This week, I am excited to share with you a brief interview that I had with psychologist and blogger Dr. Christy Barongan. She is the writer of Normal in Training: A Psychologist’s Blog About the Practice of Self-Acceptance. When I first had the idea to start a blog that blends my personal story and my professional interests, I looked to Christy’s blog as an inspiration.
I admire how she courageously shares her own battle with mental health in a way that is poetic, relatable, and inspiring. Her authenticity and her human-ness comes through in these blog posts. When I read her stories, I see myself reflected in her experiences. I feel validated by her as a psychologist and an Asian and Pacific Islander (API) woman. It is rare, as I mentioned in a previous post, for psychologists to admit that we struggle with mental health. It is even more rare for me to find an API psychologist who speaks about her own struggles with mental health because the silence around mental health is so pervasive in our API community. I asked Christy the following questions over email for my own benefit. Her responses were so thoughtful and enlightening that I thought others will find this helpful as well. Christy has graciously given me permission to publish our conversation online.
How did you decide on your audience for your blog? How did you publicize your blog to increase your readership? How did you build an online community through blogging?
When I started my blog, I actually knew nothing about blogging. I wanted to write a book and was reading about how to build a platform, and they suggested blogging. So then I researched how to start a blog and build a readership. Facebook has been most helpful in building a readership because if there is someone who knows me, even remotely, they are more likely to read my blog than a complete stranger. I also get a lot of readers from a site called stumbleupon.com, which is largely luck, but some of my posts have been widely read on it. I have also used Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, and Google+. It's a lot of work promoting a blog--more work than writing a post. So for now I've stopped promoting and only publish once or twice a month because of my busy schedule. But essentially what you have to do is to develop relationships with other readers by visiting, commenting, and sharing other people's blogs.
What has been a surprising challenge or growth area for you while blogging?
The most surprising thing about blogging is how much readers have given back to me, and how much I have grown simply by sharing my experiences with other people. When I started blogging, I thought I was doing it to help other people, and I know that it has helped other people--perhaps more people than I reach in my "real" job--but it has helped me far more than anything else I have tried to do to help myself.
I admire how much you self-disclose in your blog. How do you decide how much personal information to share? How do you walk the ethical and professional line in your blog? How does blogging impact your work as a therapist? Do you worry that clients can use the information against you or knowing how much you have struggled with your mental health, be concerned that you can help them?
The self-disclosure part is still the difficult part to manage with each post. I do not give out any details about other people--friends, family, clients--other than in a very general way. The person may not even recognize that I'm talking about them. I am open about how I feel in the moment and will share more detail about things that have happened in the past, but I still try to limit the amount of detail that I share about my life.
At the school where I work I will tell people about my blog in casual conversation, in RA, peer counselor, and similar trainings, but I don't often tell current clients. I have done so a handful of times when I thought it would really benefit them, and I often tell them when they are about to graduate to give them a way to continue to feel connected to me if they want to. Sometimes clients bring it up in session but not often, but when they do it is usually positive. If there are clients who are uncomfortable seeing me because of what they learn about me in my blog, I think of it in the same way that I think of other reasons people would chose not to see me for reasons that I cannot change--because I'm Asian or female, because I laugh too loud, or smile too much (I actually had a client transfer recently for that last one, which I thought was funny).
What are some things you wish you knew when you first started blogging? How would you do things differently if you were to do them again?
When I first started blogging, it was a means to an end to get a book published and make money. Although everyone tells you this, I didn't want to accept how difficult it is to have a widely read blog, to get a book published, and to make money from writing. I have gotten many things out of blogging, but wide readership, fame, and fortune are not among them. I still hope to publish a book based on my blog some day, but for different reasons now. I write because I enjoy writing. I enjoy expressing myself. I want to give a true account of what's on my mind, and I hope that doing so will benefit someone else.
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Are you struggling to make sense of your story? Do you have a hard time finding your unique voice? Do you feel shame about your mental health struggles? Therapy with a licensed counselor can help you find the courage to own your story. Here at Thrive for the People, all of our therapists practice vulnerability and courage regularly through our blog posts. We love sharing our stories and struggles transparently. If you are interested in working with one of our wonderful, compassionate counselors, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with us today.