To All the Therapists Who Love to Defend Psychology Today

Jeff Guenther on Aug 01, 2021

Last week I wrote an article about how problematic I think Psychology Today is. If you know me, you know I can’t stand Psychology Today. You also know that I’m the co-creator of TherapyDen, a therapist directory that was created in direct response to how much Psychology Today is severely lacking. Basically, I wanted to create a therapist directory that stood for social and racial justice, and was totally inclusive. I think my team and I have done a great job so far!

So every now and awhile I write a blog post about how Psychology Today continues to let me, and many other therapists, down. I don’t write about it very often. Maybe once or twice a year. (To be honest, I’d love to write about them more because I enjoy getting all riled up but standing on a soapbox every week would be tiring and very irritating to everyone. I know this.)

But every time I do write a critical post about Psychology Today it stirs up a bunch of stuff in the mental health community. Today, I want to address the most frequent criticisms and feedback I get.

“It’s not professional to slander another site to push your own agenda.”

I get that you don’t like when I talk about these problems, and I understand that it may very well come across as “unprofessional”. I am willing to take that risk in order to get as much attention as I can so that we can all shine a light on these deeply upsetting flaws with Psychology Today. Also, TherapyDen has a certain “voice” and writing articles about services for therapists that are problematic matches our tone. Maybe this is the first time you’ve read an article that I’ve written, so surprise! I’ve written many more that match this vibe. Personally I don’t think it’s unprofessional; I think it’s the responsible thing to do.

“This article is in poor taste and it’s too negative.”

I think this thought arises because it’s uncommon for therapists to read such candid criticism of other mental health services. It’s a shock for some people to read some of the blogs I’ve written. Can you imagine Psychology Today or GoodTherapy writing something like this about another service? Of course not. One of the ways TherapyDen separates itself from the rest is its bold, authentic voice. Yes, I just called myself “bold”. LOL. I don’t blame you for rolling your eyes at that. But seriously, we ask therapists to be authentic in their profiles because it’s what clients want. So TherapyDen is going to be authentic too. Which means we might not be for everyone, and we’re okay with that. While some might think our tone is too negative, we feel good as long as we’re being honest and doing our best to move the industry forward.

“I won’t apologize for being a skinny white woman.”

So this is always an interesting response. Believe it or not I get a fair amount of these sorts of messages. First off, if this is what you’re sending me, I don’t think you read the article. Second, if you did read it, yikes! How did you come to that conclusion? I’m not saying you should feel bad if you’re a skinny white woman… Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with this so I’m not going to give it much energy right now. I will say it’s upsetting and very weird to me when therapists say this sorta stuff. Moving on…

“You’re going to lose business because of this article. This is bad marketing.”

I may be someone who writes angry blog posts about Psychology Today but believe me when I tell you I know what I’m doing from a marketing angle. I’ve been asking therapists to sign up for therapist directories since 2013 when I launched PTC. That being said, I get why you might think this. To some, posts like this might seem like bad marketing. But to the therapists attracted to the values and mission of TherapyDen, posts like this are a rallying call. If you don’t want to be associated with TherapyDen because of what we stand for or how we market our services, that’s your prerogative! That’s exactly why I stopped giving my money to Psychology Today a long time ago. (And just so you know, since posting the article we’ve had our best week ever with therapist sign ups. Over four times the amount of sign ups we typically get during a week.)

“Why should I believe you when you’re their competitor?”

This is 100% fair! Always, always, always question a post that’s criticizing a competitor. I invite everyone to do their own research and double check my stats. If I get something wrong, I’m happy to make a correction. I don’t blame anyone for raising an eyebrow because of this. I’d do the same if I were you. Yes, I have an angle. Yes, I am biased. I want you to stop giving money to Psychology Today and I want you to sign up for TherapyDen. Feel free to ask others who don’t have any skin in the game what they think.

Psychology Today tries to keep therapists of color out. So I will be all up in their space and have their white establishment bring my brown business, business.”

YESSSSS! This is such a great reason to join Psychology Today. Maybe just the white therapists should cancel their PT profiles so more therapists of color can take over that space. Love it!

Despite the problems I have with it, it’s where other brown folk find me. As well as those from other marginalized groups.”

Makes sense to me. I think there are some really good reasons to keep your profile with PT and this is one of them.

“But they provide the most referrals, so why would I leave?”

Totally fair! If you don’t want to quit because you get a ton of business from them, then don’t quit. I mean hey, I think Amazon is totally unethical, incredibly problematic, and I hope Jeff Bezos gets lost in space and never comes back. However, I did just use Amazon yesterday to order some rubber lids that perfectly cover dog food cans that need to be stored in the fridge after being opened and they arrived the next morning, so sometimes I can’t even be congruent with my own values! On the other hand, I am flooded with clients all week long so I can more easily decide to take a stand against Psychology Today. I get it if you’re not there yet.

“When another directory provides more referrals I’ll gladly switch.”

Again, I get where you’re coming from. But here’s the thing…this may never happen. Because Psych Today makes so much money from us, they can pay for all the marketing in the world. Their brand recognition is amazing, Google loves them and they’ll keep on pumping out the referrals. But sites like TherapyDen won’t be able to compete with Psych Today unless more therapists continue to sign up. So as much as I’d like another therapist directory to provide you with more referrals than PT, the only way that’ll even come close to happening is if another directory starts to compete with the amount of therapists that advertise through Psychology Today. I think this will happen; the tide is turning and there are more options for us. But if we all wait on the sidelines for another directory to be more successful before signing up for them, it’ll never happen.

“But TherapyDen doesn’t provide me with enough referrals.”

I know that TherapyDen doesn’t provide some therapists with enough referrals yet and I understand why you’d want to be on multiple directories. We do provide a ton of referrals, and we have been providing more and more referrals every month. So it’ll happen for you. Trust me. Hang in there. However, I personally think we should be providing even more referrals and that’s why TherapyDen is free right now. It doesn’t cost a thing! So your return on investment (which is zero dollars) is through the roof! Every client you get is completely free of cost. How is that not amazing for you?

We do ask that you pay if you’d like to upgrade to a premium subscription so that we can pull in some revenue for this project. A premium subscriber can customize their profile more and they receive more than twice the amount of profile views. Right now we are investing in search engine optimization so we can rank higher in Google results. It’s a whole other beast ranking nationally across the country compared to ranking locally for a private practice.

“Maybe their magazine doesn’t feature people of color and they aren’t very inclusive, but they’ve never harmed anyone.”

Well, it’s my opinion that not featuring people with bigger bodies, people of color, people who are older, people that don’t neatly fit the western standard of beauty is actually pretty harmful. I think that a leading mental health magazine and directory should be diverse.

I’m going to keep calling out companies like Psychology Today. I, and the rest of the very small TherapyDen team, think it’s important. I hope all the therapists in the world decide to sign up for a profile. I hope Psychology Today sees their numbers declining and decides to make a positive change. I think the best way to get through to them is to expose them for who they truly are.

I always welcome your feedback even if you don’t agree with me. Isn’t it nice that TherapyDen responds directly to criticism? Wouldn’t it be nice if Psychology Today did the same??

OKAY, OKAY!! I’ll take a break from dissing Psych Today. Even I’m starting to get a little tired of it… for now at least. :)

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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