Social critics have long lamented America’s descent into a “culture of narcissism,” as Christopher Lasch so lastingly put it fifty years ago. From “first world problems” to political correctness, from the Oprahfication of emotional discourse to the development of Big Pharma products for every real and imagined pathology, therapeutic culture gets the blame. Ask not where the stereotype of feckless, overmedicated, half-paralyzed millennials comes from, for it comes from their parents’ therapist’s couches.
Rethinking Therapeutic Culture makes a powerful case that we’ve got it all wrong. Editors Timothy Aubry and Trysh Travis bring us a dazzling array of contributors and perspectives to challenge the prevailing view of therapeutic culture as a destructive force that encourages narcissism, insecurity, and social isolation. The collection encourages us to examine what legitimate needs therapeutic practices have served and what unexpected political and social functions they may have performed. Offering both an extended history and a series of critical interventions organized around keywords like pain, privacy, and narcissism, this volume offers a more nuanced, empirically grounded picture of therapeutic culture than the one popularized by critics. Rethinking Therapeutic Culture is a timely book that will change the way we’ve been taught to see the landscape of therapy and self-help.