Have you ever recognised yourself in a meme or maybe even learned something about yourself through one? Perhaps you have shown a meme that resonated with you to your partner, your friends or even your therapist? If so, you are definitely not alone.
Photo: SHVETS production via Pexels
Memes are funny photos or videos that have been very popular in the online world for quite some time. They usually include a short funny text and are often satirical and critical of society. As soon as you log into one of your social media accounts, you will likely come across one.
Memes not only entertain, but they can also educate and work as a form of communication. It’s not uncommon for memes to spark a thought process within a person that might lead to a new realisation about themselves. I’ve been using memes in my practice for several years – sometimes ones I came across myself and other times ones found by clients. On many occasions, they helped stimulate a conversation and allowed a productive session to develop.
Reasons to include memes in therapy and counselling
To ease communication
In therapy and counselling, memes can be creatively used to help clients feel understood and seen. They can help bridge a gap in communication between therapists and clients.
Especially when you have teenagers, and young adults as clients, including memes in therapy and counselling can be very beneficial. Instead of “I don’t know how I am feeling”, the client might say something like, “I don’t know how I am feeling, but I could relate a lot to this meme that I found”. This way, they don’t have to put their feelings into words – which can be challenging to some – but instead rely on a meme to speak for them.
For educational purposes
Psychoeducation is another reason why memes can be beneficial. It’s common for individuals to feel alone with their struggles and problems. Memes can help you realise that many others are dealing with the same issue and educate you on the possible underlying mental illness associated with it. For many, it’s a great relief to finally put a name on the symptoms they have been experiencing their whole lives. For instance: A meme about ADHD might help a person who often feels restless and loses focus easily come to the conclusion that they might have some form of ADHD.
To give an example, the illustrator Dani Donovan created the below comic showing how people with ADHD can feel easily overwhelmed by a long to-do list, which makes it hard for them to get started at all. Realisations like that can help affected individuals become more accepting of themselves and learn about skills and techniques to make life easier for them. A great podcast episode that talks about this is “Neurodivergent Nomads” by Nomad + Spice.
I get so overwhelmed by multi-step tasks. I don’t know where to start…
…so I don’t start at all.#ADHD #NeurodiverseSquad pic.twitter.com/JDt67roHpy
— Dani Donovan 👩🏻🎨 ADHD Comics (@danidonovan) July 5, 2020
Memes can range from photos to comics, illustrations and short videos, like reels and tiktoks. A meme that many clients in my online counselling practice have told me about is the mental load comic “you should have asked” by the illustrator Emma Clit. It perfectly portrays the struggles of a mother taking care of household tasks while also having to juggle a job, childcare, and everything else that comes with life. Due to Emma’s comics, many people have become more aware of the concept of mental load and how many women are affected by it. If you are interested in learning more about mental load, check out this blog article I recently published on the subject.
How can memes be used in therapy?
There are two main ways to use memes in therapy and counselling.
1. The practitioner brings memes to the session
The therapist has a collection of memes the client can go through and pick the one that resonates the most with them. Working with a new client, they can also be used as a conversation starter and to help ease into a topic. Some online pages to find memes are 9GAG.com, Twitter and Instagram. I recommend saving the memes you like on a cloud-based service so they are accessible to you on multiple devices.
2. The client brings memes to the session
This should only be done if the client already has some prior experience with memes. Otherwise, they might be directed to problematic websites that could be damaging to their mental health. Telling your clients to bring their own memes can encourage them to self-reflect. For instance, you could ask your client to browse through a meme page and save the top three memes that describe best how they feel about their mental state.
A third way to use memes in therapy and counselling is to create one together. This also encourages self-reflection in a creative and humorous way. Creating your own meme can be done through a meme generator.
If you go to therapy, have you ever brought a meme to your session? Now that you know about the benefits, would you try it in the future?
And if you are a practitioner, have you ever worked with memes in your practice? I would love to hear about your experiences!
Photo: Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels