Episode 58: Therapist Influencers Stirring Sh*t Up [featuring Jeff Guenther]
Many therapists are afraid to show up on social media in any way that relates to their profession and make money using their therapeutic knowledge and skills that isn't 60 minutes in a chair. But is it actually unethical to be a therapist "influencer," or is it the next step in opening up conversations about mental health?
In this episode, I talk with my friend, Jeff Guenther, for the third time on this podcast. Jeff is a therapist, owner of TherapyDen, and a huge voice in the therapist community on TikTok as TherapyJeff. He shares the experiences that he has had with growing a following on TikTok as a therapist, making money doing it, and both the positive and negative feedback he's received.
More about Jeff:
Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005 and currently leads workshops on how health and wellness practitioners can build their digital brand and attract more clients online. Jeff is the creator and owner of two highly-ranked therapist directory sites, Portland Therapy Center and TherapyDen. Jeff also has a large TikTok following as @TherapyJeff.
Check out Jeff's Website: therapyjeff.com
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A Thanks to Our Sponsor!
I would also like to thank The Receptionist for iPad for sponsoring this episode.
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This episode is sponsored by The Receptionist for iPad. It's the highest-rated digital check-in software for therapy offices and behavioral health clinics, used by thousands of practitioners across the country.
The Receptionist for iPad is a simple inexpensive way to allow your clients to discreetly check in, to notify providers of a patient's arrival, and to ensure your front lobby is stress-free. The software sends an immediate notification to the therapist when a client checks in and can even ask if any patient information has changed since their last visit.
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Hey, everyone, you are listening to another episode of the All Things Private Practice Podcast joined today by Jeff Guenther for the third time. So, I always love having on you here as a repeat guest and looking forward to talking about some stuff that might stir some shit up for a bunch of people.
JEFF GUENTHER: I mean, that's kind of like the stuff that I enjoy talking about the most. So, let's get into it.
PATRICK CASALE: That's kind of your bread and butter, right? These days. So, I know before you jumped on we were talking about therapists making money, therapists putting themselves out there in new ways, and the feedback that people can get both positively and negatively, and I think you've experienced this firsthand, as we were just talking. And it comes a lot of times from the therapist community at large, in general, as you build an audience, and as you try to do things that are going to bring in more revenue. So, do you want to take us through a little bit about your experiences, because you are now at how many TikTok followers? Like 1.3 million?
JEFF GUENTHER: I'm very close to 1.3 million, and then, there's a little over 200,000 on Instagram.
PATRICK CASALE: Pretty amazing. And you just started a Patreon too. So, I know that as we grow and you know, have more visibility and the communities at large, and on social media, you're open to more attack, right? You're open to more criticism and feedback. And not all the criticism is bad, but it exists.
So, tell us a little bit about how that's going these days with the bigger the audience that you've kind of grown?
JEFF GUENTHER: So, first of all, I mean, 98% of the feedback I get from people are super positive and encouraging. That includes therapists and non-therapists. And so, I'm always happy to get, like, all the, like, really touching nice things that people send me and how it can be kind of, like, for a non-therapist, I can, like, help people understand the relationships better, and get their needs met, and help them grow. And then, for the therapists are just like, "Oh, this is really interesting, the way that you're using your platform and building your following, and then, like all the different types of things that you're offering or business, you know, opportunities that you're getting into."
But there's just, like, this really funky thing, just like inside the therapy community, and outside of it, I guess, as well. Like, we were trained as professionals to like sit in an office, and sit in a chair, and do therapy, and like help people individually grow 150-minute hour at a time. And that feels, like, really appropriate. Like, that makes sense. That's how we were trained. And that's what people expect out of us.
And then, when you start to kind of, like, move outside of that box, you might be ruffling some feathers, and you could be ruffling feathers from people in the therapist community that feel like this is sort of, like, we need to, like, protect our profession and do it, "The right way and how people expect." And that if we start to grow into these other areas, it's like the wild wild west. Like, what is okay? What's ethical? What's crossing a boundary? When are you sharing too much? When are you sort of, like, turning into almost, like, influencer status, and like, is that okay?
And there's these times where like, I just feel, like, almost, like, self-harming myself. I mean, not like real self-harm, but like, sometimes I, like, look for negative comments. I'm just like, "Okay, I'm going to look for comments." And it feels like a self-harm activity and that, like, I feel horrible about it.
And it was a couple of days ago that I decided to Google my name, Jeff Guenther, and then, Reddit, which will, like, show me all these Reddit threads and it's interesting, because I was just like, this is the wrong thing. I should not be doing this. But there is a few Reddit threads from, like, younger therapists that were, like, you know, fans of my work or like really interested in what I was doing. And I can't name names on this podcast, but there was a therapy app that I was going really hard on, trying to expose them for, like, all the, you know, shitty or unethical things that I thought they were doing. And that got a lot of traction. And I ended up getting a cease and desist letter from that company. And that's all I can really say about who they are.
But there was this Reddit thread being like, well, we were watching Jeff, like, making all these really inspiring videos about the problems with tech companies and what they're doing, taking advantage of the clients that are using it, sharing their information, yada, yada, and then, he just stopped. And then, he seemed to just be like, "Well, I'm just going to go after the money."
