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When Your Client is a Little Bit Famous: The unique needs and perspectives for working with content creators in therapy

Curt and Katie chat about the unique needs that content creators (youtubers, podcasters, onlyfans performers) bring to session. We look at the development stages of being a creator, what exactly a “content creator” is, pros and cons (for mental health) of being a content creator, and how therapists can work more effectively with these folks. We also talk about the safety concerns and ways that therapists can support content creators in protecting themselves. This is a continuing education podcourse.


Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.

In this podcast episode we talk about therapy with content creators

Content creators and influencers have their own sets of mental health challenges. Therapists working with content creators have many factors to consider when it comes to the particularly unique influences that this occupation has on a person’s mental health. This workshop explores how content creation, streaming, and parasocial relationships affect the mental health and worldview of creators in ways that are both similar and different to other types of performers.

What concerns do content creators bring into therapy?

  • Identity work
  • Work-life balance
  • Parasocial Relationships
  • Authenticity and boundaries
  • Relationship to their social media “persona”

What should therapists know about the developmental stages of being a content creator

  • How quickly they become known (i.e., increasing followers)
  • How their relationships with their followers shift as their following grows
  • How long they have been a content creator and their ongoing relationship with the way they are presenting themselves publicly
  • Actual developmental stage when starting content creation in the public eye

What is a “content creator?”

“If someone has put themselves…as what they’re selling, versus someone [who] is sharing information, that’s two very different ways to approach what they’re doing. And so if someone attacks the content that they share, it can be more of a dialogue…But if somebody attacks me, because I’m putting myself out there as the product, so to speak, that’s a very different therapeutic conversation about how do you handle haters, for example.” – Katie Vernoy, LMFT

  • Content creators are doing this for their livelihood
  • Digital communicators are folks who are largely sharing expertise
  • These are not mutually exclusive, but there is a difference between those who are making a living from these activities versus those who do not
  • Some content is educational and some is more focused on entertainment to get enough of a following to make a good living
  • It is important to understand what is being “sold” (i.e., knowledge or the creator themselves)

What are considerations related to identity development and interpersonal relationships for content creators?

“One OnlyFans creator that I ended up speaking to talked about that it’s really having to play being in a relationship with someone, while also simultaneously shutting off the relational parts of your brain…and therefore you’re playacting into relationships. But [this] makes it really hard to transition between other relationships in your life where you might actually be engaging in reciprocal and emotional actions with friends, partners, and family members…It’s something that a lot of content creators…end up having kind of a difficulty of being able to easily transition from one into the other.” – Curt Widhalm, LMFT

  • What the creator is paid for may impact how they show up publicly
  • How many followers impact the relationships (changes from 1,000-4,000 followers)
  • Understanding what are real relationships
  • Who is someone I can trust – how do I protect myself in public spaces?
  • Emotional labor and cultivated vulnerability that has specific goals
  • How the creator interacts with others within their curated persona or character
  • How easily someone can transition between public persona/relationships and private persona/relationships
  • What is meaningful? What are my responsibilities?

What are the potentially positive elements of being a content creator?

  • Validation and connection
  • Representation of different types of folks
  •  Ability to enter the space, even when in-person relationships are more challenging
  • Social capital and monetization

What are the harmful or dangerous parts of being a content creator?

  • Hate, negative or invalidating communication from the audience
  • Microagressions and hate speech
  • Stalking
  • SWATing (audience members calling the FBI and having a SWAT team sent out to a content creator’s home)
  • Doxxing
  • Dismissing content creators’ work
  • Impersonation, with fake social media profiles, AI generated content, social media bots

What can therapists do to support clients who are facing the dangers of being a content creator?

  • Helping them to identify how they would like to set boundaries with audience members
  • Sharing with them some of the risks and ways they can protect themselves
  • Reputation management
  • Protecting intellectual property
  • Professional and digital protection (there are options out there – you can help clients identify them and decide which tools they would like to use)
  • Helping clients to navigate boundaries and self-censorship
  • Avoidance, leaving communities, freezing because of fear of how they will be treated if they make statements about current events (or don’t make statements)
  • Finding support systems within content creator communities


Receive Continuing Education for this Episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide

Hey modern therapists, we’re so excited to offer the opportunity for 1 unit of continuing education for this podcast episode – Therapy Reimagined is bringing you the Modern Therapist Learning Community!

Once you’ve listened to this episode, to get CE credit you just need to go to, register for your free profile, purchase this course, pass the post-test, and complete the evaluation! Once that’s all completed – you’ll get a CE certificate in your profile or you can download it for your records. For our current list of CE approvals, check out

You can find this full course (including handouts and resources) here:

Continuing Education Approvals:

When we are airing this podcast episode, we have the following CE approval. Please check back as we add other approval bodies: Continuing Education Information including grievance and refund policies.

CAMFT CEPA: Therapy Reimagined is approved by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists to sponsor continuing education for LMFTs, LPCCs, LCSWs, and LEPs (CAMFT CEPA provider #132270). Therapy Reimagined maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Courses meet the qualifications for the listed hours of continuing education credit for LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, and/or LEPs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. We are working on additional provider approvals, but solely are able to provide CAMFT CEs at this time. Please check with your licensing body to ensure that they will accept this as an equivalent learning credit.

Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Sonny Jane Wise – A content creator we follow:

Sonny Jane Wise @livedexperienceeducator on Instagram


References mentioned in this continuing education podcast:

Buf, D. M., & Ștefăniță, O. (2020). Uses and gratifications of YouTube: A comparative analysis of users and content creators. Romanian Journal of Communication and Public Relations, 22(2), 75-89.


Cano-Orón, L., & Ruiz, C. (2023). Complementary and Alternative Medicine on Youtube: An Exploratory Study of Content-Creator Communities. Contratexto, (39), 215-241.


Duffy, B. E., & Wissinger, E. (2017). Mythologies of creative work in the social media age: Fun, free, and “just being me.” International Journal of Communication, 11, 4652–4671.


Mok, T., Tang, A., McCrimmon, A., & Oehlberg, L. (2023, October). Experiences of Autistic Twitch Livestreamers:“I have made easily the most meaningful and impactful relationships”. In Proceedings of the 25th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (pp. 1-15).


Thomas, K., Kelley, P. G., Consolvo, S., Samermit, P., & Bursztein, E. (2022, April). “It’s common and a part of being a content creator”: Understanding How Creators Experience and Cope with Hate and Harassment Online. In Proceedings of the 2022 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1-15).


Villegas-Simón, I., Anglada-Pujol, O., Lloveras, M. C., & Oliva, M. (2023). “I’m Not Just a Content Creator”: Digital Cultural Communicators Dealing with Celebrity Capital and Online Communities. International Journal of Communication, 17, 19.

*The full reference list can be found in the course on our learning platform.


Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

Clinical Work with Sex Workers: An Interview with Jamila Dawson, LMFT and Dr. Theo Burnes, PhD

Are You Actually Neurodivergent Affirming? An Interview with Sonny Jane Wise

Therapist Haters and Trolls

Understanding Impostor Syndrome in High Achievers: An Interview with Stevon Lewis, LMFT

Why Do Therapists Feel They NEED to be Coaches? – An Interview with Jo Muirhead

Structuring Self-Care

REPLAY – Structuring Self-Care

Therapy for Executives and Emerging Leaders


Who we are:

Picture of Curt Widhalm, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast; a nice young man with a glorious beard.Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Picture of Katie Vernoy, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcastKatie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:


Buy Me A Coffee

Podcast Homepage

Therapy Reimagined Homepage





Consultation services with Curt Widhalm or Katie Vernoy:

The Fifty-Minute Hour

Connect with the Modern Therapist Community:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):

Transcripts do not include advertisements just a reference to the advertising break (as such timing does not account for advertisements).

… 0:00
(Opening Advertisement)

Announcer 0:00
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide where therapists live, breathe and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy.

Curt Widhalm 0:15
Hey, modern therapists, we’re so excited to offer the opportunity for one unit of continuing education for this podcast episode. Once you’ve listened to this episode, to get CE credit, you just need to go to, register for your free profile, purchase this course, pass the post test and complete the evaluation. Once that’s all completed, you’ll get a CE certificate in your profile, or you can download it for your records. For a current list of our CE approvals, check out

Katie Vernoy 0:47
Once again, hop over to for one CE once you’ve listened well.

Curt Widhalm 0:54
Welcome back modern therapists. This is the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast for therapists about the things that go on in our world, the things that affect our practices, and occasionally like today, we sometimes talk about the clients who come into our offices and the things that we might be working with them on. And this is another one of our continuing education episodes. So follow the directions at the beginning and end of the episode or check out our show notes over at if you want to be able to get some continuing education for this. This is also an episode that is kind of a sibling episode to our CE eligible podcast from last month where we had talked about parasocial relationships. And that was kind of the start of this one when we started looking at what are parasocial relationships and the effects on mental health on the other side for those who are content creators, influencers, maybe in that micro celebrity kind of aspect. And really, the goal of this episode is to help those of you who might be working with content creators to make those clients content creators.

Katie Vernoy 2:09
Content creators, I love it, I love it. And I think it’s really relevant. I feel like when with the content creators that I’ve worked with and continue to work with oftentimes are loving what they do to a certain extent, but there are parts that start to wear and the contentment definitely goes down. It becomes pretty stressful at times, whether it’s the parasocial relationships, or even in how the job works. And so I like that you said that this was a sibling episode, because I think we started with let’s just talk about parasocial relationships from the other side. But then we’re like, Nope, there’s a lot to be aware of if you’re working with content creator, influences, thought leaders, whatever those you know, however, you want to think about it, because they have kind of an interesting job.

Curt Widhalm 2:57
We’re going to try to cover a pretty wide range of things in like we’re both mentioning here, this had kind of started out with, let’s just talk about parasocial relationships from the other side. And not only did we go to the research machine and be able to pull up some journal articles, we also have talked with some content creators across a number of different platforms that has kind of opened up our ideas that this is a lot deeper rabbit hole than I think either of us had kind of imagined. The academic research on this, obviously, is pretty new, that a lot of content creation kind of stuff hasn’t really come up probably the last 18 years at this point. YouTube started in 2006. But a lot of the academic research as far as mental health on content creation tends to look at what content creators talk about, as far as mental health stuff sort of goes. Very little research out there on: what about the mental health aspects on content creators themselves. Now this, first of all, is going to look at kind of the wide variety of platforms that are available as far as what therapeutic goals might be, and how people’s interactions with their audience, their fans, their followers. I think we’re gonna use all of those terms largely interchangeably in this episode. But to be able to look at kind of the avenue that people deliver that content to people. If it’s across a single platform, if it’s across multiple platforms. How those relationships or those parasocial relationships end up kind of developing, where that means as far as the number of followers that people have and the effects that it might have as far as parasocial relationships. Some of the boundaries that people either put in place depends on how many people they have following, who they are, what kind of characteristics of your Client ends up affecting. So these are all things that we’re trying to address here. But Katie, I usually at the beginning of episodes, pose some sort of question to you to kind of kick things off. But my first question to you, you’ve worked with some content creators before, as it comes to your clients mental health around content creation, or ideas that you might have about content creators who come into therapy to talk about that part of their lives, that part of their job, what do you think their mental health concerns really are when it comes to therapy?

Katie Vernoy 5:33
Well, the first thing that you should always say is, their mental health concerns could be anything, right? That’s, that’s just their job. And they might be coming in to talk about things related to that. Or it could be something that is completely unrelated stuff that’s happening in their life. And they’re related. Their in real life relationships versus what’s happening for them as a content creator. But to me, when I’m opening that part of the conversation, because as you know, kind of a quote, unquote, career therapist, I always want to make sure I understand their work and what’s going on. Oftentimes, it feels like there’s two main tranches of what I work on. And so I think we might get into these later, but I’ll just kind of preview them right now. One is truly identity work. And this is, you know, who I am in the public versus who I am as a human and how it might have changed over time, you know, especially someone who’s been a content creator or an influencer for a while, they may have shifted their own personal interests. And do I continue with what my audience wants? Or do, I kind of shift a little bit to more who I am now? And I think there’s also the just the challenge of the work, this is creative work, you have to be able to be on and identify new areas of content to put forward and depending on the type of content that can be especially creative, or it can be just especially grueling, as a as a human. And so I think there’s the elements of how do I take care of myself with this job that has a lot of cool parts and fun parts, and I get paid to do typically something that I like to do. And that has a lot of demands on me that is very much in the public eye. And so those are the two elements that I find myself talking about a lot is are those two. Certainly when there’s, you know, really challenging parasocial relationships, that obviously is a big thing that comes up kind of time and again. But but the other two, I think, are the ones where I sit quite a bit: identity development and work life balance, to kind of chunk it down to like two tiny topics that are really big.

