Updated: Feb 20
I think this is one of my most exciting interviews yet. Having dedicated a large proportion of my content towards mental health and wellbeing, I have now been able to interview a qualified therapist and social media sensation rolled into one. Introducing the incredible: Dr. Courtney Tracy (A.K.A. The Truth Doctor). I was thrilled when Courtney agreed to have this chat with me, as I knew she was going to be able to give a professional insight into the complicated world of social media, and our even more complicated relationship with it.
Anyway, let’s begin, shall we?
1. What’s the one thing that never fails to make you smile?
My son’s smile
2. What animal best represents your personality?
A honey badger (take that as you will)
3. On a scale of 1-10, how are you feeling today?
Seven, very happy cognitively, slightly stressed emotionally, and physiologically anxious.
These icebreakers are just a small way of getting a cute and unfiltered insight into the interviewee, and Courtney’s answer to question 3 is one that I think quite a lot of us can relate to!
Anyway, let’s delve into the world of a licensed professional, both online and offline. Courtney’s journey with wanting to help others started by noticing the limitations in support in her younger years. She wanted to be the support network that was missing for her. Many people have started to realise that some therapists are merely people with textbooks and a degree certificate, which someone that simply needs some emotional and mental guidance, can find pretty hard to relate to. Courtney was no exception; she found that many professionals were hard to relate to. “I became a therapist that people like me could relate to” she stated, and so she became the change she felt the profession needed.
Courtney’s instinctive need to help others has been with her from a very young age. “My mother and my aunt were always helping other people” she explained, “and I absorbed this behaviour”. Courtney grew up in a caring environment and has carried these values with her to this day. However, it wasn’t just her selfless upbringing that sparked these instincts. Courtney herself has both experienced and witnessed complex trauma over the years, which only catalysed her interest into the way our minds work, and continues to delve deeper into this.
“On 9/11/2001, I saw my first major human attack on other humans. This left me confused and seeking answers. I have never stopped seeking the truth about how our mind and body work since then”.
In 2019, Courtney went through “a major familial trauma” which led to a resurfacing of anxiety and substance abuse problems. The rough six months that followed encouraged personal growth for Courtney and led to her wanting to share her truth with the world to help others. At this time, social media was booming and a standard part of day to day life, but TikTok was fast becoming the best way to create captivating and informative content. “Thus, I birthed my IG and TikTok accounts, @the.truth.doctor, and haven’t stopped since!” She said, which truly have become places of unwavering support for Courtney.
‘Influencers’ and online creators are often open to more public scrutiny due to the size of their platform,
as well as the viewers’ disassociation between the individual and any potential impact their criticisms may have. Even the most well-intentioned creators can be victims of online abuse, but Courtney admits that she has been quite fortunate in this regard. “Being a mental health professional and a content creator, I gain access to many people who struggle with mental health issues” she explained, which as a therapist helps Courtney to recognise the sensitivity of the subjects she may be discussing. (Feel as though the point here is maybe a little lost? Needs a conclusion, such as ‘therefore, people come to her already with an idea of what to expect and are open to help’? Or link to next paragraph)
Often, people may misinterpret a creator’s content and feel ‘triggered’ by the misunderstood intent of the post. According to Courtney, she has been “learning how to manage this personally”, which is probably one of the best things we can do as creators. Maintaining a rational and objective view at content will allow us to detach ourselves from our message and see things from other peoples’ points of view. Additionally, understanding that whilst a certain subject may be difficult for some, “Social media is not a place where you can provide your full perspective on any given topic” Courtney followed, no matter what it means to you. Whilst online creators and other mental health professionals may champion self-acceptance and learning how to handle certain mental health topics, it is important to acknowledge that “Instagram (and all other forms of social media) are not therapy and cannot replace any mental health professional support”.
“As an example: If I make a post supporting people who have been hurt by people diagnosed with NPD, those who have NPD get upset and unfollow me. If I make a post stating that not all NPD hurt others, people who have been hurt by people with NPD get upset and unfollow. Social media is not a place where you can provide your full perspective on any given topic, and I think many people forget that”
Whilst a person’s words and content topics can occasionally cause harm, one of the most common terms used to describe a social media feed today is the ‘highlight reel’. This is the concept whereby some users will simply show their best bits, without the struggles, down days, and hardships, leading individuals to believe that their life is in some way subpar comparatively. As a mental health professional, Courtney strongly agrees. “I think it’s so incredibly harmful. I don’t mind filters when they are obvious. I dislike them when they are used to portray a false reality” she explained. The use of filters is another topic which has come under heavy scrutiny as it can create the illusion that someone’s appearance is rid of all ‘flaws’, and therefore we should be ashamed of ours. This is the sort of filter that is being discussed here as a ‘false reality’ and is one that should be avoided for both the individual and their peer’s mental well-being.