And I really wanted to kind of like respond with like, "Oh, first of all, I had to stop because I got a cease and desist." So, I wanted to, like, defend myself. And I also wanted to be like, "It's okay if you're, like, creating content, or if you're a therapist, and you want to, like, create other streams of revenue." But even [INDISCERNIBLE 00:06:04] like the younger therapists, like, who you would think that maybe, like, might be a little bit more open to all the different possibilities, they also are just like, they got this, like, ick factor from me.
And there was another person on that thread that was just like, "He's calling himself an influencer now. And any therapist that calls themselves an influencer, red flag, that's not okay." And I just think it kind of, like, goes into this whenever message or belief that, like, therapists should not be expanding into all these different areas, because that feels, I don't know, predatory? Why do you think that that is?
PATRICK CASALE: I have so many thoughts on this. One, I like that you name that it was almost self-injurious as it was like an [INDISCERNIBLE 00:06:47] of like, I'm going to go down this road and just read these comments. But I like that you're open to feedback, because I think that's crucial.
But, you know, I had Dr. Ajita Robinson on here a couple of weeks ago. And, you know, she's an 8-figure businesswoman, and therapist, and coach, and podcast host, and speaker, and author. And she was talking about this. And it started to, like, make a lot of sense to me when she was talking about how therapist's skill sets are so diverse and so applicable in so many arenas. And she said one thing that really stood out to me, which was that she wrote this book that became a best seller. You know she said it's hit all seven continents now. And that for people who can't afford to pay her for therapy, they can read the book and still get something out of the book for $20.
And that made me think about what you just said, about therapists becoming, "Influencers and moving into all of these realms." Because you can still use the skills that you have as a therapist, as someone with a masters or a PhD, with all of this training to help people in different ways. Yet, I think there's still this gatekeeping in a way of like, therapy has to look this way. And I can see the perspective of, like, could this do harm? But I think that's why there are disclaimers as in like, my TikTok audience, you're not my therapy clients, right? But don't get therapy from Instagram posts, like, but there are still going to be people who do not have access to therapy, who might go on a TikTok series or an Instagram video or two and get something really meaningful at that.
JEFF GUENTHER: Yeah, exactly. And I mean, in my disclaimers that I make, one of the things that I've recently said is that if you're watching these videos, I want you to use your critical thinking skills, that sometimes it's not going to apply to you and you should just [INDISCERNIBLE 00:08:46] by, and sometimes it's going to really resonate and that's great. Understanding that, like, this is a 60-second video that lacks a lot of nuance, and you can, like, apply a lot of what aboutism to everything I'm saying and you're probably 100% right.
Like, you're right, I get it. And this isn't like 60 seconds. A 60 second video is not long-form where I can like really get into all the different perspectives. And yet, even then, I'm going to miss it, because I'm like a privileged person with, like, all the privileges. I'm able to, like, forget how I'm affecting people or I don't understand what it is to like live in your shoes. And so, I need to be like, open to the feedback in order to, like, continue to grow. And even if that feedback comes from… so, one of the things that I do is that like, sometimes the feedback is just, like, really aggressive. And if that happens then I send my friends into the comment section to collect all the feedback that's actually really good and to not tell me about all the feedback or sort of, like, trying to like tear me down. And again, like, that rarely happens. But when it does, I have to have a plan as to, like, how I'm going to address it.
The other problem is that, like, as you grow, and step out of the office, and try new shed, there's going to be people that just sort of, like, want to be mean to you, because they think it's fun or they think it's really interesting. There is, I think, like three or four days ago somewhat popular podcast, like, these, like, two comedians, like, pulled up on my TikTok videos that was, like, very benign. It was like, "Hey, this is what self-esteem is." Whatever. Like, it wasn't controversial at all. But they just started being like, "Look at the shirt he's wearing, he looks so fucking stupid. Look at his teeth, they're not like straight enough. Look at the way he talks, it seems like he has a lisp." Like, she's like, "The way that he combs his hair is so fucking stupid."
They just sort of, like, started tearing down what I look like. And I just, like, accidentally stumbled upon that video. And I decided to watch it, the whole thing, for some fucking reason, I don't know why. But you really got to do well at, like, staying away from that stuff. And if you also feel like lean a little bit more left, or progressive, or something, and you know, a few weeks ago, I made a video about, like, let's not blame mental health issues on mass shootings. Or maybe we should, like, take a look at the patriarchy and gun laws or something was like, yes, okay, we can get behind that. But that video landed up on this Twitter account called Libs of TikTok. Are you familiar with that Twitter account?
PATRICK CASALE: No.
JEFF GUENTHER: Yeah, they just, like, take these sort of like progressive and liberal messages, put them on their Twitter thread, and then, everybody, like, just rails on them. And the scary part is that you could get doxed. Like, you could, like, all of your information, personal info can be taken and like used against you or your bank account can be drained, or some horrible thing could happen.