Curt Widhalm 7:38
So I think in my practice, the content creators that I worked with, like you have largely come to me for other issues, and they just happen to be kind of content creators. But inevitably, their work does come up just as any other client might come in, and have kind of their work be talked about. But a lot of things end up do coming down to kind of identity kind of around what that means as far as being able to put themselves out there. And a lot of, you know, kind of, depending on where people start from might also depend on just kind of what people’s goals are. For a lot of people who engage with social media and develop some sort of following, a lot of times that content creation kind of starts from just kind of chronicling their lives, and being able to put that out there and develop some sort of an audience to engage with and a lot of the content creators that I’ve spoken to, and whether it be my clients, some the people that we’ve reached out to this for just kind of some different sound bites to be able to put in about things, as well as what some of the research ends up showing is that these are people who largely put out a pretty genuine authentic version of themselves, at least to start with, and tend to find some sort of a following out of people who agree with some of the viewpoints or like them as a person that ends up creating kind of a really rife opportunity for people to develop, audience members to develop an parasocial relationship with them. And I think this is potentially a place where even you and I had started with this very podcast as far as these are things that we believe in. These are things that are you and I having general conversations. We tend to be pretty authentic, although somewhat cultivated in what we put on here. But for a lot of people, it’s being really kind of authentic to start with, and that’s what gains kind of that initial following. Some people end up developing a following very, very rapidly and very, very quickly. And that brings a lot of feelings up very, very early on in therapy of this is a ride that you’re going on with a lot of your clients where…

Katie Vernoy 10:00

Curt Widhalm 10:01
…you might end up developing kind of questions around, how vulnerable do I want to continue to be with even more and more people continuing to follow me out there? Versus people who tend to accumulate a few followers here, a few followers there and over the course of a couple of years might have a couple of 100 followers versus those who develop a really big following really, really quickly. So, part of what I’m getting to a point here is one of the first things that we have to look at is what kind of relationship to the career does somebody have? And what kind of a following do they have to be able to kind of get to an understanding almost developmentally? There’s almost developmental stages as far as what happens in the life of a content creator. So kind of the first takeaway point is really around, how quickly did they kind of get thrust out into audience interactions, because in the world of content creation, it largely isn’t just, hey, I have created something. It’s also the entire ecosystem of how you continue to interact with your audience.

Katie Vernoy 11:09
One comment on on an early point, and then and then we can kind of continue forward, I, I’ve also worked with folks who are on OnlyFans and have created whole personas that are not them. And that’s how they started. And then, you know, there’s times when folks want to become more authentic, depending on how onerous that is. But we did two full episode on clinical work with sex workers, so we’ll link to that in the show notes. So you can kind of look at some of that more specific information on on content creators that are in that space. But it is interesting, because there’s, I think, also generational differences on on how folks interact with their developmental stage. I think about the really young content creators who, you know, kind of digital natives who started their lives kind of believing they needed to have a personal brand almost, and, you know, have their 15 minutes of fame on social media and really pushing forward into that space. I’ve also had content creators and older generations where it’s, it’s a medium they kind of understand but the the idea of being in the public eye is very different. And before we started recording, you talked about kind of the distinction between digital communicators versus content creators. And I think that can be very relevant here as well, because there’s that that element of different generations, I think, interact with social media, and that those types of platforms in a very different way. And why you enter this space, or how you enter this space, I think is is really relevant to how you how you feel about yourself, and how you perceive your work over time.

Curt Widhalm 12:48
So, you’re bringing up three plus areas I want to get to eventually in this episode, but I think the one that I’m going to jump on first is about what you’re talking about as far as the digital communicators versus content creators. And this comes from an article called “I’m Not Just a Content Creator”: Digital Cultural Communicators Dealing With Celebrity Capital and Online Communities. This is a 2023 article in the International Journal of Communications from Villegas-Simón, Anglada-Pujol, Castellví Lloveras, and Oliva. And this article talks about kind of the different intentions that people end up putting out there and kind of the difference between why people might be creating content in the first place. And the main distinction here is, what is the ultimate goal out of why people are creating content or why people are digitally communicating? And largely, this article tends to boil things down to that content creators have a lot of the intention of this is their career, this is what they are using to monetize and that is going to change their relationship with the medium that they’re creating. Versus digital communicators who tend to be people who have a solid background in an area that this is about communicating more to the public about information, rather than doing it for the sole goal of this is my career. And the ways that we kind of look at this is it’s not necessarily a an either/or kind of thing, but there’s kind of a continuum within this. And even just self referentially I think that Katie and I largely fall more towards digital communicators as far as this is stuff that we’re interested in. This is things that we want to be able to share with all of you. Admittedly, we also make a couple of dollars from our sponsors or selling CE episodes or this kind of stuff, but our goal is not to have this be the entire ecosystem of our lives where this is, you know, we’re out here to make you know, dozens of dollars from everybody.

Katie Vernoy 15:03
Dozens? I think a lot of folks in the content creation space want more than dozens of dollars.

Curt Widhalm 15:09
Yes. But there, there really is kind of a difference as far as what that ends up doing to the way that you end up interacting not only with the content that you end up creating, but also the communities that you end up creating. I think you and I, as well, as the people mentioned in this article, tend to see, you know, the people who follow us as being very like minded people, and especially when it comes to parasocial relationships, this ends up being something where we act pretty genuinely. And when we do, you know, have those chances to interact with those of you listeners who either communicate with us on our social media, if we see you at conferences, if, wherever else, it ends up being in consultations that you do with us, any of that kind of stuff, we tend to have something that mirrors a lot more of a two way respectful relationship. As opposed to content creators, who are looking for garnering more likes and subscribes to be able to monetize. And especially as you bring up, one of the other areas that I want to get to is kind of the platform and the intention, as far as there’s a big difference between people who are communicating around, hey, here’s continuing education about working with audience members, versus somebody like OnlyFans, which is here is a relationship or a character that is kind of built in order to monetize and fund a lifestyle.

Katie Vernoy 16:42
I think that there’s probably folks that fit into both in different ways. I think there are probably people who are approaching it as digital communicator that are really in the space of content creator, because they’re wanting that is part of who they are. I think about Brene Brown, or, you know, people who are sharing information, but it also has become about their persona. And it’s also become about how they show up in the world. And people have relationships with them. And they put themselves into the space a lot more. I think the the difference around content creation versus digital communication, I think feels a little bit muddy, because I think that there’s also content creators who have big personality, it’s about them, it’s about their life, it’s about how they view the world. But then they may also want to do some digital communication. So, I feel like, to me that the most important point, whatever you call it, the most important point that you’re saying here and I agree strongly is that if someone has put themselves as the as what they’re selling, versus someone is sharing information, that’s two very different ways to approach what they’re doing. And so if someone attacks the content that they share, it can be more of a dialogue. Sometimes people will still go to hate and all that kind of stuff. But if somebody attacks me, because I’m putting myself out there as the product, so to speak, that’s a very different therapeutic conversation about how do you handle haters, for example.

Curt Widhalm 16:42
Yeah, I want to save that part of the conversation for a little bit later in the episode. I think another distinction here is that we have to look at kind of the ultimate goal in this. And again, thinking of this more as a continuum of micro celebrity status, that micro celebrities are not those who have the hundreds of 1000s of fans. You know, I would no longer consider Brene Brown kind of a micro celebrity.

Katie Vernoy 18:50
Sure, sure.

Curt Widhalm 18:51
Put her up into maybe celebrity status. But along this way, is building something called social capital. And this is the way that people have to use kind of whatever that they put themselves out there for gains in kind of other areas. If we gained a much larger following on the podcast, then that opens up more potential speaking opportunities for us at conferences. It opens up more referrals to our therapy practices, and those kinds of things.

