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Community Story: Simone Saunders, The Cognitive Corner

October 10, 2022

Meet a Jane user and mental health therapist using social media to reach millions of people.

Story by Jack Murphy

Simone Saunders is a mental health therapist and owner of The Cognitive Corner, a mental health practice, in Toronto, Canada. She also harnesses a large social media following to educate people around the world about their own and others’ mental health.

Tell us a little about your background.

I have a master’s degree in social work with a specialization in trauma-informed practice. I have focused on treating trauma in the last five years, which has just been so rewarding.

I worked at first in the children’s mental health unit in a hospital and then transitioned to community mental health with adults. Now I’m working and running my own private practice.

Why do you connect with the work that you do?

I think one of the biggest things is that I have had my own mental health struggles, as well as seeing my friends and family members that have gone through mental health struggles too.

When I was looking for my own therapist, there wasn’t someone that looked like me and so that was really important to me to be able to provide representation in the mental health community.

Tell us the steps you took to opening The Cognitive Corner, and what your practice’s values are.

The Cognitive Corner started as an Instagram page back in December of 2019. Initially, my goal with it was just to provide psychoeducation on the internet. Slowly it started to develop into more than that. I started doing speaking engagements and then in 2021, we opened the doors to the physical practice.

The practice is trauma-informed and culturally responsive. It’s important that regardless of your background or who you are, you can come to the practice and know that you’re getting a practitioner that’s able to see and hear you for who you are and value and integrate some of the experiences that you’ve had in your life.

What impact have you seen social media have on people’s mental health?

I think the impact of social media on mental health has been huge. Mental health services aren’t the most accessible service, especially in Canada. There are either long waitlists if you need free or low-cost sessions, or if it’s private, the cost is typically high. It’s not affordable or sustainable for people unless they have health insurance, and even then, it’s not necessarily sustainable as benefits only cover a certain amount per year.

I think social media has been really helpful in providing tools and free education for people. They can easily connect with it to understand a little bit more about what’s going on in their lives and then seek further help if they need to, which I think is really powerful.

I think that the knowledge about mental health shouldn’t only be in the hands of practitioners. It should be a community-wide resource that people have access to so that they can have the basic tools to process their experiences.

The biggest impact that I’ve noticed is a decrease in stigmatization. I know that we still have a long way to go in terms of mental health stigma, but especially for racialized communities, where there are typically stigmas about mental health, I’ve noticed a trend downward in stigmatization.

And just in general, I think that there’s just a lot more of an openness and a willingness to talk about mental health. I think the impact of the conversation starters using social media has just been great for society.

You’re introduced to resources and videos about mental health whether you’re looking for them or not. It goes from something not seen or talked about, to then being in the subconscious of millions of people.

Especially for children. I know that when I was growing up, mental health was not something that was talked about. I didn’t know the physical symptoms of anxiety or depression or any of these things.

I have a nephew who is three years old and my brother is teaching him how to breathe and how to regulate his nervous system when he might get upset. Those are things that I didn’t learn until I was in my 20s. Just seeing the impact that it has and is going to continue to have on the younger generations is really great.

What would you say to other mental health providers that are thinking about starting their own social media profiles?

It is a really great way for businesses to stand out and get noticed. You can choose how you want to show up on social media, which is the great thing about it. You can tailor it to your practice and simply focus on the mental health aspect of your work, or you can put a little bit more of your personality out there.

I have chosen to put my personality out there more, which I think has been helpful in terms of clients getting an understanding of who I am and what my values are before they come to see me. But again, it’s such a wide spectrum that even if social media is not your comfort level at all, you can choose to be on there a minimal amount.

Can you give us an example of one of your videos that resonated with your followers?

Last year I made a video on the topic of a foreshortened future. Essentially, the concept is that when people have been through really hard or traumatic things oftentimes that can make your outlook on life seem hopeless.

They may feel a sense of not being able to see themselves hitting milestones like graduating, getting married, finishing college, or getting the career that they want. It can be a myriad of future events. That video went viral, and I got a lot of emails and messages from people identifying with it that didn’t know that this was something other people experienced. I think that has been the biggest thing for me. I’ve been able to see social media impact people very positively in the sense of not feeling alone and not feeling isolated in their experiences. These videos are inspiring people to reach out for more help because they feel comfortable and confident in bringing that to someone else.

Why did you choose Jane for your mental health practice?

I definitely did my research before opening up the practice. The first thing that attracted me to Jane was the interface, I really liked the look of it.

I just really like how everything is in one space. I think other practitioners and clinics can relate that it is frustrating when you have your appointment scheduled in one place, then you have your payments somewhere else, and then you have your notes on a different app.

Everything is concise and streamlined with Jane. For my mental health practice, I can run everything with Jane!

There’s the wait list function too, which is very easy for clients to use. There are so many different things included in Jane that I haven’t even explored everything Jane has to offer yet.

For new Jane users, what tips would you give them?

So the first thing I tell people when they join Jane is to use Jane’s demo account. If you’re wanting to make any changes to your clinic’s Jane account, use the demo clinic to create and figure out those changes first. Play with it, play with appointments, all that kind of stuff. See what it looks like from the client’s perspective. Typically there’s a function for everything with Jane that makes things easier, so play around or reach out to the Jane team with your questions.

Jane Shout: Whether you’re a Jane user looking to test out a new workflow, or thinking about getting Jane for your practice and want to test it out first then Jane’s demo website is for you. Reach out to us to receive the weekly password and all the details you’ll need to access it.

What advice would you like to share with other new mental health practitioners?

I think the biggest thing that comes to mind is that everybody feels a sense of impostor syndrome, especially when journeying out into private practice. I think it can feel very unstable, especially if you’re used to working within some other sort of corporation.

I think you need to expect that you will make mistakes, but mistakes mean that you’re learning, and that’s not a bad thing necessarily.

Last, I think being curious is something we need to continue to be as practitioners. I try and live that way as a therapist and as a person because I think when you’re able to be curious about things, you’re able to learn new things, and you’re more open to new opportunities and new experiences.

What do you think your superpower is as a therapist?

The only word that comes to mind is my humanness, both in the clinic and out of the clinic. I like to show up as a human, not as this expert in a white coat or anything like that.

I am someone that has some sort of knowledge and you are someone that has some sort of knowledge, and it’s going to be an exchange in our sessions.

I think that has been something that I’ve noticed has been helpful for my relationships with my clients and peers and those in my personal life. Acknowledge that we’re all human and be able to show those pieces of yourself in ways that are appropriate to make connections.

Thanks so much for spending some time with the Jane Community Simone. 💙

Resources from Simone

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