Why pop psychology isn’t the same as therapy

A square image split vertically in two. To the left a photograph (courtesy of Christopher Gower via Unsplash) of a laptop computer on a desk with headphones and a coffee cup. To the right is a pink square including the words "for all of their insights and accessibility, remember that psychology articles and posts come with one big warning... They're not all about you." in blue, and the words "why pop psychology isn't the same as therapy" in white, followed by the logo and web address for www.cerynrowntree.com.

The internet is great isn’t it? For many reasons but for me, one of the biggest positives of that huge stock of information at our fingertips is that it gives us the opportunity to learn more about the world, and specifically things that in the past would’ve taken huge amounts of reading or studying, or would’ve meant paying an expert to learn for ourselves.

Now? Well now the world is different. After all, we don’t call this the age of information for nothing!

In the past few years I’ve seen more and more articles explaining psychological terms and challenges online; and in recent months specifically I’ve seen loads of Instagram accounts pop up which regularly talk through the kind of psychological insights that once would’ve only been found deep in the depths of heft textbooks.

In so many ways that’s brilliant, there are a handful of therapy accounts on Instagram that I share regularly because their insights are utterly brilliant and speak to so many of the things I often discuss with clients. And the recent article The Crane Wife had me crying with resonance and the thought that if only someone had explained “gaslighting” to me 15 years ago I would’ve wasted a lot less time on a certain relationship in my early 20s, but that’s another story…

Equally though, there is one thing about this online “pop psychology” I don’t like so much, and one I really want to flag with you in the hope that it helps. And that’s the fact that for all of its insights and accessibility, psychology shared in that way comes with one big warning… It’s not all about you.

Signpost against a colourful sky as the sunsets. Photo courtesy of Javier Allegue via Unsplash.

Over and over I’ve heard people in a panic because they’ve ticked multiple boxes in on online article to identify narcissists, or that their an article they found via Google suggests their relationship is toxic.

Just last week I saw a post outlining the characteristics of a trauma bond which, while in many ways valid, didn’t mention that some perfectly happy and healthy relationships may well tick some of those boxes through the natural course of life.

Because for all so many of these posts and articles are written by brilliant people with deep knowledge of their subject and some bloody fascinating insights, there’s one thing they don’t know about – you.

And while yes, their insights can definitely help to identify issues in our lives, validate our experiences and provide insights into the patterns that seem to have kept us needlessly stuck, that doesn’t take into account your personal situation.

They don’t include the context of your personal experiences, the beliefs and fears you hold about yourself, the practical things that may lead you to do what you do or, well, anything really.

In fact the only people who are able to do provide that insight and make those connections are those with whom you choose to share your story with, and to allow access and insight into the deepest longings of your heart or innermost workings of your mind.

Person sitting cross legged on a beach with their back to the camera.

It’s why I firmly believe (as both a therapist and a client myself) that no matter how much information the current age gives us access to, there’s no substitute for personal relationships and individual therapy wherever it’s needed or wanted.

And why, although I absolutely encourage you to read, research, find the people whose insights you resonate with, learn more about yourself and journal on everything you find along the way; I also want to ask you please to remember that nothing you read on the internet can give you your full story – no matter how expert the person writing or creating it.

If that’s something you want to delve into, and to gain a deeper understanding of, then the secret is to delve into the subject yourself in the way that’s right for you.

And yes, you can absolutely do a big fat chunk of this work on your own with journalling, meditation, discussion with friends and all of the other self awareness, insight and healing tools that are so popular right now and which I will absolutely bang on about until the cows come home.

But for the vast majority of us there will come a time when we need to seek support; professional support which holds a safe space for your experiences and healing without any influence from someone else's agenda or from the opinion they have on the story you're sharing.

Maybe that’s through therapy, or maybe through a completely different mode of insight and healing. Whatever you’re looking for remember to look around, find the person that resonates for you to work with and then get involved with them in the way that’s right for you.

And of course, if Soul-Led Therapy is what you’re looking for, then check out more information on that here and book in for a free 30-minute introductory session.

Whoever you work with though, and whatever you choose to do remember – while we can never know everything about ourselves and the ways in which we interact with the world, when it comes to being experts on ourselves we do have the best starting point of anyone out there.

So by all means take the thing s you read to be considered, journalled upon and discussed but never feel like you need to take them as canon in your own life.

#therapy #counselling #soulwork #selflove #healing #happiness #inspiration