Katie Vernoy 19:25
And sponsorships.

Curt Widhalm 19:25
And sponsorships. Yeah.

Katie Vernoy 19:26

Curt Widhalm 19:26
And so there becomes kind of this relationship as far as how genuine and authentic do people kind of continue to put themselves out there. And so how this ends up playing out in potential discussions in therapy is that clients may be wrestling around some of that identity development as far as how true do they stay to what might have initially gotten them a following versus how much do they end up needing to take the interactions that they have in with their audience to what a lot of platforms push people to kind of conceiving of them as fans. And there’s a much different relationship between the two. One content creator that I spoke to said that it’s somewhere between probably 1000 and 4000 followers that somebody really ends up developing that really starts to shift that idea of these are people that I engage with, these are names that I recognize in every single stream, I might know many aspects about their life based on things that they either put in the chat or two way interactions. They’re friendly, there are people who are part of a circle, but they are not friends, because there’s still some sort of you are engaging in content with me, I might know a lot about you. But there becomes a number somewhere between one and 4000 that this particular creator ended up saying is where it really ends up shifting to its unmanageable, and therefore it becomes kind of this is dealing with a number of people that I don’t have the mental capacity to be able to engage in those deeper relationships with everybody. And therefore, what it starts to do is anybody who ends up interacting with me through any of the various content that I end up putting out there, I have to start to question what their motivations are. Are these people who are really interested in me? Or are they interested in elevating themselves to be recognized by my audience? And so there becomes kind of a level of trust and mistrust that people end up developing as far as what are real relationships? And how do I end up progressing forward with those?

Katie Vernoy 21:45
That resonated very deeply for me, because I think, I’m sure you’ve experienced this, too. There’s, there’s definitely folks I feel like have reached out to me and wanted to have a relationship with me because they want to go on the podcast, like, and it’s just about that. And so I’ve become pretty cautious and aware. And also, I’ve had personal things where I’m like, I just don’t have the bandwidth to interact with as many people, even in my personal life, people I absolutely adore, I don’t have time to interact with. And so I think there’s that element of: Who can I trust? How do I, how do I actually protect myself in this social space that I’m creating?

… 22:21
(Advertisement Break)

Curt Widhalm 22:24
And so what this further ends up doing is, especially around the ideas of emotional labor as part of your job, especially when what you put out there is: hey, I’m out here being really authentic, I might be talking about things that really end up being vulnerable to me or cultivated vulnerable to me, and being able to not only communicate that, but to be able to use that in a way towards my goals. And I’m picking those words very carefully. Because for digital communicators that might be to emphasize a point in Hey, I’m I’m really trying to drive something home as an example of what I’m talking about, I think like you just did as part of your continuing education episode, versus some of the platforms that people are on where they end up having to play a character, things like OnlyFans, things like VTubing that end up being here’s a persona that I’m putting out that requires even more emotional labor because I’m playing a character who has the motivations to further engage audience that’s not necessarily authentically me, but is something that is what ends up driving more followers into being fans and spending money and being able to reach that social capital or that financial capital in order to be able to reach their goals.

Katie Vernoy 23:54
I think you’re saying it’s more emotional labor, depending on the character part. I don’t know that I agree with that. I think about when I’ve, you know, the difference ways that I’ve performed and I, I double majored in theater and psychology, so I did a lot of acting. And having a character to play actually removes you a bit and so there’s that element of being able to escape into the character. So, I think that’s something you’re gonna want to explore with your client is, is there emotional labor there? And is it is there an obvious choice around what you say and how you interact with your audience and what’s going to continue to grow their social capital, as a character versus as a messy human who’s presenting themselves authentically? I think there’s some really hard choices on what do I comment on in the state of the world and how do I present myself and, and which parts of myself do I share? I mean, I think there’s, there’s there’s emotional labor in both types of content or digital creation and communication, but I think there’s that element of understanding how your client feels emotional labor is. Because I think there’s times especially because both you and I are in a space that’s similar. Usually we’re more small potatoes than the folks we’re working with. But I think that there’s there can be an element of, you know, countertransference, I guess or projecting our own experience. And so I think we want to make sure, because a lot of therapists do social media, they do podcasts and that kind of stuff. We need to make sure that we’re actually checking in with our clients, how they feel about each of those tasks, and how they’re navigating, taking care of their social capital. Because it is very different depending on how they feel about being authentic and out there versus the character that they play.

Curt Widhalm 25:40
I think that there’s a really important distinction as you’re talking about kind of your theater background versus what content creators do. And while both end up performing character out to an audience, there’s a big distinction between film and TV and theater actors who portray a character to an audience and then go in and take off their makeup and then can go out to the lobby and interact with people or, you know, kind of be able to put work mode aside, but engaging as a character and this is cited in Duffy and Wisinger 2017, while performing positive emotions on camera is a requirement of all creative digital workers, there’s an effective relationship with a digital audience that is ongoing and requires people to emotionally stay on this longer and perpetually. And I think that that’s something that, while at first glance, it might be very easy to look at, well, all performers are kind of the same. I think that this is a major distinction between kind of those classical performers versus content creators, in looking at just how in depth somebody has to go. And we see this, you know, sometimes from, you know, people engage in like, character acting and like traditional film kinds of things. You know, unfortunately, like Heath Ledger, towards the end of his life, you know, talked about not being able to get out of character kinds of things. But I think that this is a lot more prone in some of the research to be things that content creators especially have to deal with, because part of their job especially is constantly engaging audience. It’s, it’s being in that character and having it be as part of a relationship or a parasocial relationship that can’t be turned on and off very easily.

Katie Vernoy 25:41
It makes a lot of sense. And I think that that while refuting part of my point, I think, solidifies the other point, which is really understanding how your client relates to that. Because I’ve had clients who are like, Yeah, it’s nice to be able to just put on the character and take it off, and then I’m fine. So, I think it just, it’s person by person. So we want to make sure that we’re really paying attention to the individual experience.

Curt Widhalm 27:57
And I think that based on the platform, this is going to then end up really creating kind of even larger examples out of this. One OnlyFans creator that I ended up speaking to talked about that it’s really having to play being in a relationship with someone, while also simultaneously shutting off the relational parts of your brain, because what you’re engaging in is largely relationships where you are trying to get as much money out of somebody else as possible.

Katie Vernoy 28:30

Curt Widhalm 28:31
And therefore you’re play acting into relationships. But what this does is, makes it really hard to transition between other relationships in your life where you might actually be engaging in reciprocal and emotional actions with friends, partners, and family members, anything like that. And this is just the parts that are directly on the jobs. That whether it be to a camera, whether it be to an extension into escorting or something else like this, it’s something that a lot of content creators, or OnlyFans creator, is this person described to me, end up having kind of a difficulty of being able to easily transition from one into the other. And while this might be something that ends up getting discussed, they encourage me to also share with our audience on this episode, consider how much that ends up impacting other mental health issues that the content creator already has that might not be a part of this altogether, because you’re not able to go and live authentically and to be able to take care of yourselves in ways that this really is a tremendously compartmentalized part of their life.