So, you know, we're talking about, like, some little things that you maybe need to like, watch out for. However, like I said, there are, like, really good, supportive, amazing, loving, awesome people out there that like, like the content I'm creating, or people that like, have legitimate, like, concerns about something I said, and they're like, "Oh, I love what you do. Have you thought about it this way?" And that's all, you know? Like, I most often get approached that way.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, very constructive feedback in a way. And, you know, the one thing I've always said about you is that you don't run from a controversy. I mean, I've seen you own it, and offer apologies even in situations, and just try really hard to know and acknowledge that we don't always get it right. And you're right. And it's like what aboutism situation, right? Like, I've made TikTok videos, and Instagram reels, and they're 30 seconds or a minute long, and somebody will pick it apart, "How come you didn't discuss this. How come you didn't mention this?' I'm like, "It is 30 seconds, I cannot get your engagement, and your attention, and address everything in 30 seconds, it's just not possible."
So, as you gain more following and traction, you're obviously going to be in front of a lot more or a larger audience. 1.3 million people is a lot of people. You have to assume that not everybody is going to like what you have to say. But it also sounds like you really need to have thick skin to some degree too, because we are human beings, it does hurt when people do these things or say these things. And I imagine watching these podcaster's video or you know, tear you apart, that had to be painful in some regard too?
JEFF GUENTHER: Yeah, it is painful. It's especially painful when, like, other popular creators, or influencers, or people that have a platform start talking about you, because then it's like, "Ah, this feels extra painful." Because I imagine they know what it feels like. They're a human being that also doesn't like to feel that way, that doesn't like to be made fun of, or torn down, or ridiculed, yet, they're deciding to do that. They're just sort of, like, it feels like they're forgetting that, like, we're all humans, and that we're going to be really affected.
So, then I have this decision to make, and sometimes I reach out, like, privately to that creator and like, "Hey, tell me more information. What do you think it is here? Like, why are you upset with me? Or this feels unprovoked. Where's this coming from?" Or, "That really hurt my feelings." Or I'm just like, "I'm going to show you some vulnerable, like, sensitive side of me." And a lot of times that disarms them. And they quickly apologized and were like, "I shouldn't have done that. I know how it feels. I feel really bad." And that's all I kind of, like, need.
And then other times, it seems like I might be setting myself up for even more bullshit. So, I'm just going to kind of, like, try to ignore it and move on. It's hard to make that calculation, but yeah, there is, like, a sort of, like, a thicker skin that I guess you have to develop and you have to understand when you like want to like show your vulnerability to somebody to see if you can, like, get some healing around it.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, I think that takes a lot to reach out and even understand that they may not receive it the way you'd like it to be received and could potentially, that is further ammunition.
And, you know, I think the reason you have developed a following is because you're real. And you talk about stuff that people aren't talking about the way that you are. And I think it's very engaging, and you don't build the audience that you've built without being engaging. And going back to what you said before about therapist's feeling like, is this a power dynamic issue? Are we having too much influence on people like, social media is the way of the world, right? Like everyone is on social media, whether it's Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, it doesn't matter. And you have a voice, and you have something to say, and I think it's important.
And I see your videos, and it's always like licensed professional counselor at the top. So, it's not as if you're just a random person spouting out information. And then, these waivers of like, this isn't therapy, right? But I'm just keep going back to accessibility and social media, like, people have this at the edge of their fingertips all the time, and then, have the ability to get all of this information. I know you do a lot of TikTok videos on, like, healing relationships, and relationship patterns, and self-esteem. Why the fuck shouldn't you be doing that? Because all of that stuff is really helpful. And you even do videos on like, what you should ask your therapists and things that they do. I think that ruffles therapists' feathers, because they're like, "We already have, like, this portrayal in the media of how therapists are, you shouldn't be highlighting this."
But I think we should be talking about that stuff, because we're just empowering people to ask for what they need in situations where there are power dynamics.
JEFF GUENTHER: Yeah, exactly. And that's like, basically, the main message behind a lot of my videos is like, speak up. Like, whether it's to your therapist, or to your partner, or to your community, or to your family, whatever it is. Like, go ahead and speak up.
So, there's a lot of videos about, like, speak up, get those needs met. There's also a lot of videos about like, I'm just going to validate you, everything in the world is really fucked up and crazy, you most likely are blaming yourself and thinking that there's something wrong with you, you happen to be living through an incredibly traumatic time in history right now, and we have no idea when that's going to end. These are, like, the symptoms, here's the cause, these are the symptoms. And it just, sort of, like, helps to kind of like, get people to, like, regulate themselves, stop blaming themselves. And they're just, like, really concise bits of information that's just like educational, sometimes entertaining, but not therapeutic. This is not a therapy session. And that's not what you should expect out of me.
However, like you're saying, there is that accessibility part where going to a therapist is a privilege, you have to have money, or insurance, or time, or whatever. And if you don't have that, then it could be really nice if you go on to TikTok or Instagram and get like a free 60-second clip, or you can just go through my whole library of over 500 videos, or all the other therapists that are putting stuff out there. Or if you want, you can subscribe to my Patreon for $4 a month. And that was really triggering for some folks as well.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, I have. So, a couple thoughts there. I do like, you know, the mention of the privilege, right? Like, not everyone gets to go see a therapist. I think everyone should, but that doesn't mean he has the means. So, there are tons of therapists on TikTok and Instagram giving out content and it's free. Why the fuck shouldn't you take advantage of that?
