Facebook for Therapists
In a 2009 TherapyJobs.com survey, 80% of therapists confessed to being regular Facebook users. Of course, this news probably shouldn't surprise you; Facebook has over 350 million users worldwide, so why wouldn't therapists be a part of the trend?
Facebook began as a networking site for students, but now, the majority of its users exceed college age. Facebook is constantly evolving – the audience, the interface, the applications – and so is the way people are using it. It's no longer simply a way for friends and family to share photos or play an online game; these activities are still happening of course, but additionally, people are using Facebook as a tool to market themselves or their businesses. They're using it to network professionally, to organize groups, and to facilitate discussions.
How are therapists using Facebook?
The results of the therapists and social networking survey suggest that most therapists are still primarily using Facebook for personal use – connecting with friends and family. However, this too seems to be changing. A Facebook search using the terms physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy results in over 6,000 pages, applications, events, and groups – all of which indicate that therapists are starting to use Facebook to reach out to both consumers and each other.
The majority of the therapy groups on Facebook have been created by therapists or therapy students to facilitate discussions and promote awareness through the sharing of therapy related information. A group can be open for anyone to join, or it may be set up to include members by invitation only. One is intended to increase awareness and/or facilitate change while the other is used for communicating privately among individuals with a confirmed connection.
Therapy groups can also serve to lend moral support to one another through sharing stories and experiences and offering advice. One Facebook group named "I'm tired of having to explain what occupational therapy is!" has more than 11,000 members and largely exists as a place to vent about common misconceptions about occupational therapy. Other groups may provide an outlet for discussing job opportunities and career development, or even new therapy exercises and patient problems.
Social Media Marketing
Therapists can also use Facebook as a marketing tool. For example, the director of a private therapy clinic might create a Facebook page for the facility itself. They could use the page to introduce the staff, highlight any press coverage of the practice, offer general wellness advice, and share interesting links from around the web – all in an effort to interact with current patients and attract new ones.
A facility's Facebook page may also be used for recruiting purposes. A therapist seeking a new position can view the page to get to know a potential employer. Likewise, employers may use Facebook to check up on potential candidates, so it's important to control your privacy settings to limit what you want employers (and patients) to see.
Facebook has the potential to radically change the way you interact with both your patients and other therapists. One day you might reach out to your Facebook therapy group for advice on a specific case, or you could follow up with a patient through a Facebook message or Facebook chat. You could even connect with a future employer on Facebook.
Facebook is changing the way all of us interact, but exactly what that means for you as a therapist remains to be seen. In the mean time, be sure to visit TherapyJobs.com on Facebook and become a fan to get therapy career information right in your Facebook newsfeed.