Meet the TikTok therapist who provides free mental health advice to millions

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Honey Tran loves to twerk while lip-syncing to her videos. Julie Smith likes to use props she finds around the house. Kojo Sarfo’s go-to TikTok routine is a one-man sketch shot from a prop-up smartphone in his kitchen.

Such techniques may sound like familiar trademarks of Gen-Z TikToker, but Tran, Smith, and Sarfo are far from your typical social media influencers — or certainly not the types you’d find joking around with your parents. Or find them posting # sponsored ads on their grid. These particularly impactful ones are part of a growing wave of qualified mental health professionals who are using TikTok to broadcast their medical advice to millions of people – completely free.

“It’s about trying to attract people,” says Smith, 37, a former NHS doctor and mother-in-law who previously published her first book after becoming the UK’s first TikTok doctor during the coronavirus lockdown. His fellow physician-influencers around the world agree – TikTok could be a valuable tool for reaching digital-savvy younger generations, who may not be able to afford traditional medicine from a (often overpriced) chair. Courtney Tracy, a certified psychologist in Los Angeles with 1.7 million TikTok followers, says, “Our videos provide psychology and information that may be completely inaccessible at the moment in their lives.” She sees her core audience as people who are “going against traditional models of medicine and looking for someone to really tell it”.

Transmissions from Tracy, Smith and their fellow TikTok therapists cannot be a substitute for real therapy – and they do not claim to be. But their 60-second mental health lessons and whipsmart therapy tips can leave viewers with a useful — even life-saving — advice that can help them think about their anxiety, stress levels, or the breakup of a relationship. redefine the method. Don’t just take our word for it — take theirs (warning: their peppy remixes might get stuck in your head for a few days). Meet Tiktok Therapist.

Self Help Guru: Dr. Julie Smith

follower count: 3 million (@drjuliesmith)

topics covered: stress, irritation, grief, relationships, anxiety, depression, loneliness

Julie Smith

Julie Smith is the psychology teacher you wish you had in school. The glamorously qualified clinical psychologist and former NHS therapist began sharing self-help tips (and catchy dance remixes) under her @drjuliesmith handle shortly before the start of the pandemic and has since grown to over three million followers, 35 million likes and more. Not bad for a lucrative Michael Joseph book deal—a busy mother-of-three and full-time therapist filming video from the kitchen in her Hampshire home.

“It’s about trying to attract people,” says Smith, emphasizing that not only do they receive messages about their videos, but that of parents, teachers, and even parents. That the grandparents also thank them or their loved one for thanking them. An inspirational boost. Some even say that his video has saved his life.

Smith says that he feels it is his “calling” to release the daily material because of these messages, and is one of the reasons he decided to release a book. her new self-help manual, Why hasn’t anyone told me this before? , came out last week and it’s a step-by-step guide, divided into chapters, on all the real-life problems that many of us face, from low mood and lack of motivation to stress or sadness. Till – a feeling many of his followers feel after a year or so of losing loved ones, relationships, livelihoods or businesses as a result of the pandemic. “When you’re struggling with something, the last thing you want to do is read cover to cover of a book looking for advice, so I’ve tried to get insights from therapy on the problems you’re facing and It’s made it as easy as possible to gain insight today,” she says.

USP: Fun facts. Smith’s clips are as informative as they are therapeutic—her grid is filled with fascinating myth-busters, brain facts, and psychology tests, from 30-second mindfulness challenges to Top-40 hits, using photos of Adele Until a clip demonstrating the Thatcher effect. and Obama. You will feel better and learn at the same time.

Mental Health Myth-Buster: Dr. Courtney Tracy

follower count: 1.7 million (@the.truth.doctor)

topics covered: childhood trauma, emotional abuse, anxiety, addiction, mood swings, borderline depression

Courtney Tracy

Recovered addict Dr. Courtney Tracy isn’t exaggerating when she says she wants to go against the traditional model of therapy – her TikTok grid lists the drugs she uses, sexy leather to share health tips There’s clips of her stripping K’s outfits, and rapping her advice while mimicking a phone call to parents (in short: she thinks parents need to listen to their kids more). Clearly, Tracy’s straight-talking, “no-BS” approach works: The California-based clinical social worker and psychologist hit a million followers in December 2020 and has 90 of her followers by the end of 2021. Percentage fans had nearly doubled that number. Women between the ages of 18 and 34.