I was doing TikTok videos on neurodiversity and neurodivergence for a while and I won't give any credit, man, because like, when I was in Nashville speaking at this conference, I put a video out that got about a million views in two days and keeping up with comments, I think DMed you, actually. I was like, "How do you keep up with this?"
Because I'm a very responsive person. Every time I got a comment I felt like I had to respond to it. And it was just like, "Oh my God, I don't think I could do this on a daily basis." So, I give you and all the other people out there with large followings a lot of credit, because it was a lot and it was exhausting.
However, what I got out of that was so many people who felt validated, and seen, and heard for the first time, and said like, "I couldn't put it into words like that. Thank you for that." Sending DMs on TikTok about like, "Do you have any suggestions about finding a therapist in my state?"
So, I think that was really useful. I did get a lot of people who asked me if I could be their therapist, which I politely declined. But I do think that those are the things where people don't see that side of it, where they're like this is really helpful to the community at large.
Onto your Patreon comment, because I [INDISCERNIBLE 00:19:55] a lot of that. So, you're doing a Patreon, $4 a month, more access to you, more access to the videos you create, some behind-the-scenes type stuff. Tell me about the mindset behind this. I mean, honestly, it's like, I want to make some money, but for $4 a month, you are offering value.
JEFF GUENTHER: Oh, yeah, and let me just say like, it is so fucking weird. Like, I did not think that my career journey would end up here. This was like not my intent when I went to grad school 20 years ago. But I think it's a really interesting way for me and for, like, other therapists to think about moving into, you know, creating different revenue streams. And it's also allowing me, and like all the different revenue streams, allow me to charge very little for my therapy and private practice. So, now I'm able to just charge $20 a session to people that want it.
PATRICK CASALE: So, that is another form of accessibility, right? So, like, because you've created this platform, and you can make money in other ways therapy now becomes accessible. So, anyway.
JEFF GUENTHER: Good point. So, Patreon is a monthly subscription where you can subscribe to me or anyone else who has a Patreon account, and you can get this extra content. And so, the 60-second videos that I was uploading the TikTok and Instagram, a lot of the people were just asking like a ton of questions like, "Tell me more, tell me more." And I'm not just going to, like, continue making videos about the same topic over and over again. So, what I did was like, okay, I'm going to make a little 60-second video. And then, right afterwards, I'm going to make like a five to 10 minute, like, video about, like, where this is coming from, the theoretical background, like tips and tricks that work, or things that don't work, or what I've done personally, or it can go off in like, all these different directions, where I kind of know what people are, like, wondering most about, and then, I upload that 10-minute video to my Patreon account where they can, like, get all this extra access.
So, I've been doing that for exactly 30 days now and I have a little over 1300 subscribers, and I get on average about 40 new Patreon subscribers a day. So, you know, do like simple math of like 1300 times four. And that's what I'm getting per month and it's only going up, like, every day and hopefully, that continues, we'll see, but I'm feeling pretty confident about it.
And I'm able to be, like, more accessible to, like, so many other people and I'm going to, like, start providing, like, TikTok, like, live… or not TikTok, like live stream Q&As on my Patreon so that, like, we can, like, really start interacting.
Also, I'm protecting myself because that is a separate LLC that has nothing to do with my private practice and it's more of like a coaching thing that I'm doing where I'm just sort of, like, giving this advice. So, I also, like, need to be, like, legally protected.
There was like some folks on TikTok and Instagram that, like, love my free content that were like upset, because like, "Oh, now there's this paywall, now I have to, like, pay for extra?" I was like, "Yeah, I'm putting a lot of extra energy into this. You might want to pay for it."
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, you're spending about five to seven hours a week making videos.
JEFF GUENTHER: Oh, yeah. Now I'm spending even more time now.
PATRICK CASALE: Sure. And so, of course, I'm going to put some financial constraint on this, because like, this is my livelihood, right? Like, yes, it's great to have free content, yes, it's great to have accessibility. In $4 a month, you can have even more, and it's not as you're like cutting it off completely, no more free TikTok, no more Instagram. It's like, you can still find all this valuable information out here and it's still out in the world for you to access.
JEFF GUENTHER: Yeah, and I'm not skipping a beat. I'm still uploading two one-minute videos every single day that, you know, like, it's not getting in the way. You know, and then, I didn't quite see all the hubbub on Facebook. But there was, like, some pushback in the therapist's community about what I was doing.
And I think that like, I'm not the first person to ever do this. But I'm outputting one of the first movers to be like, let's move into this weird fucking place and like have therapists have their own Patreon accounts. Like, let's see what happens there. And that is not to be expected sometimes and people are going to have issues with it.
PATRICK CASALE: I just keep thinking about your foresight and how some of your ideas have been really cutting edge, because the first time you and I sat down and talked on my podcast, we were talking about stapling flyers on telephone poles [INDISCERNIBLE 00:24:29] Oregon to get therapy clients and also advertising in Craigslist.
And I imagine a lot of the time when you are somewhat of a "Trend setter." in a way, or thinking about things differently, you're going to get people who just question why the motivation? The why? Letting you know that this is not the norm, that this isn't appropriate. But at the end of the day, I bet people would kill to start thinking about these ideas. And it's hindsight, right? Like, in a year will more therapists be thinking, "Damn, I should have taken that advice." Or like, "I should have moved the space earlier than I could have."
