March 4, 2024


Very few would think that a key to managing emotions and anxiety involves knowing how a finger trap works, an ancient game of Chinese origin, in the shape of a cylinder and made of bamboo fiber. It is one of the most widely used analogies in acceptance and commitment therapy, created by psychologist Steven Hayes in 1984, and which has now also become a hit on the TikTok social network.

“When anxiety and sadness overwhelm you, you try to run away, escape from them, making lots of plans, drinking, eating… but the more you avoid them, the more they squeeze you by controlling your life,” he explains facing the camera, with a finger trap between his hands. indices, psychologist Eva Álvarez to her more than 232,000 followers on @psicologiaconeva, her TikTok account. The video, published on June 12, already has 24 million views in a month, has been shared more than 51,000 times and saved by 281,000 users of the social network. “I wanted to know the trick and he gave me an explanation of life”, “I loved this reference ❤️”, “Thank you at the exact moment 🥺” or “What a beautiful explanation 😍” are just some of the more than 6,000 comments that add up to this publication.

“I liked the idea of ​​transmitting and disseminating with the highest possible quality in one-minute videos. And then I also think it helps to normalize and destigmatize psychology a little bit more. The fact of seeing a professional in social networks, which is the medium where young people spend the most time, brings us closer to that goal”. Álvarez, 31, began his activity on Instagram and TikTok in October 2021 as a hobby and now he juggles managing his time to be able to handle seven or eight queries each day. The trickle of messages to ask for time or advice is constant. To balance the agenda of his psychological office, his best ally is the world clock on his mobile, which automatically tells him what time it is in Finland or Tokyo, where some of his patients reside.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has lasted for a little over two years, has been the great thermometer to take society’s temperature and its need to prioritize mental health as another element of well-being. With a collapsed public health system —in Spain, there are only six psychologists per 100,000 inhabitants within public health, three times less than the European average— and psychological consultations in private centers that cost between 40 and 120 euros (the cost being average in Spain of 51 euros, according to a study carried out by the Mundopsicologos.com Price Observatory), more and more therapists are opening profiles and giving advice through social networks. And more and more people, trying to figure out what they feel or what is wrong with them, go to their feed to find those profiles that give them answers.

Social networks, mobile phones and other devices with Internet access have become, especially in recent years of confinement and social isolation, a fundamental and daily communication tool (84.1%), but also in the information search (83.6%) and leisure (79.9%), according to an April 2022 report by the FAD Youth Foundation. But the Internet also has a dark side, and not knowing how to use it can cause stress, addiction, frustration, loss of self-esteem, reduced physical activity, isolation, and misinformation. For this reason, the warning of all the professionals consulted for this report is the same: their publications are not substitutes for real therapy, whether face-to-face or on-lineare just the door to an accompaniment that should always be done by a specialist.

Find a therapist online

“With the confinement I began to worry about issues of personal growth and suddenly publications about childhood wounds, the inner child began to appear on my networks … And it caught my attention. I had already gone to therapy, but it seemed to me that they did it in a more innovative way than traditional therapy, which is what I went to,” explains Naiara Cáliz, 42, who works in communication and marketing. He found her therapist, Mireia Rodríguez (@psicoand on Instagram), browsing her timeline. “Wanted to rearrange my head after confinement, because I began to have very silly fears and I put a solution before it got worse, ”adds Cáliz.

But the finger trap is not the only gadget, analogy or tool that therapists and professionals use in their publications to explain a concept in a simple way and capture the attention of Internet users, so volatile, fragile and ethereal today: motivational phrases, decalogue for self-care, graphics, drawings, videos on self-esteem and also jokes and memes to spread about very serious topics, such as addictions, toxic relationships, depression and loneliness, but with a sense of humor. “I have discovered new guidelines to be able to manage anxiety and depression without losing control, and I also laugh a lot with their memes,” says Griselda Leal, 42, a shop assistant in Terrasa (Barcelona), who for eight months Follow @lapsicologajaputa and have been going to face-to-face therapy for years. “I recommend it to everybody! It changes your life! But yes, it is very expensive, and in the current circumstances it is a privilege to be able to afford a therapist. So I go in person with my psychologist once a month and I follow this account because it is also another support ”, adds Leal.