Katie Vernoy 29:45
Yeah, you think about the boundaries that you set, the agreements that you need to have with the people in your life, how you look at any relationships can be very, very impacted by your job.

Curt Widhalm 29:59
In addition to to dealing with kind of some of the platform issues, I also spoke to one person who’s a VTuber. And I don’t know if you or are audience are very familiar with what VTubing is. This got kind of opened up to my eyes as far as this is, I’m going to not do this any sort of justice whatsoever. So, if you are familiar with VTubing, you get the gist of what I’m saying here. But it’s basically digitally cosplaying characters on streaming. It allows for people to play as kind of like the, the e-characters, the e-girls can be portrayed by literally anyone. It’s kind of a computer version of somebody who ends up being able to stream that really is about playing a character. And for this particular content creator, they were talking about, they ended up getting 1000s of subscribers within like weeks. And this is not just followers, this is subscribers. And they were talking about within the first month, their annual, like take home should have been well north of $200,000 per year. And this was just within a character that they were playing that was not authentic to them at all, it wasn’t them on the screen. But they were not one of the traditional kinds of people who generally find success in this area. Demographically, they were outside of even the other VTubing community kinds of people. And a lot of the engagement that they ended up having with their audience ended up being very, very overwhelming. This was something that was almost kind of started as a, Alright, I’m gonna go in and kind of mock this whole kind of thing. And then they became very successful at it and kind of that, you know, satire almost becomes itself kind of thing. They really did not enjoy all of the work aspects that went into something. I mean, I think most people would look at that kind of an income and be like, why wouldn’t you just kind of put aside everything. Like if you’re successful at something, go and do this. And just kind of the tremendous amount of extra work that went into it, the extra amount of engaging an audience that, frankly, this content creator said, I despise who I’m interacting with, it’s degrading, it’s not worthwhile to do this, that ended up really kind of leading to a crisis of identity around: Is this something that I want to do? Is this something that I find fulfillment in? Or is it just a job? And how much is it worth it to do this as a job? And obviously, even that amount of money was not worthwhile.

Katie Vernoy 32:44
Yeah. Yeah, it’s so interesting, because I think that there are a lot of different paths to success, you know, when we’re just looking at what the job is. And I don’t know that there’s a like, here’s the way you should do it. I think, again, I’ll say these things are pretty individual. But I think the initial where you start and where you end up can be very, very different. Part of it could be about, you know, developmental changes, you grow up, and you shift kind of how you show up in the world. And some of it can be, you know, you did it on a lark, and it turned into something that was overwhelming. But what I see more frequently is actually folks who just, it becomes a bigger part of their life, their career, whatever, and then they’re trying to go back and make meaning from it. And, you know, can I have an impact here? What is what is my responsibility? How do I, how do I, how do I take care of this. And so the identity stuff can happen, like, there can be a full crisis of identity, but there can also just be, this can be a very important part of identity development and how someone shows up in the world. And it’s, it’s really interesting work. I think it’s very, you know, it has a bigger impact in some ways, right? I mean, if when you help somebody sort out how they’re going to show up in the world, and the way they show up in the world is pretty big. It’s kind of fun.

Curt Widhalm 34:05
Well, and I think that, you know, this is where I think we’ve focused a lot on the negatives to start with here, but there are a lot of positives that people identify as well. That some people do enter into the space, and you had mentioned earlier, particularly for younger content creators, that there’s a sense of validation that ends up coming out there. Hey, people also experience you know, these kinds of things. And people also agree with these kinds of things. I think you and I would have a lot different relationship with our podcast if we didn’t have kind of the excitements when we first started putting out episodes of, hey, you know what therapist, it’s okay if you have tattoos like you know, kind of own who you are, you don’t have to you know, go and have a button down, you know, cardigan you can have a card again, if that’s your thing, like…

Katie Vernoy 34:56
I think you have to have a cardigan. Come on now.

Curt Widhalm 34:59
But there has been, you know, a lot of validation that comes up, especially with younger content creators. And there’s a plethora of research out there, not just about content creation, but about kind of digital communities for teenagers for tweens who don’t differentiate between real life relationships and online relationships as much as adults end up doing. And so there does end up becoming kind of a lot of validation that ends up coming up. One journal article on this from 2023 is called Experiences of Autistic Twitch Livestreamers: “I have made easily the most meaningful and impactful relationships”. And this is by Mok, Tang, McCrimmon, Oehlberg. And this article talks about that this live streaming does offer a different experience from in person face to face communication, where autistic people tend to encounter challenges. And that being in this digital space allows for the content of the communications, rather than a lot of the things that come up in real life social interactions that may be perceived as being awkward by other audience members or other people that they’re interacting with, allows for deeper relationships to be done through some of the live streaming aspects that are available to them.

Katie Vernoy 36:25
It’s an interesting point about autistic or other neurodivergent content creators, I know I follow a few. And I can link to those in the show notes if people are interested. But we had Sonny Jane Wise on and that’s one of the content creators, I follow. And it’s clear that so many folks really love what Sonny Jane is putting out and Sonny Jane is also putting themselves out in a way to continue to show and normalize autistic joy and the challenges and those types of things. And to me, I can see how that type of connection can be very, very helpful for neurodivergent folks. And especially as a content creator, being neurodivergent, it can give you more control on how you interact with the world. So to me, the space that we’re in, is one that can be approached by a lot of different folks. You know, you talked about you’re the person that was different than the the VTubers, you know, and being able to enter the space. The way they entered it, they didn’t love. And they entered the space they didn’t want to be in. But there are opportunities for folks who typically aren’t represented in mainstream media, mainstream entertainment, whatever you want to call it, to be able to present themselves and to feel like they’re doing very meaningful work with how they’re showing the world, you know, what it’s like to be me. What it’s like to be or to understand folks like me. You know, whether it’s neuro divergence, or LGBTQ plus, or other types of minoritized identities, I think there’s folks who come out and say, hey, look, this is what it is. But I think in in truth that can also put folks into a place of getting criticized, you know, hate, troll, all that kind of stuff. And I don’t know that I don’t know if we’re going there next, or if we’re going there later. But I think there’s this element of when you put yourself out there in a space and you have a new access to it. And there’s still folks that are ready to come after you, that can be very scary, too. So, I think there’s meaning and power in it. But I know you wanted to get away from the negative. But there’s also I feel like there’s a lot of risk.

Curt Widhalm 38:40
Well, and I think that we’re going to tend to focus in this episode a lot more on the negative because this is the stuff that’s likely going to show up in therapy sessions. I don’t know how many therapy sessions that I can even do with content creators, where it’s like, and how much more validation did you get out of that? That’s great, like, did you get even, right? It’s a positive part of things, but I think…

Katie Vernoy 39:02
But if you’re relying on the validation of your audience, and then your audience turns on you like, that’s a huge problem. You know, there’s even even a lot of external validation, I think can be problematic. So, I think we can we can argue about that one if you want. But I think that folks who are getting a lot of external validation, potentially dismiss it, and/or might rely on it too much, and then need to work on internal validation and self esteem and self confidence.

