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Richards, B. Brown, J. (2011). Media as Drivers of the Therapeutic Trend?. Free Associations, 12(2):18-30.

(2011). Free Associations, 12(2):18-30

Media as Drivers of the Therapeutic Trend?

Barry Richards and Joanne Brown

Building upon their earlier analysis of therapeutic culture, the authors consider whether the increasing mediatisation of everyday life may be a source of and support for what they see as core elements to the therapeutic: emotional expressivity, reflexivity and concern for the other. Do some areas of contemporary media consumption increase our awareness of and tolerance for the anxieties and conflicts of the ordinary inner world, and how might we answer this question?

Theorists differ in their opinions as to whether a therapeutic trend in popular culture is positive or negative, but there is nevertheless agreement about the emergence of a therapeutic culture. In this paper the authors argue that the television series Mad Men dramatises the first signs of the therapeutic trend taking root in the ‘affluent society’, and they highlight the role of advertising in that process. They point to the wide and still growing popularity, across different broadcast genres, of narratives of interiority which might provide an audience space in which some autobiographical interpretive work can be done. The normalisation of psychic damage and repair amongst celebrities and public figures on the media stage may also contribute to this resource. While acknowledging that the mediatisation of everyday life does not always represent therapeutic values, or facilitate the development of them, the authors also ask whether the ‘compressed’ world of multi-media can offer the potential for increased contact with different parts of one's own and another's mind, without which increasing self-knowledge or improved capacities for relating would be hard to achieve.

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