About Leah: Leah R. Honarbakhsh graduated Summa Cum Laude from Florida Atlantic University with her BA in English, with a focus on writing and rhetoric. She joined Counselor magazine in 2013 as an associate editor, and has been the managing editor for a couple of years. Ms. Honarbakhsh is also a freelance writer and editor, and plans to continue her education by eventually pursuing a master’s degree in library and information sciences. An avid reader and practitioner of yoga, she enjoys film, traveling, and spending time with her two cats, Wolfie and Katniss. Ms. Honarbakhsh is working on getting a lifestyle blog started, which will focus on health, wellness, adoption-related issues, and her personal experiences of living with sickle cell disease. She resides in South Florida, where she has lived most of her life.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] When, why, and by whom was this blog initially started?
[Leah Honarbakhsh] The blog was started in 2010 by the former Editor-in-Chief of Counselor, Stephanie Muller, in order to increase attendance at U.S. Journal Training, Inc. conferences and subscribers to the magazine. She wrote the initial blog post, which is dated January 28, 2010, but was unable to dedicate regular posts with all the other duties Counselor required. I learned this from my colleague Marcus Titus, who has been with the company in various capacities since 2007. I joined the company in 2013 to work on Counselor, and the blog was already up and running on our current website.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What do you hope to achieve by maintaining Counselor?
[Leah Honarbakhsh]Counselor’s aim is to reach out to professionals in the fields of addiction and behavioral health, to present them with content they will find engaging, relevant, and ultimately informational. Our articles and columns are written by professionals in the field for professionals in the field, and provide information on new treatments, methods of therapy, advice, cultural and spiritual considerations, and industry news. By maintaining Counselor, we hope to be the foremost source for both experts and those new to the field on all issues related to the treatment of addiction and behavioral health issues.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What do you think is the most important message that people with addictions need to hear, and how does your blog communicate that message?
[Leah Honarbakhsh] I feel it’s important for me to mention that I’m not personally in recovery, and I’ve been lucky in that my family has been untouched by this epidemic. However, through my over four years of work with Counselor, through meeting people in recovery and hearing their stories, and through engaging so much with those working in the industry and the fields of addiction and behavioral health, I’ve learned that there’s such a large community of people who make it their life’s work to aid those suffering from addiction. So, I believe the most important message people suffering from addiction need to hear is that they’re not alone, that recovery is attainable, and that there are so many people willing to help them get there.
The addiction field has the data, has the numbers, and has the recovery stories to prove that it’s possible, and our blog reflects that. The contributors—experts from the addiction and behavioral health fields—share their knowledge not only for our print magazine readership of professionals, but to anyone who comes across our website searching for answers and community. For example, Dr. O’Gorman’s posts always focus on helping women break out of the toxic self-talk that’s so common for so many of us. She shares personal stories and stories of other (oftentimes powerful and famous) women who deal with the same struggles to say, “You’re not alone. We go through this too.”
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] The blog includes regular contributions by several experts on addiction. How do you choose your bloggers?
[Leah Honarbakhsh] When we’re looking at potential bloggers, we look at their credentials, what their areas of expertise are, and what professional agencies they’re affiliated with (if any). We ask for a list of topics they’re interested in writing about so we can get a general idea of whether it’ll be a good fit for the blog based on writers and topics we already have covered. We also ask questions about their posting frequency, whether they’re familiar with our platform (WordPress), and whether the content they plan on posting will be original and only posted to our blog, which is one of our requirements. If we feel like a new blogger will add something different topic-wise, present interesting content for a variety of readers, and post regularly, we’ll add them to our website.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Your blog is one of very few on our list that are associated with a print magazine. What differences do you notice between print and online media in terms of the volume and kind of reader engagement you see?
[Leah Honarbakhsh] The kind of engagement is where the main difference is, I think. We have people at U.S. Journal Training, Inc.’s nationwide conferences who receive Counselor magazine, and they’re always telling us how much they enjoyed a specific issue or article, or how they’d like to see us focus more on one topic or another. We get connected with a lot of new contributors that way as well. It’s great to have face-to-face interactions with professionals in the field who love the magazine and tell us why they like it.
But online media has so much more of a reach, so we’re getting feedback on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter from people all over the world, and not necessarily only people who work in the field. Some of these people may be in recovery and looking to connect with others in the community while others may be studying to be LCSWs, CSATs, LPCs, and looking for networking opportunities. Some may be PhDs and noted names in the field who are looking to get their newest research published in our magazine. The engagement online is vaster and more diverse.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Does the content you publish in print have any influence on what you publish on the blog? Do conversations sometimes continue between the two media?
[Leah Honarbakhsh] The content we publish in print certainly affects what we publish on the blog. We make sure that our bloggers know our audience and gear their posts towards issues that are relevant to not only professionals in the field, but also to people with addiction issues and their families. At the moment there’s no real avenue of dialogue between content in the print magazine and content on the blog. Contributors like Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S, focus strictly on one topic (in his case, issues related to sexuality and sex addiction) and have written articles on that topic in the magazine, but nothing directly related to his blog posts.
This is something we’ve been looking to change, however, in order to bring more traffic to the website and the blog itself—we believe in what we do, in the information we share, and want to make sure we’re reaching as many people as possible. We’ve thought about posting the first part of an article in the magazine and featuring the second part on our blog so readers are directed to the resources we have on the website. I’m hoping we’ll get that rolling sometime soon.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Is there anything else you’d like to add?
[Leah Honarbakhsh] I’d just like to say that it’s an honor to be recognized for the work Counselor does in bringing together professionals in the field of addiction and behavioral health and sharing their knowledge. Our blog is a growing part of what we do online, and we’re so happy to be featured in your list of Mental Health Blogs. I hope it’ll help us reach more people.
Thank you, Leah! Learn more about Counselor Magazine’s Blog on our Counseling Blogs list.