Tracy says burnout, anxiety and worry are at an all-time high among her followers, but new themes have also emerged in the past year, including lack of recognition and autopilot or dissociation.

“Many people are now realizing that the job, the marriage, the place they find themselves isn’t really what is serving them best,” she says. “They are also realizing that they have built a life around them based on habits, behavior patterns, and psychological decisions that they didn’t realize they would develop. They are changing their mind about what they need to do.” Like, what not, what they want and what they don’t. It’s a cultural change and I’m here for it.”

USP: A cross-platform approach. With 1.7 million followers on TikTok, Tracy has a community of 128,000 Instagram followers, 10,500 YouTube subscribers, 200,000 podcast downloads and 5,000 clients that she texts several times a week with mental health reminders. She is currently writing her first book, Your Unconscious Is Showing.

ADHD Doctor: Dr. Kojo Sarfo

follower count: 1.9 million (@dr.kojosarfo)

topics covered: ADHD, depression, bipolar, limitations, PTSD, anxiety, body weakness

Dr. Kojo Sarfo

You may have gotten your head around managing your ADHD, but how do you manage dating someone who has it? It’s one of the more complex questions that Ghanaian-American mental health nurse Dr. Kojo Sarfoe targets in her viral TikTok video (answer to this particular question: “Understand that their brains are a little different, do your best to avoid it. nurturing them, praising them on the things they do well”).

The hunky Hollywood author has ADHD herself and is on a mission to dispel myths about it, sharing useful nuggets on the signs and symptoms and how to manage them — from growing up with her TikTok ADHD disorder. How to affect, cover everything. Sex (apparently this can affect your drive and ability to orgasm).

Sarfo’s grid also has plenty of non-ADHD-related content, from anxiety relief tips to advice on dating with low self-confidence.

USP: dating advice. Sarfo’s clip on relationships and mental health has garnered 856,000 views.

Trauma Coach: Michelin Maalouf

follower count: 1.1 million (@micheline.maalouf)

topics covered: trauma, anxiety, PTSD, limitations, pleasing people

Michelin Malouf

Florida-based Michelin Maalouf knows a lot about anxiety and PTSD—as she struggles with both herself. The Arab-American licensed trauma therapist says that clients regularly tell her they are suspicious of a therapist who suffers from a mental health condition, but believe they are her superpower: They give her genuine empathy and she can draw on personal experience, which she documents in regular psychic updates on her grid (latest: she’s still in therapy herself).

“I’ve been through the darkest time of my life… and it feels bad but good,” she tells followers in a recent clip about overcoming five years of emotional “numbness.”

Malouf’s therapy videos blend poems that he wrote as part of his healing process, explain why childhood trauma leads to mental health problems in adulthood, and to see examples of mental health symptoms, see Whether it is the five signs of unresolved trauma or the nine signs of separation.

USP: practical exercises. Maalouf’s TikTok is packed with easy therapy hacks you can do at home, from clever tools to stop nail biting to activating the vagus nerve to reduce anxiety. His butterfly tapping technique to reduce panic attacks has been viewed more than seven million times.

Anxiety Specialist: Shani Tran

follower count: 338,000 (@theshaniproject)

topics coveredAnxiety, racial trauma, financial trauma, childhood trauma, self-esteem

Saturn Project

Don’t expect a curated reel of lipstick-clad selfie videos: Shani Tran prefers a more down-to-earth approach than the other practitioners on TikTok, dancing in his gym kit and dressing gown, sitting in his car to fans. Answer questions, and act out your sunbathing scenes on the holiday.

The Minnesota-based licensed mental health professional started her TikTok in January 2020 because she loved dancing and quickly realized that her “eccentric” approach to therapy was in demand – especially among those between 24 and 35. Among women – whether she is looking at her followers. Eyes and asking them to stop waiting to break up with their partner until after the holidays or dance their way through three tips for parents to help an anxious child.

(“Let them chew something like gum, show them how to take a deep breath, walk away if you’re frustrated”). Her book comes out this summer.

USP: inclusivity. Tran says one of the reasons I love TikTok is because it’s a safe place for people of color. Her therapy videos feature clips on racial trauma, how to be cooperative and why cultural competence is more broadly important among therapists (see: her clip from last April on trying to pronounce a client’s name).

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