And I'm just, again, going back to Ajita's example of a book. You may not equate a book to a Patreon account. But why the hell wouldn't it be? Because your book is something you've created, right? You've written that you've spent a lot of energy, a lot of time, a lot of knowledge, a lot of experience goes into that. And then, anybody can pick that up and read it. It's the same thing about creating an online platform where people have accessibility to you in seconds.
So, I always struggle with the disconnect in the therapist's world when we start talking about money. And I get not everyone has equal right, and access, and resource. We get that. But what difference does that make provided you're a private pay practice? You could pick that apart if you're going into coaching, you could pick that apart if you're offering courses and podcasts, like, we could pick all of these things apart. And I always wonder where the actual motivation comes from in those situations, because you're just using skills that we all have in a different arena. And I don't see anything wrong with that. It's not as if in Patreon you're saying like, "This is a group therapy session for 1500 of you." Where like, you know, that's not what you're doing. So, what are your thoughts on where all this kind of [INDISCERNIBLE 00:26:52] comes from?
JEFF GUENTHER: I mean, it's hard to put language to it, but I think I get it unenergetically, because I'm also selling merch, and how fucking weird is like a therapist that's selling T-shirts? Like, graphic, tees? And-
PATRICK CASALE: But therapists have their own fucking merchandise lines all the time, right? Like, therapists have t-shirts and mugs that they sell, and like, all blank T-shirts with therapists' sayings on them. And like, why is it any different to do that?
I know Nicole Arzt who runs Psychotherapy Memes, she has a huge following. She was on my podcast a couple weeks ago. She has a merchandise line. Like, why is it any different for you to create a merchandise line as an influencer in a different arena?
JEFF GUENTHER: I think it's a funny picture when you imagine, like, and this is not what I'm doing. But I think that people might imagine that, like, I'm selling my merch to my clients that are coming in or I'm like giving them therapy, and then, when they're leaving, "Make sure you hit that merch table, pick up the latest graphic tee." That'd be a really good TikTok video, and that is not what I'm doing. But I think that, like, people see me, see us as therapists doing a very specific job and not, like, creating our own brand, which is what I'm doing. So, that feels weird. And that feels gross to people. Like, should therapists be their own brand? Yeah, fuck yeah, go for it or don't, and I don't give a shit. Like, do whatever the fuck feels best for you. I really don't care.
But it's weird, and it's new, and it's awkward to people. And maybe they feel like, you know, a therapist is like, you know, taking advantage somehow. I have no idea where they're going. But again, like, energetically I understand why that's weird. But if you're going to, you don't have to create a, "Brand." in order to like sell lots of books, or shirts, or Patreon subscribers. Like, you can just like start to create your little community, online, a very devoted community that has a relationship with you, and then, so you can like start, you know, sell a course, start a podcast, whatever. But yeah, it's just like, it's a funny thing that, like, doesn't compute sometimes, you know what I mean?
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, for a profession of people who are supposed to see the gray. So, lots of black-and-white thinking in terms of this, and it always comes back to the money piece. And it always comes back to our own concepts around money, and the energy behind it. If you're starting a business, even if it's a private practice, you have a brand, right? Even if you're not really, like, building it, you're still a small business owner, and you're still charging people fee for service, you're still collecting that money, you're still leaving your agency job because you're thinking I can make six times as much in private practice. So, like, where is the disconnect? JEFF GUENTHER: Well, I don't think, here's the thing, I think part of the disconnect is that, like, and you probably experience this in your practice, we all do, like, a lot of the clients that are coming in and talking to us about their depression, or anxiety, or whatever is going on, like, a lot of the, like, the causes is capitalism. Like, it's capitalism, or white supremacy, or like, consumerism.
So, the capitalism and consumerism is causing mental health issues. And I, as your therapist and a capitalist taking advantage of this capitalist system, so, I'm like, kind of, like, being the abuser almost or playing a part. And if there's sort of, like, well, I live in a capitalist society and I want to survive, and I want to make money. So, I'm going to have to operate on like capitalistic ways. But I'm also contributing to the problem. And maybe I shouldn't be doing that. And I should ultimately be starting a revolution and burning it all down, which is a very, like, maybe we all should be doing that. Like, I will join that book and revolution. But before that happens, I guess I'm going to act like a capitalist. And there's a cognitive dissonance there, you know what I'm saying?
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, I couldn't say it better myself. I think that's exactly it. I think that it is the feeling of you [INDISCERNIBLE 00:31:29]. Like, these things can't be coexisting as if, like, I can't make money and subscribe to this capitalistic idea that I don't buy into, but in turn, I am a business owner who is making money helping people. But I also acknowledge that the systems in place don't help people. And then it becomes very convoluted very quickly.
And like you said, I'm here to burn it all down too. I'm all about it if we had a movement like that, but we still have to feed our families. Like, we still have to pay our bills, we still have to take care of ourselves. And I think we oftentimes lose sight over the fact that like, are you creating an audience and a platform. I know, it's not just for accessibility, I know there's a part of you that enjoys having an audience, you and I have talked about this, and making money because you've put energy and effort into it.