The concept I’ve always found interesting is how the social media highlight reel and the damages it can cause is (in my own words) a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. The individuals who create a highlight reel often feel that they have to in order to compete with other highlight reels, leading to more highlight reels (and so on and so on). Courtney also recognises that those who partake in the social media facade “are affected by the very system they support”. The reason for appearance manipulation comes from a place of insecurity, therefore the very issue that is causing them to feel insecure, they in turn begin to contribute too. To summarise it, Courtney describes it as “a vicious cycle that can be improved by transparency and vulnerability”.
Whilst the costs of social media will not have an instantaneous fix, there are still things we can do as users and creators to help make social media a happier and less fairy-tale place. Courtney gave two very simple and helpful tips to help achieve this:
1. Show your humanity. Be honest. Be vulnerable. No, you don’t need to share everything with everyone, but please don’t be fake. Please don’t share things that make other people feel bad intentionally.
2. Stop thinking your words don’t hurt people because you’re behind a screen. You can and often do. It’s absolutely not okay.
Whilst Courtney is a licensed mental health professional, she recently retired from her practice and is now a full-time online creator known as ‘The Truth Doctor’. Having shifted her career path, I was intrigued to know what her mission was now that her job was less about one-on-one support and more about helping her 1.7 million follower audience online. Her mission now is “To teach people about their mind and body and to destigmatize mental health in all sectors of our existence” she stated. Whilst mental health acknowledgement and acceptance has come a long way, there is still a long way to go to help bring wider acceptance, especially in the mainstream media.
One of the ways that this awareness is growing is through other online creators, of whom often do not have a professional medical qualification, speaking publicly about mental health and other underrepresented issues. I was interested to have a professional’s perspective on this topic, as there are some people who criticise unqualified individuals discussing mental health in fear of misinformation. “I love when people talk openly about their own experiences” she admitted, but often they have different intentions when discussing such topics.
Though there are creators who have honest and genuine intentions by sharing their story and helping to normalise mental health, there are others “who use mental health as a means of getting trendy topics that lead to a bigger following” Courtney claimed. This last group of people can make the open conversation around mental health dangerous as “here is the most room for completely inaccurate information being shared, which can be harmful”. As Courtney has already mentioned, this provides a stronger reason for social media users not to use these online platform as a substitute for professional mental health support.
Fortunately, Courtney recognises the progress that has been made in mainstream media regarding mental health coverage, stating that acknowledging the issues has become “unavoidable at this point”. It’s important to recognise that change is never going to instantaneous. There are decades of generational stigmas that are embedded into communities that will take time and hard work to break down.
“I’m writing my book right now, called Your Unconscious Is Showing, and one stat I am using is that the IHME reports that 13% of the global population struggles with mental health issues. Thirteen percent. We should care enough about these individuals, myself as one of them as well, to make sure they live in a world they can thrive in without being judged or stigmatized”.
As always, I wanted to try to better understand Courtney by asking what her biggest struggle has been, and I found this exceptionally interesting. “My biggest struggle being The Truth Doctor has been constantly watching how my anxiety and trauma responses become activated by other people” she explained. Courtney admitted to having BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) and trying to manage this when having to deal with “for lack of a better term, complete a**sholes on the internet”. The interesting admission from Courtney here was that mental health is always a process. Many people seem to think therapists have all of the answers, but this isn’t the case. Courtney admitted the process “isn’t ever perfect (even if you’re a therapist)”. This may help enlighten some readers that even therapists aren’t bullet proof, they are people just like you, simply trying to help make some people’s lives a little easier.
And finally, I wanted to know what advice Courtney would give to someone who was struggling to come to terms with needing professional help and reaching out for it, and here is what she said:
“Please know there are therapists out there who are truly in it for the right reasons, deeply care about your wellbeing, and (often) have been where you are, too. You are not alone, and I love you. Even if we’ve never met. I honour the goodness in you, and I know others will too”.
I just want to take this moment to personally thank Courtney for taking the time to have this conversation with me. The work that she does is absolutely incredible and you should definitely take a look if you can, there is a link to all of her pages below!