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January 15, 2020

It’s a common thought that Instagram is where relationships go to die. People everywhere are stressing over whose photos their significant others are liking and who is sliding into whose DMs. It’s a cultural phenomenon in which the mental health of millennials and Gen Z-ers is being torn apart by this all-powerful photo-sharing app.

But another recent phenomenon within younger generations is the increasing acceptance of therapy and the conscious decision to unlearn harmful behavior within relationships.

In come the Instagram therapists.

If you haven’t already stumbled upon these accounts on your “Explore” page, you may think this unfamiliar concept is few and far between. But if you do find yourself venturing into this black hole of self-healing and boundary-setting, you’ll quickly find there are countless pages dedicated to reiterating the same core concepts with different color schemes and branded logos.

None of that is to say that this information is oversaturated or meaningless. No matter how many times you read about how important it is to re-parent yourself (translation: healing your childhood traumas), there are endless recommendations for implementing that practice. Presenting a multitude of concrete examples is one of the necessary methods for giving advice that goes out to thousands of individuals with different lived experiences who are all looking for the same happily ever after.

Philadelphia’s own Elizabeth Earnshaw (@lizlistens) is a licensed couples therapist who actively shares her #lovelessons online. Her page is filled with flow charts, in-depth guides, and graphics that showcase examples of everyday people to help you visualize how to incorporate her practices into your own life. 

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Caught in this dance? . When couples come under stress they respond with by moving through the disharmony to repair together or by disconnecting by meeting the stressor with mutual anxieties. . Some couples respond to this mutual anxiety by entering into what Dr Sue Johnson calls The Protest Polka. . This “dance” is one in which one person moves towards the issue and the other moves away. . This dance is the result of a rupture in connection. A difficulty trusting. A broken attachment bond. . I’ve found in my work with couples that this dance is often fueled by underlying anxieties. Here is what I’ve found in my own work: 1. “Is our connection safe?” 2. “Do you respect my autonomy?” 3. “Are we going to fail? Am I a failure to you?” 4. “If I give in here then the bad thing will happen again – I need to hold you accountable so you don’t hurt me again.” . Do you identify with any of this dance?

A post shared by Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT, CGT (@lizlistens) on

Earnshaw acknowledges the “sea of mental health advice” that her followers take in on a daily basis and suggests simply: “Offer yourself love and compassion. Heal childhood wounds. Set boundaries. Get comfortable with feelings.”

Among her contemporaries, Sara Kuburić and Nicole LePera run the aptly titled @millennial.therapist and @the.holistic.psychologist, respectively, where they both share their own versions of how to heal. Both offer guided journals for users to take their practices to the next level for those itching to do more than occasionally scrolling past their posts.

Kuburić’s more minimal approach focuses on the basics of “what it means to be a human.” She branches off of this fundamental notion into specific lists of what commonly healthy and unhealthy behavior looks like. Each list and lesson often boils down to her ultimate goal, which she says is to “help you feel empowered, live freely and authentically, [and] thrive in your relationships with yourself and others.”

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Ego love is fear based. We can have ego love with family, friends, or partners. In this state we are fear based. We believe someone can (and should meet all of our needs.) We project our unresolved trauma, try to control, and unconsciously shame those around us. You’ll know if a relationship is ego based if you feel drained after interactions, or fearful to speak truths due to reactions. Authentic love lacks conditions. You’ll feel free to express yourself + your boundaries. Time spent together will bring you peace. You’ll feel comfortable speaking truths. In authentic love we take responsibility to meet our own needs, and clearly communicate our needs to others. We play fair. We fight fair. And at the foundation of the relationship is mutual respect + admiration. During my awakening, I had some heart breaking realizations of just how many of my relationships were ego based. From family to friends. I saw how my own ego had been involved. And I felt so much resistance to connecting with these people. I’d make excuses. I’d lie. Anything to avoid seeing the relationships I had manifested. That’s important to understand: our relationship are a mirror of our current level of consciousness. As we do the work, our relationships will shift. They’ll change. We will clear many people from our lives. Not because we are “woke” and they are not, but because as we evolve, what we value changes. And that’s ok. Letting go is part of our journey. I’m curious, how are your friendships changing due to this work? Let me know so I can create around this #selfhealers

A post shared by Dr. Nicole LePera (@the.holistic.psychologist) on

LePera’s following has grown so large that many of her lessons have turned into lengthier YouTube videos where she delves even deeper into her Instagram-rooted subjects. Her topics range from explaining attachment styles to guiding you to “respond” and not “react” and prove that there really are unlimited ways to study and discuss these common relational concepts.

Both Earnshaw and Kuburić have Story Highlights that contain a disclaimer for those who may be tempted to use their advice in place of actual therapy. Both reiterate their inability to answer to follower-specific situations (as one would in face-to-face therapy) and the lack of privacy involved with interacting on the unencrypted social platform. 

So while Instagram may not be the perfect solution to your relationship woes, following some of these accounts could help you become a #selfhealer if you actively choose to integrate some of their practices into your daily life. 

As most would point out, in-person therapy is usually the best route if you’re struggling with serious issues. But bringing more attention to these positive mantras and normalizing these discussions may lead current and future generations to engage in healthier relationships than the ones that raised us.

About the Author

Kristen Sanchez

After some time commuting and freelancing, Kristen found solace in ChatterBlast and can now finally call herself a full-time Philadelphian writer. She currently resides in Graduate Hospital where she is a mother to countless plants and a cat named Crocodile.

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