But circling back to what you said about offering $20 therapy in Portland, Oregon, I imagine that's not being done very awesome. And you can do that, because you're doing these other things. You could not do that if you weren't. And I think that's the disconnect for people too, is the lack of acknowledgement of if you can do these things to make money you can balance the scales in your own way.
JEFF GUENTHER: Right, yeah, if one of my goals is accessibility, which it very much is, then I'm going to be in alignment with that in whatever way possible. And also, with Patreon, I could charge fucking $25 a month, but I'm charging $4 a month. That's still very accessible.
PATRICK CASALE: Absolutely.
JEFF GUENTHER: And I get, you know, defensive. But I try not to be because I know that I'm still missing things, I'm still not quite understanding the impact that I'm having on some people, and the harm that I might be doing to therapists, or non-therapists, or whoever. And so, I'm, like, open to that feedback. But I'm trying to like, also, be transparent. And that, like, I'm trying my best, and I'm trying to grow, and I'm not going to be perfect, and I'm going to fuck up.
And if I do do something that's like upsetting, or wrong, or whatever, then like, if you come at me, and let me know, then I want to have a discussion with you. But oftentimes, like, you might just be coming at me just to come at me and I can't tell which one it is. Are you coming at me to like, call me in? Are you coming at me to call me out and make an example out of me? And also, like I said, I'm like a white person with all the privileges, and I'm sort of like acting as like this avatar. And if you want to project a whole bunch of things, and like, all men or all white people are the… they're, yes. Like, a white person that has to prove, a man has to prove that they're safe, or that they're good, or that they're ethical, or that they're not sexist, or whatever. And if you feel like I haven't done that yet, then I'm going to try my best to do it. And if I never do it for you, and you put all this stuff on me, then that totally makes sense as well. You know what I mean?
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, no, I think that's perfectly said, and again, the acknowledgement of that. And it is so complicated, man. I think it's so challenging to think that we're in this era where mental health therapists are feeling so burned out, because we're experiencing all this shit too. And, you know, that also feels privileged because I know therapists of color and members of the LGBTQ community are like, "Yeah, every day, my clients is like experiencing the same thing, my client's experiencing..."
But like, between the state of the world, and the country, and election stuff, and climate change, and COVID, it's like, we are fucking tired. And it makes sense why so many people are looking for alternative options.
And I think I see more now than ever therapists who'd want to do something different. And whether part-time job, whether it's like, burning it all down and moving to the woods, so never be seen again, like, and I just don't think we can support our own mental health and stay in this career for the long haul if we also cannot have these other outlets to be able to either make money, or be creative, or just use different parts of the brain. And it's a shame that there's so much shame and culture in the therapist community too. And like you said, it's not 100% of the population, but there's a percentage for sure. And it's complicated. And I think it's something to continue to revisit, you know, over time. And hopefully, more and more therapists can just see that there are a lot of ways to help people and not all of them have to be clinical.
JEFF GUENTHER: Yeah, exactly. And we're moving, like, the culture, or technology, or whatever it is, is moving in this direction. And I want to be a part of it. But it's clunky, and it's weird, and there's mistakes that are made. And then, you, like, learn, and pick yourself up, and move on.
There's like all the therapy apps out there. I think they're all doing it wrong. But I think that, like, some of them have their heart in the right place, the ones that maybe, like, don't have investors, that are just maybe a little bit more scrappy. I think they're like trying to figure it out. I think that, like, therapy needs to be more accessible. And like, technology can help that, can make that happen. But we haven't figured it out yet. So, we're going to criticize it. I've done a lot of criticizing, people are going to criticize me, I understand what's going on. But like, listen to me on this podcast and understand that I'm trying the best I can, I'm a human, I feel incredibly bad and sometimes appropriately so if I hurt people and I don't mean it. And it doesn't matter if I don't mean it. Like, we understand this, we get it.
The other, like, part of creating, like, more of a online platform or community is that you just get more opportunities given to you. So, like, important magazines, or news outlets, or opportunities to, like, expand even more, like, start approaching me. And then, I get to have, like, an even bigger voice. And as I do that I can, like, help other people that don't have the same privileges and like, raise them up with me. So, I understand that that is, like, part of my responsibility to, like, raise up other voices that aren't being raised. And I'm constantly trying to, like, figure out how I can do that as well.
So, yeah, I'm thinking about all this stuff. And after listening to this podcast episode you might be like, 'Fuck it, there's no way I'm getting into any of that shit." And I totally understand, and you should just be a therapist talking to your clients. But a lot of the time you, like, eventually hit this place in your career, where it's just like, what's next? And there's a lot of possibilities out there, yeah.
PATRICK CASALE: That's really well said. Yeah, I would piggyback on that to reemphasize that. If you have any sort of perception about Jeff or other people in similar situations like Jeff, just listen to these episodes, listen to who they actually are, not just the one-minute snippets, because when I've told people before, man, it's like, you're probably one of my favorite guests to have on here, because you're willing to be as real as can be. And also, on the other side of it, too. And I don't think a lot of people do that or see the humaneness when we're just looking at, like, social media clip and social media clip, it's a lot harder to kind of disseminate information and also parse it apart to be like, "Oh, on the other end of this message is a human being." And I think we oftentimes lose sight of that, especially, on social media. So, I appreciate that about you very much.
