I’m just going to say this: The truth about Psychology Today

Dear Psychology Today, that was the last straw.

Oh, right. Racism.

After the lynching of George Floyd was splattered all over our screens, everyone, everyone, put out some sort of statement, even if absolutely disingenuous and performative (aka complete BS). Everyone at least pretended to care about racism (as if they were just learning of it). What did Psychology Today put out on their cover? A picture of a white woman. A blond, green-eyed white woman.

A deafening silence. Psychology Today’s “response” to the worldwide protest of violence against Black people: None. Completely ignored.

The caption said “Grief,” so like a dumbass, I still hoped they were talking about racial grief and loss. And that the tagline “The losses no one talks about” referred to our society’s refusal to talk about race. But no. It had nothing to do with that.

What did Psychology Today put on their cover?

I frantically opened the magazine –which I never do, actually, because I never signed up for it and wish they would stop killing the planet sending me printed material I didn’t ask for – and examined the table of contents. Breakups, creativity, hiking, telehealth, geographical exploration, wisdom, food, the meaning of life… a mention of Covid but with no reference to its disproportionately devastating impact on our communities of color. Nothing about color or race. Nothing about the demonstrations, no Black Lives Matter. Nothing!

Clearly, Black lives don’t matter to Psychology Today.

George who?

Black minds never did matter to Psychology Today.

The previous cover had featured Covid. Obviously. Because that was the big thing that was happening in this country. The next issue completely ignored the other big thing that is happening in this country.

I was stunned. And at the same time, not at all surprised.

This year’s Psychology Today magazine’s covers

Over the years, I have read about and witnessed Psychology Today’s failure to demonstrate racial equity in choosing its covers. Regardless of the fact that women of color continue to break barriers and contribute to psychology as scientists, practitioners, and policymakers, and despite articles such as “Dismissing Microaggressions Is Insensitive and Even Racist” and “Do You Have A Racism Blindspot?” [July 2020], Psychology Today is shamefully lacking in its visual representation of racial diversity.

More than 95% of Psychology Today covers feature white people.

Recent studies have analyzed the covers of Psychology Today over a period of twenty-six years and showed that only six times did their cover include a person of color. Six times. In 26 years. We’re not talking about the 50s here folks, we’re talking about since the late 90s. Over 95% of the time PT covers featured white people, and mostly young, thin white women. 100% thin, actually. Zero plus-sized or fat people.

As a therapist, the negative impact on mental health and self-image is not lost on me and feels counterintuitive to my oath to do no harm. The stigma surrounding mental health is real, largely due to unhealthy social norms and stereotypes portrayed in media and marketing, including Psychology Today. What message am I sending my clients, about whom I claim to care, by putting their magazines out in my waiting room?

Don’t even get me started on PT’s treatment of the LGBTQIA+ population, or their puritanical insistence on using only “marital therapy” and refusing to consider including “couples therapy.” You cannot search their directory for a sex-positive therapist, for example. And if you’re a thruple or polyamorous, you are SOL. You certainly cannot filter for a therapist that is sensitive to racial trauma and able to help you address it.

Shouldn’t a magazine designed to make psychology interesting and acceptable to the masses… represent the masses?

I, for one, am done giving Psychology Today $360 of my hard earned dollars every single year in order to be listed on their online directory. (By the way, it looks like they use a Cayman Islands loophole and they don’t pay their taxes.) Yes, they completely monopolize the market and SEO (googleability) of therapists hoping to reach clients and to be able to practice therapy. But is it out of the realm of possibility for my practice to be successful without being listed on Psychology Today? Actually, I just looked. I signed up for PT in late 2018. My listing got me 3 paying clients that year; 1 in 2019; 0 in 2020. That means I paid about $180 each to attract 4 paying clients. And I’m actually full. With a waiting list. I can have a successful practice without Psychology Today. You can too.

There are alternatives to PT that are much more inclusive. And don’t charge you an arm and a leg. Consider Therapy Den, which cares about all people, including their race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social class, body shape and size, neurotype, disability, and the particular issue for which they’re seeking support. And which is free. And which, by the way, wrote a very fair and balanced examination of the pros and cons of having a PT subscription: Five reasons to cancel your Psychology Today listing.

The more we support diverse alternatives, the less power and control PT will have over our businesses and livelihoods. And the more of a difference we’re making in changing our world.

Psychology Today? I am done. Donzo.

#PsychologyTodaySucks #BlackLivesMatter #BlackMindsMatter #SystemicRacism #SocialInjustice #SocialOppression #WhiteIndifference #PsychologyToday

P.S. Y’all, this post was a reaction to the PT cover that I wanted to share with y’all, but now that I see the response, and how it’s actually spurred several people to say they’re going to cancel their PT listing, I’m thinking: 1) Did I just make a tiny sliver of change in the world?!?! And 2) D’oh, maybe I should have mentioned Dear White Therapists, where we talk about this type of systemic racism in the field of psychotherapy — and how “regular people” like us can make changes in it. Yes, I’ve pivoted to advertising it, because I do believe trainings like this can change our world, little slivers at a time. So please do check it out if you want to hear more from me: DearWhiteTherapists.com. End of plug.

Saying things I’ve been told not to say