The Therapeutic Turn : How psychology altered Western culture book cover
1st Edition

The Therapeutic Turn
How psychology altered Western culture

ISBN 9781138018693
Published June 2, 2014 by Routledge
204 Pages

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Book Description

In what ways has psychology become more influential in Western society? In this book author Ole Jacob Madsen considers the notion of a ‘Therapeutic Turn’ in Western culture – the tendency for psychology to permeate ever new spheres within society.

The Therapeutic Turn evaluates the increasing prevalence of psychology in several areas of Western society: Western consumer culture, contemporary Christianity, self-help, sport and politics. Madsen proposes that there are problematic aspects to this development which are seldom recognised due to a widely held assumption that ‘the more psychology, the better for everyone’. A recurring concern with psychological solutions is that they often provide individual solutions to structural problems. As a result, psychologists may be inadvertently increasing the burden on the shoulders of the people they are meant to help and, at the same time, our capacity to understand individual suffering in the light of major historical and political changes in society is becoming increasingly clouded.

The Therapeutic Turn presents an accessible and engaging critique of the influence of psychology within Western society. It will appeal to a broad audience of students, academics and lay readers interested in this aspect of modernity and contemporary society, and it will also be of great interest to practitioners and therapists.

Table of Contents

1: Introduction 2: The consumer self 3: Crisis of authority: Philip Rieff’s critique of Freud’s worldview 4: Psychology and religion Interlude: Psychology in crisis? 5: The self-help culture 6: Psychology and sports 7: Psychology and neoliberalism 8: The psychology profession’s ethos 9: Conclusion

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Ole Jacob Madsen is Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Oslo, Norway. His primary field of research interest is the unfolding of ‘the therapeutic culture’ in Scandinavia and consequent new societal ethical dilemmas facing professional psychologists.


"This book is a masterful exposition of "the therapeutic turn" taken by our consumer society. Ole Jacob Madsen demonstrates how psychology infiltrates its every corner. Although psychology greatly influences the present, it is unable to understand its own operations due to its inherent individualism. This book will help the reader understand both psychology and contemporary society, and the relation between them." - Svend Brinkmann, Professor of Psychology, University of Aalborg, Denmark

"This book builds and expands upon elements of what has come to be known as Critical Psychology. Its originality lies in its analysis of the pervasive and insidious bleed of psychological ideology through the fabric of western culture. It will be welcomed by postgraduate students in psychology and social work, and in affiliated ‘helping’ and health profession courses." - Ian Law, General Manager Client Services, Relationships Australia

"Its exposure of psychology to political scrutiny makes it significant reading for trainee and practising counselling and clinical psychologists, and for counsellors and psychotherapists interested in considering the limitations and distortions of the profession." - Colin Feltham, Therapy Today

"In this largely sociological account, Madsen frames the emergence of therapeutic culture as a substitute for the displaced wisdoms of religion, making it an indispensable feature of (late) modernity. But given its complementary relationship to a now hegemonic neoliberal rationality – Madsen defines the neoliberal ideal as "You shall govern yourself" (p 109) – the ideological bias of the therapeutic ethos is obvious... The therapeutic turn is essential reading" — Wahbie Long, Psychology is Society