And yeah, it's nice to be able to start thinking about leveraging your own brand, and reputation, and following it to bigger avenues, because like you said, then you can disseminate information on a bigger scale and that can really help people out in a lot of ways too, so…
JEFF GUENTHER: And like we're saying, like, I think it's important for therapists to think of themselves as their own brand, that's happening whether they know it or not. And also, that sounds so fucking gross and capitalistic, I want to barf all over the place. And there's something really wrong that we all have this personal brand that we're trying to create on all these different, like social media platforms, or just on our websites, or profiles, or whatever the fuck it is. Like, there's a lot wrong with capitalism, and the fact that I'm using this language to describe or encourage you to, like, create your own brand, and think about how you're being perceived. And that's like so far away from anything I learned in grad school. There was no classes on creating your own brand and social media etiquette. Maybe there… is there now? Do now…
PATRICK CASALE: Not in my knowledge unless some school is really ahead of the curve and like addressing this stuff, because way too often I hear, "We didn't learn anything about business in grad school and we were just kind of told to follow this one path and that's what this career looks like."
And I can agree with you, like, and relate very much. I in grad school did not see becoming a podcast host, or a coach, or retreat planner in the mix. I just saw, like, I want to help people and that's all I know. And, you know, I think you do evolve over time. And like you said, some people are going to be very content with having a practice for the rest of their lives. And that is okay. And some people are going to be like myself and do something well, and then think, what's next? I'm bored. And that's also okay. And there's the middle ground.
I think that's the dissonance though, is what you're naming right now about, like, branding, being visible capitalism, being anti-capitalism, and then, having it all tie in. It feels really murky. And I think that's why there are stumbling blocks right now and just trying to make our own ways with what works for us, while ethically kind of combating the back and forth and the narrative that exists.
JEFF GUENTHER: Yeah, I'm interested to see, like, if like any of our licensing boards start coming out with like, whether or not it's okay to be on social media, with a social media ethics [INDISCERNIBLE 00:41:59]. Like, I'm in to, you know, figuring out what that could be or what that should be. But I have not seen any boards take any sort of stance whatsoever about any of this stuff. And I don't know if that's ever going to happen. But probably, eventually, at some point that will.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, our boards can't even get it together enough to, like, have uniform licensing and reciprocity. So, I think you're right, it's probably down the line quite a bit. But it would make sense if some sort of legislation from one or two states came out, but we already have that verbiage right around like coach versus counselor, but then you still see a ton of therapists like kind of looping it all in together.
So, again, murky and like, people are going to make their own decisions about how they want their careers and their businesses to go. And I think it's just really important for anyone listening to think about what makes the most sense for you, your value system if you want to be more entrepreneurial. I mean, there's so many different avenues and it doesn't have to look one way.
JEFF GUENTHER: Right, yeah, exactly. And one of the first things I did that started, like, creating a new stream of income was leasing out office spaces, and then, furnishing them and renting them out part-time. And that did really well until the pandemic hit. And now it's like, it hasn't recovered. And I'm trying to get rid of all those office spaces.
So, there's going to be some things that are going to, like, work well for a little while, and then, eventually, like, the world is going to evolve, or it's not going to be as needed.
And I'm really interested in like, continuing to, like, hop into like, oh, what's happening? What's trending? How can I be ahead of the curve and figure it out? And if you do that, like, that's really exciting. But also, you're going to make a lot of mistakes. There's not a lot of blueprints for this sort of shit. And you have to be as open as possible to getting feedback, and understand that, like, when I do get feedback, sometimes like, I'm going to respond defensively, I'm going to disagree with it right away. And that's not the time to, like, leave comments, or respond to anybody. It's really time to, like, sit back and listen to what they're saying. And I'm not always 100% successful at doing that. So, that's something that I'm always working on.
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, I respect that. I take that spot on. And I think as people too, right, like, we focus so much more on the negative feedback from the positive. Like, I'm even thinking about my newsletter when people respond, like, you know, I sent out an email when Roe versus Wade got overturned and that was a good way to weed out my email list, I'll tell you that.
And people were like, "I would never work with you now, you'll never get my money." Blah, blah. I'm like, "Good, that's fine." But in reality, we never think about the other side of it, where it's like overwhelming and positive response from stuff like that. And I think we really do hyper-fixate on like, and hyper-focus on the negative as human beings.
And I think being a pioneer in some of this stuff, right? Like, I have to imagine people who started doing telehealth before telehealth was telehealth got a lot of feedback where it was like, "This is unethical, you don't know where your client is, how do you know if you're allowed to do it, is it as therapeutically sound or effective?" And now here we are in a world where, like, everyone has a telehealth practice, and I just think you're going to see this constant evolution as society evolves, and changes and people want more access at their fingertips. And that's just kind of like the world that we live in.
JEFF GUENTHER: Yep, yeah, exactly. And one of the most, like, touching things that I've, like, experienced, like, a really nice sweet thing that a lot of my content is mostly about relationships, and getting your needs met, and speaking up, and co-regulation, and shit like that, all the good stuff.
One day, I think it was maybe about a month ago now, I went to go see one of my all-time top five favorite bands from the 90s, Third Eye Blind. I'm such a fucking super fan. I love Third Eye Blind.
