Despite its future being up in the air, it’s no secret that TikTok has successfully achieved what all apps hope to: notoriety across demographics. You may not believe me; maybe you still think that the entirety of TikTok is dancing 14-year-olds. But the app’s algorithm, from what I’ve seen, is expert. I, for one, am mostly fed recipe and cooking videos, clips about moms making fun of their toddlers (not a mom myself, but boy do I get a kick out of that content) and, as of late, more Taylor Swift covers than I could ever need.
Whatever your groove, whatever your demo, you’re likely to find someone on TikTok to make you laugh.
Or, as it turns out, to give you coping mechanisms and motivational speak.
There’s a corner of TikTok gaining popularity where licensed therapists create videos of short tips, theories and situational remedies for everything from secondhand embarrassment to childhood trauma. You would think that merging a just-for-fun app with serious psychological advice wouldn’t be the best combination, but somehow, mixed with TikTok’s penchant for dance moves and easy digestibility, it works!
Of course, watching TikTok videos doesn’t replace actual therapy sessions; these psychologists are more so taking advantage of their giant reach. TikTok has a massive following, and, yeah, even though there are plenty of millennials on there who can relate to its older user base, it skews Gen Z. With mental health taking a much more prominent role in our society, and more and more young kids taking their brain’s well-being into their own hands, TikTok’s ability to spread awareness of body and mind could become an invaluable tool.
We also can’t deny that quarantine has exacerbated the stress and anxiety a lot of people deal with. TikTok’s emergence coordinated pretty precisely with stay-at-home measures, so it makes sense that this little section of videos is resonating with a lot of users.
"I'm not here to diagnose people on TikTok. Overall mental health awareness is my main goal," licensed counselor Marquis Norton, Ph.D. told CNN. "In this pandemic, a lot of people are afraid and lose hope, so I try to use TikTok to provide lighthearted information that could be perceived as entertainment, educating them and adding value."
Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it free counseling, as getting small tips on managing stress and anxiety is different than diving into deep-rooted psychological symptoms, and it runs the risk of allowing people to self-diagnose themselves, but even if we don’t take the #TherapistsOfTikTok as seriously as this, their existence is at least removing a lot of the stigma around and increasing awareness of mental health conditions. The more you see something, the less strange it is.
"My goal is to educate and inspire people to take steps toward improving their mental health," Dr. David Puder, a psychiatrist, added. "It's important to meet the public where they're at and help dispel some of the myths or decrease some of the fears or conspiracies out there as well."
With anything else, take TikTok therapists with a grain of salt. Understand that they’re not your therapists, but are more so there to make you feel seen, heard and understood.