A similar reinforcement is the one that Teresa, 62, finds in the publications of Tomás Navarro (@tomasnavarropsi), therapist, psychologist and author of the book emotional strength (Planet, 2015). “His little videos about toxic people, in particular, have helped me a lot to identify behaviors that bothered me, but I didn’t quite understand”, explains Teresa, who has done face-to-face therapy with Navarro, who lives in Andorra and leads sessions in the mountains. walking, skiing, snowshoeing, climbing or cycling. “Nature is inspiring and the result is much better. It is a vital experience that is never forgotten”, assures the disseminator.

However, despite the benefits of laughter and advice through a post in social networks, specialists warn of the drawbacks of be treated only based on scrollclicks and I like on Instagram and TikTok: “Something is better than nothing, but that something must be reliable. Those empty sentences are causing a lot of pain. Some people do not need to go to the psychologist, but they do have to learn some concepts or understand some things and via social networks you can. The networks do not replace the psychologist, but they help a lot of people. Of course, not everything goes ”, explains Navarro. With at least 120,000 followers on Instagram, the author of You are stronger than you think (Planet) receives about 30 therapy requests a day through their profiles. “They consult to find out how they can be helped with problems, mainly related to their relationship, love and heartbreak, and adolescent children, but also work, anxiety or depression,” adds the specialist.

“We do not give therapy through social networks or give advice. This would be highly unwise and also unethical. What I say in my profile is that we can attend you in our psychology center and do therapy on-line”, clarifies Patricia Ramírez (@patri_psicologa), psychologist, writer, lecturer, theater actress and disseminator in different media of the psychology of everyday life, as she defines herself. Ramírez began in 2011 to post her phrases, advice and reflections on Twitter, encouraged by the Betis players after one of her talks at team rallies.

Ramírez’s jump to Instagram and TikTok, where she has more than 500,000 followers, has been more recent, during the pandemic, and in this case it was her children who encouraged her. “During the pandemic we have dealt with a specific issue related to emotional well-being every day. I got very involved there, with a lot of wear and tear for me too, but very satisfied, because I think we were able to reach a lot of people and help them,” reflects Ramírez, who believes that there has been more demand for this type of content due to the need to know how to deal with the uncertainty that covid has generated and “the liberation” of opening up and expressing emotions. “The advantages of disseminating through social networks is that people already know my work method. They know that I am a very pragmatic person and they already have an idea of ​​the type of therapy that they are going to find”, explains the disseminator, who this year has also premiered a podcast and a play together with Cristina Miter entitled Baby don’t complicate.

But not only experts are aware of the drawbacks of only consulting social networks to find relief. “There are many charlatans and many accounts that no more They are publishing for the sake of publishing and they do not have a theoretical basis, but when you have been in therapy and investigating for a while, you begin to refine it,” explains Abril Mulato, 37, a Mexican journalist, who found her psychologist through the networks. The young woman does therapy on-line in the Association of Feminist Psychologists (SORECE), an organization that also has an Instagram account, and has followed for more than two years.

However, Mulato also finds advantages to its use. “I don’t feel like they’re giving therapy through their post, but they help to reaffirm what you are dealing with in your process; You can feel accompanied when you see the comments of other people who may be going through a situation similar to yours and you feel that you are not alone, ”she says. Feeling accompanied, that your problem or situation is not alien to others and that it has a solution is something shared by therapy users and these profiles, and it can be summed up in a reflection by Cáliz: “I am very much in favor of these channels, because sometimes you don’t know what’s wrong with you and you see that, hey, you’re human, as Chenoa would say”.

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