I recently posted on Facebook how I’m interested in helping non-men in the trauma space become thought leaders. Here’s my original post:
Hey – I am noticing that a lot of the major thought leaders in the trauma therapy spaces are men/male presenting:
Bessel Van Der Kolk, Gabor Mate, Stephen Porges, Dan Seigel, Richard Shwartz…
Totally a chance that I’m seeing these people around because of the FB algorithm and it’s not a fair representation of who’s *actually* in the space.
But where are all the non-men at? Because I kinda want to help them. Like help them smash what seems to be a patriarchally-based pattern.
Just putting it out there that if any non-men want to be leaders in the trauma space, I know exactly how to get you there, and I’d be 110% enthusiastic about helping.
And with over 180 combined likes and comments, I thought it would be worth it to jot down some thoughts on the, “I know exactly how to get your there” part of what I said.
This post won’t be sharing all of the amazing non-men in the space that were recommended to me in the thread (so awesome to see that!) nor will it share all of the discussion. For that, you can read the full post for yourself.
In this blog, I’ll be sharing some initial thoughts on how women and non-men can become thought leaders in the trauma space:
What Is A “Thought Leader”?
Thought leaders are THE go-to people are trusted for their expertise in the field. They inform, inspire, and innovate in the space. They are often pushing their field forward through original research, approaches, or methodologies – laying out new guidelines and best practices for others to follow.
And importantly, they form communities who help scale their ideas to a point where they impact the world. In this case, that could be the world of trauma practitioners or it could be the world itself.
Thought leaders change the world and engage others to join in.
Here’s are a few things that thought leaders in the trauma space seem to be doing:
- All do their own, original thinking
- All have built an audience or community
- All answer questions no one else is answering or answer questions in a uniquely helpful way
- All push the public’s understanding of trauma forward towards more compassion
- All publish content. Typically books but also research articles, documentaries,
- All appear in the media – not only within the mental health field but also in the mainstream
- Many develop and disseminate a new modality for solving a widespread problem
- Many are in academia to high levels or are conducting academic-level, original research
Note that thought leaders in the trauma space are not promoting other people’s stuff as their main thing. So although a therapist or researcher might be “high up” in the EMDR world, that doesn’t make them a “trauma thought leader” necessarily.
For example, although Bessel van der Kolk is a fan of yoga therapy, you don’t see him creating speeches about “The Power of Yoga Therapy” – instead, he positions himself as a trauma expert and researcher first and foremost. His thought leadership is original research and thinking about trauma.
Follow Trails: What Are Existing Thought Leaders Doing To Be Where They Are?
If you want to be a thought leader, a good jumping off point is to examine the work and careers of existing thought leaders.
Here are three to get you started. I chose them because I “see them around” but I highly recommend developing your own list of who you look up to or who you’d want to emulate.
Finding a role model means you don’t have to figure out how to be a thought leader. Instead, you simply find someone who’s done it and model both your path and destination after theirs.
Dr. Gabor Mate – Bust Myths About Addiction
Addiction expert, speaker, best-selling author
Trauma’s impact on physical and mental health. Particularly addiction but also ADHD and disease.
6 books, 4 films
Notable Mainstream Appearances
Tim Ferris, TedxRio, London Real, Democracy Now
- Earnestly and openly illustrating his teachings with his own personal stories including his upbringing in Budapest, Hungary during WWII and his mistakes in parenting his kids and in medical practice
- Specializing in addiction – an area nearly every human has been affected by
- Breaks down otherwise complex psychological concepts into understandable bits
Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk – Research Like Hell And Share About It
Adjunct faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
Founder of Trauma Research Institute
4 books, 150 peer reviewed scientific articles
Notable Mainstream Appearances
NPR, New York Times, Time Magazine, Vogue
- A trail-blazer in trauma research
- Shares research findings with the world (not always in a super accessible way but has gained respect of so many therapists, his expertise is a force)
Dr. Richard Schwartz – Spin Your Own Modality And Teach The World
Founder of IFS Institute
Adjunct faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
Developed the IFS model in response to clients’ descriptions of their own parts
5 books, 50 articles
Notable Mainstream Appearances
Tim Ferris, Gabby Bernstein, Esther Perel
- Relatable origination story of how IFS was created – relatable for both therapists who want to learn the modality and clients who can relate to having “parts”
- Ability and willingness to demonstrate IFS in real time
Do You Need To Be A Doctor To Be A Thought Leader?