Curt Widhalm 39:32
So, the next article that I want to talk about that you’re kind of leading into is called “It’s common and a part of being a content creator”: Understanding How Creators Experience and Cope with Hate and Harassment Online. And this is something where I think that one of the main points out of all of this is, should come as no surprise to anybody, but the people who are most likely to experience hate online are people who don’t present as white cis het men.

Katie Vernoy 40:04

Curt Widhalm 40:05
This does not minimize that white cis het men will also be a part of some of the the negative discourse online, but it’s particularly something that is faced by women, it is particularly faced by LGBTQ plus, it is particularly faced by minorities. And it runs the gamut of everything from experiencing more microaggressions to outright hate speech and up into stalking behavior that crosses the line from just kind of digital relationships, but also into the real life and very much questions around anything that can originate from audience members. Even people who experience things like SWATing, which is that people find out where somebody is streaming from, they calling bomb threats to the FBI. And and there have even been times where SWATing has led to the death of content creators, so…

Katie Vernoy 41:05
Oh my gosh.

Curt Widhalm 41:06
This really…

Katie Vernoy 41:07
You didn’t mention doxxing and just dismissing their work, but I think those things are also there, too.

Curt Widhalm 41:12
Yeah, so estimates of hate and harassment online from this article. They site Pew Research Center as identifying that 41% of all adults have personally experienced hate and harassment online. And there’s a lot of research in this area around steps that content creators should take as far as protecting themselves. And that may include anything from just being able to set stronger boundaries with parasocial relationships as far as how and under what circumstances that you might engage with somebody. And again, that’s going to run the gamut, depending on the kind of platform that somebody has. I don’t know if this is my privilege, just speaking. But generally, if somebody is coming up to me at a therapy conference, I’m largely going to assume that they’re nerdy therapists like I am, and they like therapy, and they’re generally not dangerous people. That might make me more vulnerable. But it’s something where if it’s an OnlyFans creator who’s engaging in other kinds of relationships, or they’ve been doxxed, by somebody, there’s going to be the rampant expectations of sexism, that ordered sex is a currency that audience members are going to expect from an OnlyFans creator. And this article does go on to say that there is broader at risk context that people have when it comes to this kind of stuff based on the idea of who they are, especially when it comes to those minority classes, such as transgender people, race background, that kind of stuff that might make people larger targets, even outside of the content that they’re creating. One thing that you also did mention is that even when it’s not based on who is creating the content, and some of that demographic information, that even when it comes down to the ideas that are being presented in the content creation, people who come from those minority demographics tend to have their arguments criticized and picked apart even more so than white cis het presenting men.

Katie Vernoy 43:24
Yeah, I think it’s something where this happens in real life and in all of the situations that we’re in, but it just feels like it’s very amplified when you’re interacting in a public space with an audience.

Curt Widhalm 43:38
And one of the things that more than half of content creators ended up reporting is impersonation where there are fake social media accounts created in the likeness of taking pictures while online being able to create a new Instagram or new you know, kind of content folder that ends up being put out there and kind of mimicked online. And really one of the things to be aware of as we continue to go through the 2020s here is the advent of the way that AI and social media bots can end up scraping and then putting out information that’s negative from one of these content creators, especially out of some of the OnlyFans or sex worker creators ends up really having to face issues like this. And that requires a whole different skill set around their kind of job. To not only be in content creation, but also in reputation management, even when it comes to things that are around things like sex work.

… 44:43
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Katie Vernoy 44:45
Well, and that made me think about, you know, a lot of successful companies have folks who will steal intellectual property or who will mimic. I mean, we’ve had to put out some cease and desist and do different things to protect our intellectual property. But I know that there are many, many folks, and especially the therapist business to business space, who have a lot of fans who, or students, or other people who, and we talked about this with Jo Muirhead, who will love what they’ve learned from you, and then take a lot of it and teach it to other people. And so there’s this element of when you’re in this public space, and you’re putting things out, there might be people who are trying to damage your reputation, and AI or other things like that. But I think they also can work to take your intellectual property to, to make their own money off of and so there’s, there’s a lot of management that goes into it. It’s not just like, hey, I’m having fun. It’s, it’s I have to protect how other people see me. And I also have to protect what I have created so that I can continue to make money from it.

Curt Widhalm 45:58
And so there’s kind of that professional protection that ends up needing to go into place. There’s also kind of the extra steps of digital protection around, even having like accounts hacked and needing to be able to make sure that you’re able to continue to be able to log into all of your platforms, your social media, and that there is a collateral impact on others. And sometimes these attacks go just beyond the creators themselves. But 20% of creators have recalled attacks that affected other creators simultaneously. And 15% have stated attacks specifically targeted audience members, and another 7% say that attackers targeted their friends and family.

Katie Vernoy 46:42
Oh, wow.

Curt Widhalm 46:43
This is again, just kind of the, you know, some of the steps that you end up taking. And this leads to sometimes some self censorship. And again, this plays with kind of that identity development around: If I am putting myself authentically, what are some of the steps that I need to do in order to protect not only myself, but also the loved ones around me? For example, I largely don’t post pictures of my kids online anymore, because even I think all of our audience is very wonderful. But there does become kind of that thing that ends up questioning, like, if somebody does disagree with me, or if somebody does end up disagreeing with our take on things and if somebody is deranged enough to become one of the 7%, who threatens family members, I want to be able to take the steps to protect those people in my life who need the extra protection to be able to do that.

Katie Vernoy 47:45
It’s interesting, because I have always been that way. I only, only my friends who happen to be Facebook friends with a family member ever see pictures of my family stuff. I’ve never, or maybe very, very rarely published any kind of posts that have even my husband, I mean, I have a few posts with my husband. But very rarely do I have anything with any of my loved ones in them. Because I feel like that was a protection I was taking as a therapist, because you know, we have clients that have all different kinds of intentions and those things and need help for different things. And I think it’s it remains the same, I think there’s been in the past a push for creators to be overly authentic and have, you know, like, you know, their whole life, you know, their family members, you know, where they traveled, you know, all those things. And I’ve just been very protective of that. I think tying back to, you know, kind of I was trained to kind of be protective as a therapist, but also my husband is very protective, and wants to make sure that, you know, if we’re on vacation, no one’s coming to our house, so to speak. So, I think that some of these protections are going to be congruent with how someone might approach the world. And some of these things may feel very oppressive and onerous because like, I’ve lived my life on social media. My first social media account was when I was a kid, and I’ve been able to be so myself and now I have to hide. And I have to protect myself and my loved ones. And so this is, this may be very different for some folks and how they, how they interact with that new requirement.

