what I mean by "the gap between science and self-help."
Let's start with Team Science, shall we?
Psychologists, therapists, and mental health researchers have spent years and years studying complex sciences and honing their craft, all in the name of helping people. Their mission is admirable, their processes are important, their research is essential.
Unfortunately, their work is also often elitist, confusing, and inaccessible.
Academic research might as well be its own world, with its own language: Its scientists communicate with their peers, and rarely the public; its papers are dry and difficult for the average person to find, let alone understand. On top of that, the "helping professions" of mental healthcare, therapy, and licensed counseling are wildly expensive, complicated, inequitable, and confusing to access (especially in the US).
In most cases, Team Science delivers its expertise behind closed doors: either gate-keeping knowledge behind the metaphorical curtain of academia—or with individualistic advice only available in 1:1 private practice with paying clients.
(And don't even get me started on all the ways science has historically upheld a racist, sexist, queerphobic, ableist, fatphobic and colonialist status quo.)
** sighs aggressively **
Okay, now leap with me across that metaphorical "gap" I mentioned, to the self-help and life-coaching industries.
Recently rebranded as "personal growth," a diverse mix of writers, motivational speakers and social media influencers are responding to our epic appetite for practical advice (on productivity, happiness, relationships, mental health, finances...) all in the name of helping people. Our advice is comforting in its "how-to" simplicity; our resources are often practical and accessible.
Unfortunately, our work is also often un-researched, capitalistic, and dangerously oversimplified.
The personal growth and life coaching industries are notorious for being a wild-west of unchecked advice, built around the cult-of-celebrity—where charismatic people get away with hawking their formulas for happiness, selling us their "superfoods," and offering us one size fits all, vaguely spiritual, science-phobic, brain-tangling, well-meaning, and yummy lies.
In most cases, Team Self-Help delivers its expertise on the public stage: selling us self-care products and self-optimization advice; creating free how-to-be-happy "content" designed specifically to go viral.
(And don't even get me started on the utterly unregulated world of coaching and all the ways that the HARD AIR QUOTES "wellness" industries continue to uphold a racist, sexist, queerphobic, ableist, fatphobic and colonialist status quo.)
** groans in tired rage **
What if we could keep Team Science's researched approach to understanding how to like being alive, but scrap its elitist, confusing, and inaccessible bits?
What if we could keep Team Self-Help's obsession with an accessible approach to how to like being alive—but scrap all its un-researched, capitalistic, and dangerously oversimplified stuff?
We deserve practical, accessible, and affordable resources that support our mental health & help us figure out how to like being alive, both individually and collectively.
We also deserve for those resources be rooted in evidence-based, actually-inclusive, and scam-free scientific research.
That's what I mean by wanting to close the gap between science and self-help.
This is a huge ask. It might not even be possible, frankly.
But considering how exhausting it is to be a human nowadays—it's damn well worth us trying, don't you think?