Looking over this tiny sample of leaders might have you feeling like you also need to teach at Harvard or have years of medical experience under your belt to be a thought leader. But nope. Not true at all.
Thought leaders aren’t necessarily smarter or more educated: they are better at telling stories, better at connecting, and better at being consistently seen.
Simply look towards thought leaders in adjacent spaces and you’ll see many are not doctors. E.g., Brene Brown, Marisa Peer, Esther Perel…
It’s less about your training and more about your ability to craft a brand, get connected, and get out there – consistently. And your ability to offer original-thought-based-solutions to the problems of the masses.
“I’m not a thought leader because I’m too busy helping clients”
First, I am in awe and gratitude to you for being out there doing the work! Literally you make the world a better place every day.
That said, it’s not possible to be both a full time private practice therapist and a full time thought leader.
And thought leadership to this level could very much be a full time job. Between what’s happening “behind the scenes” with any research and content creation you need to do and what needs to be happening in front of many, many audiences – there won’t be a lot of time left to also serve clients one-on-one.
Thought leaders in the trauma space are dedicated to helping the world with their thought leadership.
What might thought leadership include?
- Moving along vital research projects and sharing findings in accessible ways
- Developing and forming a professional community around a modality you create with therapists who are the ones practicing with clients
- Taking a courageous stand in the mainstream to increase compassion for trauma – or a group affected by trauma
- Uncovering knowledge gaps and knowledge needs and filling them
- And more
Thought leaders are making a very different type of impact.
If you focus 95% of your time working in and on your private practice and only 5% of your time on your thought leadership, it is unlikely you will become a thought leader.
How Thought Leaders Make Money
If you are curious about how thought leaders make money, here’s are the types of things that will generate income (instead of working with clients):
- Digital products (courses, webinars, workshops)
Surprisingly, books are not a major driver of income. But they are a major driver of authority and influence. Keep in mind that part of being a thought leader is ruthless dedication to disseminating thoughts – within the mental health community and beyond into the mainstream.
How To Become A Thought Leader In The Trauma Space – Rough Step By Step
- Clarify your message
- What unique insight are you bringing the world?
- What problems are you solving that no one else is?
- What is a perspective that only you have?
- What insight do you have that could answer a question that many people have?
- Connect & build authority
- Create content
- Get in the media
- Form a community / build an audience
- Offer a way to help
- What help is in demand in the community you have formed?
- What help is most aligned with who you are and the impact you want to make?
- Would it align to form an institute to train therapists? Workshops for survivors to safely heal with psychedelics? Etc.
- What is the simplest and easiest way to test out your concept?
- Test and adjust
- Repeat step 2 & 3 again and again until you are a thought leader
It’s of utmost importance that you are able to consistently take action. Staying self aware and identifing your own personal challenges with the process can help you continually find ways to succeed.
Mistake: Thinking You Know All The Answers
Thought leadership is very much a service to others. From day one, it’s about uncovering opportunities for solving human problems in new ways and then consistently sharing those ways with the world.
But many enter into thought leadership believing they already have the answer. “Oh I know exactly what everyone needs” or “I don’t have to try anything out, I already have the answers because I’m an experienced therapist”
Well, confidence is great but no solution is valid until it’s tested at scale. A successful thought leader is willing to take the time to walk through the testing process. Until your solution is tested, whether that be a new modality, a way of sharing an important message, a training that makes practitioners more efficient, whatever – if it’s untested, it’s an informed hypothesis at best.
And that’s ok. You have to start somewhere.
The good news is that those who are willing to be ruthlessly in service of others will also be willing to do whatever it takes to find what works. Service is more important than “already knowing everything.”