Curt Widhalm 49:25
And so this leads not only to self censorship, but also to avoidance and sometimes content creators identify that if they either need to leave communities because something that they’ve said is either inflammatory or they’re accused of saying something inflammatory even if it’s not what their intention was. Or if there’s controversial topics. You know, you were talking before we started recording about content creators needing to make statements based on Israel, Palestine, Gaza Strip kinds of things and what people were pressed to do, or if that kind of question ends up coming up as far as one of your clients being like, Hey, I’m feeling pressure from my audience to make a statement on this. That is really something where a lot of content creators will choose something like avoidance, where they just take a step back for a while rather than engaging in their community or creating more content, just until statements are no longer needing to be timely in the news or that kind of stuff. But this is also something where, depending on the content creator is stepping away from their financial livelihood.

Katie Vernoy 50:39

Curt Widhalm 50:39
And that’s not always going to be an option for every single person. And depending on where they may show up on a statement like that, there are fears around being doxxed by disgruntled audience members that they have to take into account when they are putting themselves out there.

Katie Vernoy 50:58
Well, and I think it’s something where it it’s the whatever the zeitgeist is, whatever the big pushes are, and that and the different folks who are saying, well, if you haven’t said something, then your X or if you have said something, then you’re Y, I think it can be very hard to sort through. And it may not be aligned with whatever the persona is, or whatever your brand is to say anything at all. And so then it becomes this okay, well, I feel personally called to say something or I felt personally called not to say something. And I think there’s probably a whole other episode on what is social media and what is really required of us. Because we’ve seen social media statements that are checkboxes and you know, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been contacting legislators, and I’ve been doing stuff behind the scenes for the things that I believe in. And I don’t want to put that publicly, right. And so I think each of our clients are going to be having a different relationship with what’s happening in the news. And their audiences are different, and may be asking something different from them. And depending on how far they diverge from what they’re presenting online, it can create a real moral conundrum of what should I be doing here? I don’t have an answer, because I think it’s so individual, but I think this is where you can really help them kind of sort through what are the morals and values that are coming in? What’s fits for your brand? I mean, I feel like you almost have to go into a business discussion about what does your audience expect of you? What do you think is going to be most beneficial to your audience? How does this tie to your content? You know, so I think there’s interesting conversations to have there.

Curt Widhalm 52:39
But this is not just with information that the content providers end up putting out themselves. But it might also be guilt by association, whether it be sponsors who do something controversial, that is tied to their income as well. It’s not just kind of, you know, streaming money from YouTube or something like that. It…

Katie Vernoy 53:00
Or people they’ve publicly partnered with who’ve gone off the rails.

Curt Widhalm 53:03
You know, I’m thinking like Fyre Festival, and how many, you know, influencers were tied into that. And then there’s also kind of the guilt by association when it’s other content creators or other people within a certain aspect of a business, you know, that might do something controversial, that puts everybody kind of in that sphere, in kind of the same sort of, are you doing the same kind of, you know, damage. You similar ways that like, you know, all of the digital coins, kind of like Bitcoin, whenever one of them goes down, everybody kind of questions Bitcoin. We also have to look at those content creators who find themselves gaining their audience by saying controversial things. And this is something that’s explored a little bit in an article called Complementary and Alternative Medicine on YouTube: An Exploratory Study of Content-Creator Communities. This is by Cano-Orón and Ruiz, and this is from 2022. This article examines kind of the strength of communities based on the kinds of topics particularly around complementary and alternative medicine. And what this article gets into is that those content creators who are kind of putting out ideas around complementary and alternative medicine tend to have their followings, but their communities tend to be a lot weaker. As far as engagement with the content creators, there’s fewer comments, there’s fewer views than those content creators who come out with very, very negative very, very emotional reaction negative to complementary and alternative medicine. And I think that this is true in mass media as well as social media and this kind of stuff that the bigger and louder and angrier that somebody’s response is, the stronger the community ends up identifying with the content creator and tends to fall in line. Think of how people like Alex Jones ended up getting lots and lots of people being able to follow versus pick your rational, alternate example and to balance this out. But some content creators may find themselves in kind of this rabbit hole of needing to create stir-shit-up sorts of things in their content creation, just to gain more followers more fans to be able to reach some of those goals that were spoken about earlier. And this can affect people’s identities around their content as well, because they may start out not actually believing it. Their, their reasons for engaging in this kind of content might end up being not not the most altruistic, but it’s just to gain followers and to be but engaging in this kind of content over and over tends to shift people’s beliefs, that then it makes them more of kind of a lightning rod of controversy around these kinds of things, which does make them potentially more vulnerable to some of the attacks and some of the disagreements that audience members might end up having for them. And helping to make sure that those content creators are engaging their audience in healthy ways and taking good protective measures.

Katie Vernoy 56:27
I’m even just thinking about their own state of mind if they’ve convinced themselves of some sort of a conspiracy theory. And we did do an episode on conspiracy theories. I’ll link to that in the show notes. But I don’t know when something when when everything becomes about being provocative and being a truth sayer and someone who’s going against the status quo. I mean, we actually have a whole series of content that I mean, we even have a whole category of podcasts that we do that skeptics and outliers, and there’s been periods of time, I think, when we were really trying to find the things that push against the status quo and against the norms of our profession. And I think we do it in a very balanced way. But I think when you are really like looking for those things, and looking for the holes, and the arguments that you can post, I think you can really get yourself in a bad mental space, much less, you know, engaging with your audience, who are the people who believe you and all of that stuff, and the dangers that can come from folks who really attach themselves to these types of conspiracy theories or, or against the social norm ideas. And so I feel like it’s a dangerous space, but apparently, it’s a pretty lucrative space to be in.

Curt Widhalm 57:38
And how many times have we talked about that, you know, when it comes to interactions with audiences, as far as gaining, you know, higher spaces within the algorithm that, you know, all comments are good comments, you know, even the more controversial ones that all engagement is engagement. But there is kind of that emotional effect around like when people are attacking you, or they’re attacking your ideas, which could be an extension of you that that does have a personal effect on you. And wading into that space needs to be done intentionally and not available 24 hours out of the day. And I think that this leads to kind of the last points here, which is what are some of the therapeutic tools that we should really consider talking about content creators, as it comes to managing some of the parasocial relationships, some of the things that helped them manage their mental health as it relates to content creation. And I don’t know that all of these are necessarily just specific to this particular area of life, but things that we should be prepared for. And some of this is talking about some of the tools that are available, you know, there are online tools that, to varying degrees, tend to work, there’s content moderation kinds of tools, you know, like the Facebook group that we have a little internal advertising shout out to, you know, the Modern Therapists Group here, but all of the posts that get put in there have to go through content review before they get posted into the group. And so that’s somebody from our team checks. Does does this fit within the group? Is this something that is, you know, completely outside of this? Is it something that’s going to be harmful? That either allows something that comes through or not. Some of those content moderation tools also exist for being able to post like YouTube comments sorts of things that might be things that prevent anonymous or new accounts from being able to post comments. And sometimes there’s automatic warnings to commenters that something that they’re seeing is used as hate or harassment based on keywords that might be identified. Out of content creators who use tools like this about 20% of them feel that reporting, you know, to the platform themselves is extremely effective in being able to limit or ban accounts that end up engaging in kind of hate speech or this kind of stuff to the content creators.

