The future of Counselling within a Participatory Media Culture

A significant implication of media convergence and the greater ease of access to multiple media platforms is the increased amount of audience participation (Flew, 2008). The creation of interactive social media platforms, and the reduced barriers around them have allowed the consumer audiences to have the freedom to actively participate; whether it be by commenting on a Facebook post, or producing their own media content through a blog post (Flew, 2008). Anybody who owns a personal computer or smart phone can now act as a content creator, they can also participate in debates, provide support and also critique other members who actively participate online.


This emergence of participatory media cultures and interactivity have allowed for significant progression and development to be made in the areas of counselling, more specifically mental health and the stigmas surrounding them. As my career aspiration is to work as a clinical counsellor, this blog post will explore the effects and impacts interactivity and participatory media culture has had on the area of counselling and mental health, the ways it has helped decrease the stigma around it, and also the future implications of interactivity on this profession.

The World Wide Web has provided the audience with a safe place to express themselves, or the personal issues they are facing. They can tell their own stories instead of just reading about others. Within the theoretical counselling approach of narrative therapy, the client telling their own story away from the dominant culture is a key component in helping them overcome their adversities (White & Epston, 1990). The idea that now, anybody can share their story (anonymously or publicly) and receive supportive feedback from people who have experienced similar issues is an incredible implication of interactivity and participatory culture which has helped lesson the stigma around mental health issues.

Audience members who are seeking information about mental health can look up interactive chat rooms, twitter accounts and even online counselling services to facilitate their needs.

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Above: A simple twitter search of the word “counselling” and “ mental health” provided me with credible interactive resources like the ACA (American Counselling Association) to acquire and also share knowledge around counselling.


All of which have active audience members who they can interact with and acquire and exchange knowledge around the topic of mental health. This in turn helps to lower their personal stigma around the issue as their awareness has increased.

This was especially prominent in the LGBTQ community, where large chat rooms, forums and social media sites were used to express and share their difficulties dealing with and understanding their identities. As many members of the LGBTQ community had not announced their sexual identity publicly due to shame or fear of being discriminated and oppressed, they were afforded the opportunity to participate in these forums (anonymously or not) and chats to gain the support and understanding they needed.

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Above: Social Media has facilitated family unity with transgender members using online family counselling.

In regards to mental health, Kim and Stout (2010) completed a research study on the effects of interactivity on information processing and attitude change, specifically looking at stigma of mental health. The U.S department of Health and Human Services (1999) recognised that stigma around mental health is a challenge for those who are dealing with mental illness and is has shown to have identified stigma as a crucial challenge for people with mental illness. Social stigma attached to mental illness has damaging effects on their self-esteem and quality of life in general. The research discovered that high interactivity from audience members using internet communication showed positive effects when processing mental health information (Kim & Stout, 2010). It was also reported that with increased involvement, a greater perception of mental illnesses were observed, as well as decreased negative stigma around them (Kim & Stout, 2010)

A study was also done on the use of mobile phones an intervention for youth mental health. Seko, Kidd, Wiljer and McKenzie (2014) identified that there are already mobile interventions in place including aftercare of bulimia nervosa using SMS.

A question then arises about the future of counselling. A study was completed at the University of Zurich around the effectiveness of online counselling compared to face-face interactional counselling and the results showed that online psychotherapy saw greater improvements for clients dealing with depression than when exposed to face to face therapy (Wagner, Horn & Maercker, 2013).

To conclude, the emergence of interactivity and participatory culture has paved the way for increased positive awareness around mental illness and positive correlations with improved mental health amongst online therapy clients. The future of face to face therapy may well converge to the World Wide Web, where people feel more comfortable to share and exchange their stories via keyboard.

Consequently, this may mean I will have to open an online practice to help the increasing number of active participating audience members in need of mental health services.

Due to the increasing amount of people affected by mental illness, I’ve included the lifeline online support link (click on the picture below) for those who wish to seek information or assistance if you are faced with any mental health issues.




Stephanie Barnaba

Future online therapist
Interactive member of the Participatory Media Culture
(Thanks Facebook)



Counselling Twitter Search [image]. (2016). Retrieved from

Flew, T. (2008). New Media. 4th Edition. Victoria: Oxford Univerity Press

Kim, H., & Stout, P. A. (2010). The Effects of Interactivity on Information Processing and Attitude Change: Implications for Mental Health Stigma. Health Communication, 25(2), 142-154. doi:10.1080/10410230903544936

Mental Health Twitter Search [image]. (2016). Retrieved from

Seko, Y., Kidd, S., Wiljer, D., & McKenzie, K. (2014). Youth Mental Health Interventions via Mobile Phones: A Scoping Review. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 17(9), 591-602. doi:10.1089/cyber.2014.0078

 Transgenders use social media for family counselling [image]. (2015). Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1999). Mental health: A report of the surgeon general. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health.

Wagner, B., Horn, A.B., Maercker, A. (2013). Internet-based versus face-to-face cognitive-behavioral intervention for depression: A randomized controlled non-inferiority trial. Journal of Affective Disorders. Doi:10.1016/j.jad.2013.06.032

White. M., & Eptson, D. (1990). Narrative means to Therapeutic Ends. New York. W.W. Norton & Company





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