Mistake: Not Paying Attention To Building An Audience
The thinking part of thought leadership is only half of what thought leaders do. And arguably, that’s the easy part.
If you are not actively building your audience, you can have the best and most innovative ideas ever but no one will be around you to hear them.
Unfortunately, having good ideas isn’t enough to make the crowds form. Building an audience, forming a community, connecting with others – these are all integral to thought leadership. Without them, you’re not a thought leader, you’re an isolated human with thoughts.
Mistake: Not Healing In Parallel (Aka: You Probably Need To Go To Therapy!)
Thought leadership is not for the faint of heart. It will challenge your nervous system. Are you worthy of getting paid 5k for a speaking engagement? Are the online bullies right when they say you don’t know what you are talking about? Is the way you interpreted your research the right way? Do you even know what you are talking about?
Healing is basically a parallel process to any challenges we may face in life but I believe that entrepreneurship, and especially something like thought leadership, can really push someone to their I-need-to-heal-this-zone.
This is particularly true if you do not want to operate your leadership out of wounds. Not only can that not feel great but it can also limit one’s ability to succeed. Taking care of what comes up for you is kinda a necessary piece of what it takes to make it.
How To Transition All, or Most, Of Your Time To Thought Leadership
If you are currently a private practice therapist wanting to transition into thought leadership, you might be wondering how the transition can happen.
Well, not overnight.
Depending on your unique situation, you may need to start with dedicating whatever you can. It could be as little as a few hours a week.
As you build out your thought leadership brand over time, you will hit multiple inflection points in growth of your brand:
- Your first paid opportunity
- Your first recurring income-generating offer or signature offer
- Your first need for help – hiring assistants
- Your first expansion beyond yourself – hiring therapists to research with you or train others
Somewhere between points 1 & 2 though, you may find you have enough financial security in thought leadership to start reducing or removing clients from your caseload.
Gradually, you make the shift!
Another path to consider is building out your solo practice as a group practice (Esther Perel does this I believe!). That way, you have your private practice as a solid income stream and you add on thought leadership, scaling back your own caseload as your thought leadership ventures grow.
That said, group practice ownership is not for the faint of heart. You will sacrifice some of your own thought leadership growth opportunities in order to manage the group practice. Most likely only high ambition therapists could make it work as it is running two businesses.
Sounds Like A Lot Of Work? But It’s Also Worth It!
So it is a lot of work. I am not saying that becoming a thought leader is a walk in the park. But is it possible? Yes. Totally is.
For therapists who feel making an impact on this level is their calling, the “work” could be a welcome part of the journey.
It’s not just about being up on a stage talking to hundreds of people. It’s also about all that you do to get onto that stage. All of the research, networking. The self-reflection, growth. The failures, successes.
If the path looks like a fun obstacle course, it may be the path and life for you.
If you are a trauma therapist interested in becoming a thought leader, I am actively accepting coaching clients to assist with every step of the way.
That said, I am only a good fit for some therapists. Here are things that my best-fit, thought-leader-to-be clients would say:
- “Once I get clear on what I need to be doing to become a thought leader, I will do it. Right now I don’t know what I need to be doing and could use your expert guidance.”
- “I have a million ideas and I need help prioritizing them so I can get them done in a way that makes sense”
- “Overcoming the challenges on the road ahead excites me. I would say this vision of being a thought leader it’s among the most fulfilling visions in life for me”
- “My commitment level to becoming a thought leader is an enthusiastic 10 (with 10 being the most committed and 1 being the least)”
In other words, I am a good fit coach for highly driven, highly committed, action takers. I am here to fill in the gaps of the knowledge and strategies you need to be a success:
- How to clarify your message
- How to make connections and get in the media
- How to build a highly engaged audience
- How to create an offer your audience actually wants
- How to enjoy the process and celebrate success!
I am also open to the possibility of forming a mastermind group should their be enough interest. Please email me now to express your interest in that: [email protected] Small groups of 3 or 4 meeting bi-monthly are possible.