Katie Vernoy 1:00:11
Only 20%…

Curt Widhalm 1:00:13
Say that it’s very effective.

Katie Vernoy 1:00:14
Yeah, only 20% Yeah, no, I could see that.

Curt Widhalm 1:00:18
Expanding to that 55% say that it’s, it’s somewhat effective to very effective, but 10% identify that these tools are very ineffective. And so that does mean that having backup systems in place ends up to be kind of a necessity, and that a lot of content creators only feel that it’s, you know, some of the policies or the community guidelines keeping the content creators safe from hate and harassment. It’s only kind of about two thirds of content creators identify that community guidelines, keep them safe. It works against hate speech, but it doesn’t necessarily work against all of these other ways that some audience members may engage with them. And that includes all of the things that we mentioned earlier, doxxing, trying to take over their accounts, that kind of stuff.

Katie Vernoy 1:01:08
Whether it’s kind of automatic applications that are going through and looking for keywords, a lot of folks will find ways around it. And so then the keywords have to constantly be updated, or whatever, you know, however, those algorithms work, because people will put a period in the middle or they’ll use a different letter, or they’ll separate all the letters, and it becomes very hard for some of the hate speech to be caught. It is a start and 66%, or whatever two thirds of people thought that it was okay. But if you don’t even know about these tools, I think you’re going to feel less protected than if you do and so I think as a clinician, these are, I think good things in your arsenal to be able to share with your clients, which is hey, do you know what tools are available to you? Are you using them? How does that feel? What is that, you know, kind of what are the ways that you can create more safety for yourself in the spaces where you’re out there publicly?

Curt Widhalm 1:02:07
Some of the reporting, you know, doesn’t work as well to the platforms. And again, coming back to therapy, some of the coping practices that content creators identified as most helpful is being able to talk with their friends and family, specifically other content creators when it comes to kind of dealing with this kind of stuff. One content creator talked about that the engagement that they have, particularly around parasocial relationships, that is, especially when you get to kind of that questioning kind of what people’s intentions are, that the strongest friendships that they end up developing are with other content creators kind of at their level, and I think you and I bond with other, you know, mental health therapists kind of podcasters that kind of backs this up even from our own experience in this. That there’s kind of that Alright, here’s, here’s what we experienced at certain points that kind of ends up developing a community around that, that I find particularly helpful in being able to talk with people

Katie Vernoy 1:03:08
Well, and I think it leads to another coping strategy. So there’s the element of talking to people who get it, which I think is really important. But if you’re in a similar space, and someone’s coming at you hard and like in a Facebook group or whatever, sharing it with other content creators in the same space, they can get blocked across a bazillion platforms all at once. And I will not say whether or not we’ve engaged in that. But it is something where, you know, if there are content creators that have particular folks who are especially egregious in how they perform, there may be other avenues if you are connected to a community of your peers, who can then take action and in solidarity, and potentially self protection block folks who were interacting with content inappropriately.

Curt Widhalm 1:03:56
Now, to develop some of those relationships with other content creators, there is some difficulties identified because there’s no centralized systems to build those relationships. And especially if those other content creators have teams of people so you’re not just reaching out to them directly, but you’re reaching out to an assistant sometimes those are barriers that you might need to help strategize with. About a third of content creators identified that engaging with their audience around some of these things proved to be helpful. And there’s kind of some give and take with that. Sometimes it can be, you know, kind of riling up the fan base to speak out against other people. But this can easily backfire as well. And it can be kind of divisive, and that might be something that your clients end up really having to face. Unfortunately, very, very low on this list is only 16% of content creators identified that therapist or health care providers are people that they would turn to with problems on this. And the article on this is that article about it’s common and part of being a content creator doesn’t get into this very much. But I would have to make kind of my own venture to guess about this, that it’s just that there’s an understanding or a conception that mental health providers won’t understand the particular aspects of being in content creation, or might not be readily available to people who are in content creation. So, while a lot of people do talk about mental health issues in content creation, their actual turning to their own therapist for this kind of stuff is surprisingly low.

Katie Vernoy 1:05:38
It seems to me too, that there is an element of how you operate as a therapist that could be at odds in supporting a content creator. And I’ll explain that. Because to me, there are times when I’m working with high level executives, or content creators, or people who are in very different distinct spaces where a lot is being asked of them from their job. And I get the sense that a lot of therapists go to Well, if your job is hurting your mental health, you need to step back from it. And there’s not that element of how do you do your job better? How do you, how do you face that specific challenges, cope with them, try to set yourself up for success around them. I think a lot of therapists go to well, you should take care of yourself. And you don’t need to do all of that. And I could be overstating but that’s that’s been my sense is that even even a little push into self care from me with some of my folks who are kind of those higher level performers in different spaces, they get a little bit like, oh, yeah, you don’t get this, you don’t get what it is that I’m setting out to do here. And so I think being able to potentially talk about optimal performance, or talk about some of the things that we talked about today, can be more helpful for folks who are functioning at this level than potentially some of the typical coping strategies that therapists oftentimes will put forward.

Curt Widhalm 1:07:01
So, a lot of the strategies that are suggested in this article are really being able to think ahead and kind of pre plan what some kind of caretaking or coping ahead might be. And part of that is engaging in what kinds of things will I, as a content creator, actually respond to community on? What kinds of things will I kind of set some rules ahead to take some of that decision making process out of future kind of higher, emotionally charged times, being able to have support groups in place of other kinds of content creators so that way, when these issues come up, you’re not both vulnerable and seeking out new friendships, but you’ve already got kind of a support system in place. And being able to moderate things, have kind of those systems in place of when you should engage when you shouldn’t, and what aspects of your life that you keep things private, so that way, you’re minimizing the risks of attacks, the risks of how that might fall out to other people in your social group, other people, other audience members, your family, friends, those kinds of things.

Katie Vernoy 1:08:09
Yeah, I love all of that. I think it’s really, really helpful.

Curt Widhalm 1:08:12
You can find our show notes over at You can find out how to get CE information for listening to this episode in our show notes as well. You can follow us on our social media, and join our Facebook group that we mentioned earlier, the Modern Therapist Group and until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy.

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Katie Vernoy 1:08:34
Just a quick reminder, if you’d like one unit of continuing education for listening to this episode, go to, purchase this course and pass the post test. A CE certificate will appear in your profile once you’ve successfully completed the steps.

Curt Widhalm 1:08:49
Once again, that’s

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