And I got tickets to go see Third Eye Blind. I was supposed to see them on, like, March 12, 2020. And that was like the day everything's sort of locked down here in Portland and the concert was canceled. So, then, finally, they came back to Portland. They were like playing at one of our, like, big festival areas where there's like a grassy lawn, and I did not take any of my friends. I went all alone, because it was just going to be me and Third Eye Blind. Just me and Steven Jenkins, the lead singer from Third Eye Blind, we're going to connect, and it's going to be amazing.
I showed up early, I got my favorite spot where I could, like, see everything that's going on, really close. I could, like, maybe make eye contact and feel like there's a connection between us.
And so, I'm just sitting there, the first band goes on, and then, there's 20 minutes between the next band where Third Eye Blind should go on. I'm just like sitting on this lawn. And there's these two friends that are, like, trying to find a space to sit. They sit right in front of me. And one of them turns around. And she looks at me. And I can tell that she recognizes me from TikTok. And she doesn't say anything. And she just, sort of, like, crawls over and gives me a huge hug. And she gives me a huge hug and she starts to turn really teary, and then, she like pulls back, and she's like, "Oh my God, you're Therapy Jeff." And I'm like, "Yeah, I'm Therapy Jeff on TikTok."
She's like, "I live in LA. I was in an abusive relationship. I watch your videos all the time. It gave me the strength and the awareness that I need to leave. I broke up with him. I got in a car with my best friend. And we just drove north. And we landed in Portland, and I've never been here before. And then I saw that Third Eye Blind, my favorite breakup song band was playing. And I went to go see them. And I sat down and I turn around. And it's Therapy Jeff sitting right behind me." She was like, "Thank you so much. This is amazing. This was like the universe being like I made the right decision. I couldn't thank you enough." And we had like this really sweet, nice conversation.
I was just like, ah, that was just, like, so lovely and amazing. And I got like this real experience of, like, yes, I effect change of my individual clients, and also, so many other people all across the country or world. And it's amazing, and I recommend it.
PATRICK CASALE: That's powerful. Damn, that's amazing. So, well, like watching [INDISCERNIBLE 00:48:32]. That's amazing. So, what a wonderful, wonderful moment to just be able to have that human connection. And that never happens if you're not talking about what you're talking about-
JEFF GUENTHER: Yeah.
PATRICK CASALE: …in the way that you do.
JEFF GUENTHER: Yeah, so, it was very sweet. And I get, like, it's those sorts of experiences that I get so much more than like [INDISCERNIBLE 00:48:56] setting and negative experiences. And that's why I can, like, keep on moving forward and have fun making this top 10.
PATRICK CASALE: Well, it's a good note to end and all true, sure. I just appreciate that perspective. And I hope everyone listening, regardless, if you're just stepping out into social media and posting or developing an audience, just really try hard to focus on the positive interaction too, because there's a lot of it and you're not going to make everybody happy. And that's okay. We don't exist in an echo chamber. And I like what you have to say, especially, as your audience grows, and your reputation grows, and your success grows. I mean, it sucks but it is the reality. So, thank you for sharing that. It's really wonderful.
JEFF GUENTHER: Yeah, and most importantly, I want to say, if you're looking for some really sweet graphic tees, go to therapyjeff.com That's the online merch, you will look amazing, you'll look just like me, we can be twins, post it on Instagram, you will never be hotter for this [INDISCERNIBLE 00:49:53].
PATRICK CASALE: I like that you knew I was about to say, "Jeff, tell the audience where they can find more about you." What about your Patreon? Where could they find that.
JEFF GUENTHER: Yeah, so, you can go to therapyjeff.com to learn more about me, buy all my shit. You can go to TikTok and Instagram just searching for Therapy Jeff. You can go to patreon.com, enter Therapy Jeff into there and that's where you can subscribe to my Patreon.
And if you're a therapist, and you're interested in like, how is this guy making money? Can I duplicate it? You can duplicate every single fucking thing I'm doing. You can look at all of my videos and be like, "Oh, I have my own take on everything that Jeff is saying." And just like, totally replicate my shit. You won't have, like, the charisma and dashing good luck, but like still you'll probably do okay, you know what I mean?
So, yeah, that's where you can find me. You can also email me at [email protected] But there's a filter for, like, if you're a troll, if you're a hater, then I don't see it. So, only positive message, only good vibes at [email protected]
PATRICK CASALE: Well, that'll all be in the show notes and you have access to find Jeff in a lot of different areas. You know you can watch his Instagram, his TikTok, his Patreon. You can buy some cool merch.
So, Therapy Jeff, as always, I appreciate you coming on and making the time. It's always an enjoyable time to have a conversation with you.
JEFF GUENTHER: Yeah, yeah, I love being here and I can't wait to come back next time.
PATRICK CASALE: Great. And for everyone listening to the All Things Private Practice Podcast, we're on all major platforms, like, download, subscribe and share. New episodes out every single Sunday. You can find more about me, coaching, podcasts, retreats at allthingspractice.com. Or you can go to the All Things Private Practice Facebook group, and we will see you next week. Thanks, Jeff.
JEFF GUENTHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
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