7 Hard Lessons I’ve Learned by Launching TherapyDen

Jeff Guenther on Dec 22, 2019

First off, this blog isn’t supposed to be a pity party. (Although I am in a pretty shitty mood right now so that might come through.) I live a privileged life and get to run businesses that pay for my lifestyle. I’m typically a happy guy that feels a lot of gratitude and appreciation. Those businesses I’ve created–– launching an inclusive therapist directory, producing and hosting a podcast, and writing a semiweekly blog–– have made me into something of a well known public figure in the mental health community, and with that comes a bunch of crap that I have to deal with. Today I feel like venting about it. If you work in mental health, especially in private practice, I bet you’ll resonate with a handful of my gripes, so let’s go on this journey together.

There are some racist and homophobic therapists out there.

TherapyDen has a mission to fight racism, homophobia, transphobia and all other forms of hate. While the vast majority of therapists support this mission, there are more therapists than I thought there would be that are very much against it. Creating an inclusive therapist directory that stands up against discrimination is more controversial than I thought it would be. I have gotten dozens of messages from therapists telling me they will never sign up for TherapyDen because of what it stands for, which is fine by me because it weeds out racists that I don’t think should be serving clients.

Lots of therapists don’t “believe” in white privilege and can’t acknowledge their white fragility.

While not totally surprising, writing about white privilege and white fragility is incredibly triggering for many white people. In fact, I received some upsetting messages about white privilege from a blog post I wrote a while back. White privilege is a thing. It’s not a made up thing. It’s a thing that affects every single person every single day. To deny its existence is to continue to allow it to have power and cause destruction. To see some white therapists push against its existence so vehemently was really upsetting to me and made me especially worried about how they treat their clients of color.

Therapists on LinkedIn are a lot worse than the ones of Facebook.

If you clicked through to my blog post about racist responses from therapists then you saw that all those responses were taken from LinkedIn. Whenever I post articles on LinkedIn that are related to social justice I get dragged by incredibly problematic and racist counselors on the platform. There are a ton of therapists from the UK and Australia that love to troll my articles. As problematic as Facebook can be, it’s no match for the vitriol that runs through LinkedIn. That place is a dumpster fire.

A ton of therapists are uncomfortable with self-disclosure.

If you’ve ever set up a profile on TherapyDen (and why wouldn’t you, it’s completely free to sign up!) you can tell I try to ever so slightly nudge you to be more authentic in your profile. You don’t have to be. You can be a classic blank slate if you want. But clients these days are trying to really get to know who their therapist is and I think that’s a good thing. The post I wrote about Three Times Self-disclosure Went Horribly Wrong in Therapy and last week’s post on the 10 Reasons Why I Want to Tell My Clients I’m Getting a Divorce got a ton of feedback saying how unfit I am to be a therapist and that I need to seek out supervision right away! Well jokes on them because I’ve been seeing my supervisor regularly for the past 15 years! In fact, my most listened to podcast episode is a discussion about when therapists should use self disclosure in session. There are a massive amount of therapists that believe self-disclosure should never be used in therapy. I tend to disagree, and the number of people who engage with this topic suggests that lots of other people do too.

In this episode of Say More About That. I talk to my friend Heidi Savell, about what it's like to go through a divorce while being a counselor and feeling emotionally upset and mentally preoccupied. Click play below or listen on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Psychology Today is, problematically, well defended.

TherapyDen was created in response to how problematic Psychology Today is and continues to be. It doesn’t seem to have any desire to evolve with the times. One of the most visited posts I’ve written is about why Psychology Today loves white people. Especially beautiful and thin white women. Another popular post is titled 5 Reasons to Cancel your Psychology Today Listing. While many therapists appreciate the heads up about why Psychology Today is so problematic, a huge number of therapists come to Psych Today’s defense. Maybe they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them? Maybe they don’t like the little guy beating up the big guy? Maybe they like to support monopolies? Or maybe they don’t see Psychology Today as problematic in the first place. Whatever the reason, Psych Today has a lot of defenders. I was surprised to see it.

It’s hard to get therapists to sign up for a service even if it’s free.

Even though it’s free to sign up for TherapyDen, and TherapyDen has a great mission and solid values, it’s still difficult to get therapists to create an account, fill out a profile and activate their listing. TherapyDen asks for a little more info about your practice than other directories, which can cause it to be more time consuming to complete. But ultimately, we do this for the therapist’s and client’s benefit–– the more info you have on your profile, the better the match is when a client decides to reach out to you.

Being vulnerable works but opens you up to painful feedback.

If there is one thing I’m consistently dedicated to doing, it’s being honest and vulnerable in these blog posts and on my podcast. Vulnerability is admired by most people, and that’s especially true about therapists. We understand why being vulnerable is so important and powerful. But because my work is public, when I choose to be honest about my experience and a therapist out there disagrees with my actions, it’s not uncommon for me to hear about it. I can’t tell you how many messages I have gotten telling me that I shouldn’t be a therapist. Or that I’m not a therapist, but all I am is a shitty activist. I have been called racist hundreds of times since launching TherapyDen by insecure white people. When you challenge white supremacy and go against the norm there is going to be push back. Likewise, when you’re honest about your feelings, there are going to be people who try to hurt you because of it. For me, it's worth it to continue to be honest and vulnerable.

While you’re here…

TherapyDen is a FREE therapist directory that has a mandate to challenge racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination. Not only can a client find a therapist based on common issues, such as anxiety or relationship troubles, but they can search for a therapist who treats the unique struggles of today.

For example, users can find a therapist that specifically treats cultural and systemic oppression, immigration issues, or stress caused by the political climate. Users can also search for a therapist that is body positive and believes in health at every size. Or a therapist who has a racial justice framework and is trans-competent. The list goes on.

TherapyDen allows therapists the option to identify as a member of the LGBTQ community so that clients can find a therapist with the same identity. Therapists can display their pronouns on their profile. Users can filter for therapists by ethnicity so they can find counselors who may better understand their cultural experiences.

TherapyDen is also helping to usher the mental health industry into the digital age. Users can schedule appointments online if the therapist includes a link to their online scheduler. Users can toggle between search results of therapists that provide in-person or online counseling with a simple click of a button.

If you’re a therapist, please consider signing up for a FREE profile with TherapyDen. Help make a difference. No credit card required. Delist anytime. Create your profile on TherapyDen now by clicking here.

Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005. Jeff is the creator and owner of Portland Therapy Center, a highly ranked therapist directory. Jeff, and his team, have launched a new progressive therapist directory, TherapyDen.

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