even get the phone call.

So you need to become familiar with Web 2.0 ASAP.  And not knowing how yet is not an excuse, because as one of my colleagues said “people don’t go around nowadays saying, ‘the telephone, I don’t know how to use that.’”   The telephone has become much more a part of our daily world and Web 2.0 has become much more part of our patients’ world.  Technology is constantly evolving, in some ways like psychoanalytic theory.  Even 100 years ago we might have heard ourselves saying, “free association, what’s that?  I don’t know how to use that.”

So please, because I really do want you to succeed, please start gearing up for Web 2.0 and beyond.

Comments

  1. Carolyn Stack says:

    I’m in the process of building a website and a number of non-therapist friends have had negative responses to the idea of posting a photo. They’re probably just jealous of my youth and beauty ; ) but personally I’d want to see a prospective therapist’s image. My father in law thought it could be off-putting – people making judgements about me based on my pic. I asked him if he was making a negative comment about my looks but since he has no sense of humor that line of questioning didn’t get very far. Carolyn

  2. Great post, Mike! I went to the 140 Character Conference in Boston yesterday to learn more about the real time web and how it impacts people’s lives and businesses. Pretty soon, the public will want to receive information in Web 3.0 –real time interactions via Twitter, real time chat, etc. Evolving quickly, yes we are!

    • Thanks Susan, that conference sounds interesting. Between that and the Online Therapy Institute’s 2nd Virtual Conference on Counseling going on the next few days, there is a lot of stuff to choose from! I hope people will check out your blog entry on Health Care Social Media as well.

  3. I am very interested in the business model for social media and therapists. In the end therapy is a person-to-person service with intensity, confidentiality, and still, yes, stigma associated with it.

    I see very few therapists doing social media with success, or prowess, or frankly, the way it was intended (the SOCIAL part is missing when you simply list to your blog post.) But I know it takes a long while for enough people to get up, ramped up, share their success, and eventually people may figure out a viable business model for earning money. I don’t think we’re quite there yet….but am waiting with baited breath for what the near future holds!

    • @Elizabeth: I agree with you about therapy being a person to person service. And it is a meaningful service, which means that the internet hype and websites will only take you so far. Content is King, and when I work with therapists we work to identify the things they are passionate about, because that will be what inspires good content. I think as we become more adept at Web 2.0 and the “twizziness” wears off, this crucial component of content will become much more apparent.

  4. Carolyn Stack says:

    It’s so true that most patients want to know more about a prospective therapist before meeting or calling her/him. Who doesn’t google before even considering a therapist? That means we have to be savvy about what shows up on google – and what shows up first. Carolyn

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