13 Questions With Dr Julie Smith

Dr Julie Smith is a Clinical Psychologist who shares bite-sized mental health and motivational videos online, she has amassed over 2 million TikTok followers and aims to help the masses with her creative content.

First of all, how are you and how are you coping in lockdown?

I am well. Lockdown has been a busy time for me, juggling both parenting and working from home, like so many others across the country. I am grateful that schools have been able to stay open this time. It gives the children a sense of normality as well as parents.

Talk us through your journey online and what you’re getting up to at the moment?

What an adventure it has been! In therapy, I have an hour to talk people through these concepts. On social media, I often have just 30 seconds. That forced me to strip away any jargon that wasn’t absolutely necessary to the message and get creative making it as engaging as possible. Throughout the 2020 lockdowns, it has felt like an online family of people all being hugely supportive of each other. Of course, the second lockdown has added difficulties of autumn weather and darker evenings that can really get people down. So I have continued sharing any tips that may help. I’ve also been able to spread the word further on programmes like the Radio 1 Life Hacks.

What did you study to become a psychologist?

To become a clinical psychologist I first completed an undergraduate BSc Psychology degree and then, after gaining experience working in research and mental health, completed a further Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. After that, I worked in a range of mental health services, from crisis teams and intensive care wards to primary care before starting my private practice.

When and why did you decide to start putting your learnings on social media?

This time last year I started on my social media journey and it’s been a rollercoaster! In my work as a psychologist, I was providing individual therapy. One aspect of therapy involves teaching people a bit about how their mind works and some of the ways we can manage emotions and mood changes.

I noticed that lots of people, once they had that information, felt empowered to manage their own mental health much more. But I didn’t see why people should have to pay to see a therapist to get access to this sort of education. So I started making a few short videos and putting them on social media.

I didn’t expect people to respond in the way that they have. But 12 months later and I now have 2.3 million followers on Tiktok and 267,000 followers on Instagram. The incredible feedback from everyone has kept me going. As long as real people are finding real value in the videos, then I will keep going.

What is your favourite platform to create content for at the moment?

Wow, that’s a difficult one. I have absolutely loved getting creative on Tiktok, especially during that first lockdown. But I’m also excited by the chance to now explore that with reels on Instagram. I would love to make some slightly longer, more detailed videos for IGTV too.

What does your content cover?

I share lots of insights and tips from therapy that can help all of us to understand a bit more about how our minds work and how to look after our mental health day to day. But there is more to psychology than mental health and I love to share some of the classic experiments and mind-blowing illusions that tell us something about our brains. I recently shared a video on something called the Thatcher effect and people loved watching it and sharing it with their friends. It was viewed over 30 million times so it looks like I’m not the only one who is fascinated by the human brain.

You’re huge on TikTok, what do you think is the key to success there?

I think short and snappy content that engages people from the very first moment. People love to see something that they can relate to or share with their friends. But the second that people don’t feel absorbed by a video, it’s all too easy to scroll on. So whatever your message, it must be engaging.

What would you say is your biggest achievement to date?

People might expect me to say something about my career, and I am proud of many achievements along the way. But for me, without a doubt, my biggest achievement continues to be showing up for my three children every day. The challenges of parenting constantly change but the close bond I have with each of them means everything to me.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on designing more resources to help people put some of the concepts and skills into practice, so keep an eye out for that in the near future. I’ve also been able to get involved in a few projects with the BBC. I can’t reveal anything just yet, but keep an eye on my Instagram to find out soon.

What do you always carry with you?

A mother of three would not be caught anywhere without a packet of wet wipes! But I’m guessing you are looking for something more interesting than that. Honestly, I carry as little as possible. I recently bought a micro scooter that is my new favourite thing. I love to whiz around town on it. Nothing brings out the kid in you like a scooter. But that means you need your hands free so mostly, it’s just me and my phone.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

It would include my three babies, husband and our little dog, Millie. We love letting the three of them choose a weekend adventure. That could involve building a den in the woods, jumping in puddles, paddling in the sea, or dancing around the kitchen to our favourite music. It’s all heaven to me. My work becoming so busy this year has given me a solid appreciation and gratitude for the time I spend with them and a determination to be present when it counts.

If you could only eat one meal again what would it be?

I found myself overthinking this one as if I would have to really commit to it. But, I love Japanese style food with vegetables and noodles in some sort of ramen type of meal. Waggamamas is a solid favourite.

If you could give one positive message to our followers what would it be?

Treat your mental health with the same priority that you give to your physical health. Always be looking for ways to enhance your wellbeing and resilience. You never know when it will be challenged. Don’t wait for things to disrupt it before taking care of yourself.

Follow Dr Julie on Instagram here and TikTok here!