This week I caught up with psychotherapist, writer and radio host, Karin Sieger to learn more about how she uses social media in her work.
I first met Karin online through our shared connection to breast cancer. I admire greatly Karin’s writing and her generosity in sharing her wisdom and advice to support people with life transitions, particularly the emotional impact of life-changing illnesses, such as cancer.
Hi Karin, I’d like to start off by asking you to share something with us about your professional background and how you got started using social media.
KS: I am a psychotherapist and writer based in West London, UK, where I see clients privately and from where I also offer support globally online via Zoom and email. Prior to my training, I worked 20+ years in consumer and media research (including BBC World Service and AOL). I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and diagnosed with a local recurrence in 2018. Since that experience a lot of what I do focuses on working with and supporting people affected by life changing illnesses, grief, anxiety, personal development and uncertainty. On many levels it has also become a watershed experience in my own life. I had to make choices about my wellbeing, future and finding purpose for the life I have. In many ways I have started finding my own voice creatively and that’s when and why my engagement with social media started.
How do you use social media in your work? Is social media the right fit for professionals in this space?
KS: At present, I use social media mostly as communication channels to share my motivational self-help articles, YouTube videos, radio programmes, quotes and raise awareness of projects I run myself, or that I am involved in. I am also using it to network.
Being on social media can be a challenge for counsellors or psychotherapists, as a lot of our training encourages us not to share our own experiences or private lives with clients. Because it may get in the way of the work and take the focus away from the client. For example, how do people who want to work with me feel about my own cancer experience? May they perhaps hold back from talking openly about their own concerns for fear of upsetting me? Things like that. I am always mindful to ask these questions at the outset, and assure people that I am ok doing what I do, despite my own experiences. In many ways I do what I do because of my own experiences. The impact of poor physical health (esp cancer) on our mental health is rarely covered in our training. I am trying to raise awareness and offer specialist support.
In our profession we have to keep boundaries and be clear about ethics. Therefore it took me a long time to take the plunge, and my activity online has evolved over the years and in many ways become more personal. I have to regularly check in with myself about it.
I really like how you’ve found that balance between your personal history and professional life. I know it’s a delicate balancing act – and not every professional can get it right. Of all the social networks we have available to us, which one do you use the most?
KS: Twitter was the first platform I used. In terms of frequency and volume, I use it most often. It’s familiar, I enjoy the interaction with the Twitter community and it’s easy to use. I have a professional (not private) presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and now also Instagram. I have tried Medium and others. But due to lack of time, I cannot keep it all going. A lot of my writing is reposted elsewhere online which creates more social media activity (via PositivelyPositive, The Mighty, Thrive Global, HuffPost).
While I enjoy social media, I also have to be careful how much and when I spend time on it. Things have changed a lot since I have started using a scheduling software, source images via Pixabay or Unsplash and gradually use Canva to create ads for my radio programmes. Before I would literally do everything manually, with my own images. It’s not sustainable and started causing too much stress, which is just not healthy for me at this stage in my life.
I know from following you over the past 6 months, that you have a number of exciting new projects on the horizon. Can you tell us some more about them?
KS: I have launched a number of projects.
- #CreativeDespiteCancer which supports the creative efforts of people affected by cancer. I offer to feature anyone interested for free on my website and social media network (writers, artists etc).
- #DearKarin is a free advice column I run on my website, where I offer support for a range of topics people are welcome to contact me with.
- Most recently I have started contributing weekly radio programmes for a new global online Mental Health radio station PeaceWithinRadio.com The programmes are recorded on my orange houseboat in the Thames and mostly unscripted. You can catch up with previous broadcast via my YouTube channel.
- #CancerAndYou is broadcast Wednesdays and offers support with the emotional and mental impact of cancer. Recent topics include cancer and relationships, why a cancer diagnosis is traumatic, cancer anger and more.
- #SoulCravings is on Saturdays – 20 minutes of down to earth talk about a whole range of topics important to us all, like how to turn hopelessness into hope, coping with grief, how to think big and much more.
Wow. You have been busy! We both share the same interest in cancer, but are there any other topics you follow on Twitter. Do you take part in any Twitter chats?
I have not yet fully participated or run twitter chats. I am very impressed by #bccww, but since it is in the evenings, it’s too late for me. Cramming everything in alongside cancer treatment and earning a living is a fine balancing act.
As far as topics are concerned, cancer is important to me. But I don’t want to be pigeon-holed, as cancer is only one part of my life. That’s why (personally) I have stopped referring to my life as a cancer journey. I feel more comfortable with life journey. I am very much into nature, self-care, embrace difficult topics and generally love to think creatively.
I let you into a secret. My first tweet of the day now tends to get generated at 06:30, when I start my morning routine by lying on an infrared mat and listen to classical music. I look at online photo galleries until an image “speaks to me” and then I turn it into a quote for Twitter and Facebook, sometimes also LinkedIn and Instagram. Whatever I come up with may or may not also reveal something about me.
Oh I love that image of you waiting for the muse to strike first thing in the morning. What a creative way to approach things. Do you have any other advice for those who are just getting started with social media?
KS: Avoid impulse responses. Don’t take things personal. Don’t derive self value from social media.
Very wise words Karin. And speaking of wisdom, I like to end these interviews with a favourite quote or saying. Do you have one you’d like to share?
Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever has happened, positive change is possible.
What a positive note to end on. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your social media journey with us Karin.
If you’d like to learn more about Karin’s work, visit her website www.karinsieger.com and follow her on Twitter @KarinSieger
This post is part of an ongoing conversation that explores how patients, healthcare professionals, and researchers use social media to communicate their work. For more interviews, click here.