Psychology Today is the largest, most well-known directory for locating mental health providers in the United States. Potential clients looking for a therapist or psychiatrist type in their city or zip code and are presented with mental health providers in their area. You can also filter your results on any number of subcategories within their current headings (insurance, issue, sexuality, gender, age, language, faith, type of therapy, online therapy, and location). Within seconds you can see a list of therapists or psychiatrists in your area who, for example, accept your insurance, identify as non-binary (a new subcategory), speak Mandarin, and/or specialize in racial identity issues.
Psychology Today recently took steps to include additional stigmatized populations in their directory, at the same time, these new updates do not allow you to effectively search for a therapist or psychiatrist with experience supporting the consensual non-monogamy (CNM) and kink communities. This is problematic and the APA Division 44 Consensual Non-monogamy Task Force sent a letter on May 9th formally requesting that searches can be made based on these categories.
I have been reaching out to Psychology Today on behalf of the American Psychological Association Division 44 Consensual Non-Monogamy Task Forcesince February 2018, making multiple requests to include consensual non-monogamy as a searchable term on their directory, referencing studies highlighting how:
The CNM community is a large and growing population that deserves access to quality mental health care
The CNM community experiences stigma which is associated with increased psychological distress
Therapists do not typically receive training regarding CNM, and
People engaging in CNM have better therapy outcomes when they search for or work with a CNM-affirming therapist (my blog post highlighting these arguments can be found here).
Psychology Today eventually added Open Relationships Non-Monogamy, Sex-Positive Kink Allied, as well as a number of other inclusive categories (e.g., Transgender Allied, Racial Justice Allied, Sex Worker Allied) under their Client Focus Categories tab, permitting clinicians to indicate that they are experienced supporting clients in these groups (see screenshot of the full list of their new Client Focus Categories).
While the new Client Focus Categories are a step in the right direction, they are not directly searchable on the Psychology Today site, forcing those seeking a therapist or psychiatrist with experience in these areas to click on and review each therapist/psychiatrist profile individually.
Fortunately, some of the groups included in the Client Focus Categories are also included in the searchable/filterable section of their site. For example, you can (thankfully) search/filter for providers who focus on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Racial Identity issues, and in April 2019 they added Transgender to their list of searchable terms. CNM, kink, and a number of other categories, however, were not included in the searchable section of the directory.
For context, Psychology Today initially refused to remove listings for gay-conversion therapists before eventually changing their position.
The current arrangement implies that the CNM and kink communities are not legitimate or important enough to be searchable on Psychology Today’s directory. It also re-enforces a pervasive stigma and harmful erasure of the CNM and kink communities and creates an additional barrier to access the healthcare providers best equipped to offer support.
A Temporary Workaround
For those of you who are looking to find a therapist with experience in one of the new Client Focus Categories, there is a less-than-perfect workaround. You can use a search engine to get a compiled list of Psychology Today providers who have indicated experience in one of the Client Focus Categories. Notably, results do not seem to generate for every zip code, you may have to experiment with which keywords to use, and you can only search for one of the categories at a time. Here are instructions for how to conduct your search:
Navigate to your search engine of choice (e.g., Google, Bing)
Do a search using a version of following keywords: psychology today + desired zip code + therapist or psychiatrist + desired Client Focus Category
Navigate to the Psychology Today link in your search results that (hopefully) match your search
For example, if searching for a list of the psychiatrists in Ridgewood, New York, who marked the ‘sex positive, kink-allied’ as one of their Client Focus Categories, try searching ‘psychology today 11385 psychiatrists sex positive, kink allied.’
If you want a list of the therapists in Berkeley, California, who indicated ‘Open Relationships Non-Monogamy’ as one of their Client Focus Categories, try searching: ‘psychology today 94704 therapists open relationships non-monogamy.’
Our goal has been to establish a working relationship with Psychology Today.In our letter we expressed appreciation for their decision to add terms for stigmatized communities in their new Client Focus Categories, named interest in writing a piece about consensual non-monogamy in collaboration with Psychology Today for their readership, and indicated our openness to promoting Psychology Today to our networks of mental health providers and community members in the event our requests were accepted.
We also provided empirically-informed arguments for making terms for consensual non-monogamy and kink, or all the Client Focus Categories directly searchable, noting the 700+ signatures we have collected in support of adding consensual non-monogamy as a searchable term to healthcare provider locator directories. We also highlighted how our letter has also been endorsed by all three Presidents (Current, Incoming, and Past) and the Bisexual Issues Committee Co-chairs of APA Division 44.
In our early correspondence to clarify how they make decisions about what to include in their directory, a member of the Psychology Today leadership emailed the following:
“We get a lot of requests for new search terms, and try to include the ones that are brought up most often and seem most relevant. I’m not sure we’ve gotten enough requests to include the terms you listed at this time, but I can let you know if that changes in the future.”
Our repeated attempts to clarify how requests can be made went un-responded.
How You Can Help
The APA Division 44 Consensual Non-monogamy Task Force is requesting your support by taking these three steps:
Send the following message to Charles Frank, who managesPsychology Today’s Therapy Directory, via their feedback link:
I support the APA Division 44 Consensual Non-monogamy Task Force’s request that terms for Consensual Non-monogamy, Kink, and other stigmatized populations be made directly searchable on the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.
Share this on social media tagging Psychology Today (Facebook: @PsychologyToday; Twitter @PsychToday):
I support @Div44CNM’s request that terms for Consensual Non-monogamy, Kink, and other stigmatized populations be made directly searchable on the @PsychToday Therapy Directory. http://bit.ly/PsychologyTodayRequest
More info here: https://link.medium.com/4iBZRxiRiX
Sign the APA Division 44 Consensual Non-monogamy Task Force’sPetition to Support Relationship Diversity.
If you’re interested in learning more or keeping up to date with this or any of the APA Division 44 Consensual Non-monogamy Task Force’s 12 Initiatives, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin (all @Div44CNM).
Heath Schechinger, Ph.D., is a licensed counseling psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, Co-chair of the APA Division 44 Consensual Non-monogamy Task Force, and Advisor of the Kinsey Institute’s Kenneth R. Haslam Collection on Polyamory. His work regarding consensual non-monogamy has been featured in media outlets such as Goop, Vogue, and Psychology Today. He also has a private practice specializing in supporting the consensual non-monogamy, queer, trans*, and kink communities.