Why Therapists Need an Instagram

Photo courtesy of @Open__Dialogue

Charlett Hodge, LAPC, is a Georgia-based educator, counselor, wife, mother, as well as the woman behind @Open__Dialogue, an Instagram account dedicated to conversations about mental health awareness. 

Charlett’s career journey started when she worked for the Atlanta Housing Authority as a Family Support Coordinator. There, she not only helped families become self-sufficient through coaching and counseling, but she also realized she had a passion and gift for facilitating real, quality-of-life-enhancing change in people.  

Today, she works as a school-based therapist across two elementary schools with CHRIS 180. Her work is focused on kids affected by trauma and affords her the opportunity to collaborate care across a child’s network of parents, teachers and school administration where she fosters healing, emotional growth and heightened awareness. 

If that weren’t inspiring enough, Charlett has also taken to social media to broaden her audience and act as an agent for change. Open__Dialogue is a safe space online where Charlett aims to – and succeeds in – sparking conversations that increase awareness and eliminate stigma about mental health and therapy.

Read more about how Charlett is using social media for good and why she thinks all therapists should give social media a try. 

Q: You launched @open__dialogue on Instagram in May 2019 and it gained traction very quickly. Why did you decide to launch this profile?

A: I wanted a platform where people could engage in dialogue about various topics surrounding mental health. My goal was to spark conversation to help others understand they are not alone. Also, I wanted to create a space for people to take the discussions from Open__Dialogue and continue the conversation within their respective communities. The conversations have to start somewhere so I said why not Instagram? There are numerous support groups and discussion forums on Facebook, but you don’t see that on Instagram. The more people talk about mental health, the more we can eradicate the stigma. My hope is that a child can come home from school and tell their parents their mental health is not well just like they would say they have a sore throat. If we can eliminate the stigma, more people will seek preventive care for mental health and become more willing to encourage others to seek therapy. My ultimate goal is to use Open__Dialogue to GET PEOPLE TALKING!

Q: Your posts get incredible engagement. Why do you think people want to engage in conversations about mental health on Instagram?

A: I truly believe people want to engage in conversations surrounding mental health. A barrier is judgment and shame. It’s easier to be transparent and open when someone does it first. Also, people sharing their stories are powerful, kinetic and contagious! Even when people say, “I’m not ready to talk about it,” others will comment and support them. People want to feel heard and supported when they decide to be vulnerable. Open__Dialogue presents this forum for people and the supporters of Open__Dialogue organically created a space for people to share. I’m in awe daily with how transparent and vulnerable people are willing to be on Instagram; they serve as catalysts for others who consider sharing their story.

Q: We couldn’t help but notice Keri Hilson commenting on your posts! How does it feel to have a celebrity participating in these discussions about mental health?

A: It feels great that I have people supporting Open__Dialogue and Keri has an amazing story of how she experienced depression. She uses her platform to spread awareness about the importance of getting professional guidance. We need more celebrities, like Keri, to engage in the dialogue and speak out about the importance of taking care of your mental health.

Photo courtesy of @Open__Dialogue

Q: Who are some of your favorite counselors, therapists, and thought leaders to follow on social media?

A: I follow Black Therapist Rock on Facebook. It’s a forum comprised of therapists sharing their clinical experiences and providing valuable information in an array of areas: employment opportunities, ethical concerns, licensing, networking and a plethora of other topics. I also enjoy following #mentalhealthrecovery, which helps me view various mental health pages from one hashtag.

Q: Are you active on any other social media platforms besides Instagram?

A: Instagram is the only social media outlet I currently use. I considered Facebook, however, they already have a huge platform for people supporting others with groups that have dialogue surrounding mental health.

Q: Ultimately, what’s the goal of open__dialogue? How do you see social media contributing to your practice?

A: My ultimate goal is to build a following of people who are interested in communicating and/or learning about various topics surrounding mental health. Additionally, I plan to continue taking topics from Instagram and holding Open Dialogue LIVE where the dialogue occurs in a face-to-face setting. I want people to feel supported while gaining tools to enhance their quality of life. As I begin making strides toward private practice, I hope Open__Dialogue will serve a dual purpose for increasing awareness for mental health and marketing for private practice. It is my hope that Open__Dialogue will afford me speaking engagement opportunities discussing mental health topics.

Q: What advice would you give to your fellow mental health professionals for launching their own Instagram profile?

A: Just do it! It sounds cliché, but it’s SO necessary! You can’t have enough professionals spreading mental health awareness to help reduce stigma. I’m happy clinicians are recognizing the importance of sharing their knowledge outside of therapeutic environments, because the stigma is REAL and it’s my hope that more people gain insight about caring for your mental health and seeking therapy for preventive measures.

Q: How has technology made a difference in your education and in your practice?

A: During my undergraduate studies, we had a weekly online discussion post. The professor presented a question and we were tasked with replying to the question, using cited references, and responding to multiple classmates regarding the presented question. This helped build rapport between classmates and heightened our understanding about varying perspectives.

Professionally, Motivo is an amazing online support that connected me to my current supervisor, Jeanine Rousso. Although I was hesitant about the ability to build a strong rapport through virtual supervision, my experience has been amazing! The flexibility of obtaining supervision online has provided my hectic schedule with much relief! 

I find Instagram also provides an opportunity to utilize my skills to offer tools and a glimpse into how therapy can yield positive results.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I am looking forward to the growth of @Open__Dialogue on Instagram and continuing to take it from a social media platform by hosting ongoing Open Dialogue LIVE. Also, I am eager to see how I can utilize technology in the future to provide online therapy services. Lastly, I realize we all are catalyst for change. The question is how are we using our platforms to be active agents for change.

Emily Donahue

Emily Donahue

Emily Donahue holds a Master's in Mental Health Counseling from Northwestern University. She works as a limited permit therapist at a private practice in Brooklyn, earning her clinical and supervision hours for full licensure. She has a special interest in women and alcohol use and her dream is to meet Irvin Yalom one day.

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