As an inevitability of living in a world dominated by capitalism, mental health and well being has come to be commodified. Now whether this is good or bad, is a different argument altogether, but one that must be reflected upon nonetheless.
One way in which mental health is turned into an object of trade is when there are campaigns and advertisements that offer psychotherapy sessions as “packages” of ‘n’ sessions that help you fight the “pandemic blues” or “beat anxiety/ depression.” This commercialization of a process presents by not just subtext but, also by definition, clients with a false sense of hope that they can be “cured” or made to feel better within a stipulated period of time.
In actuality, therapy is a laborious process of self-work guided by a facilitator that requires conscious unlearning and learning of new ideas, perspectives and ways of operating. There is no easy solution or remedy when it comes to addressing our selves and our states of existing.
When the therapeutic process is viewed as an object of economic value, it starts to be plagued by the existing follies of the world of business. Capitalist greed, the desire to either expand as a sole proprietor or a corporation, ultimately frays the purpose of the mental health profession. The intersection of mental health with business germinates several ethical qualms that need to be addressed, sooner or later.
The process of commodification also places the mantle of facilitating growth and change on the therapist, which can also be attributed to the power dynamic at play between the therapist and a client. The therapist is viewed as a “manufacturer” of growth while the client assumes a more passive role in the process. This, without having to be reiterated, is simply not how the therapeutic process functions or is supposed to function. Both people in the interaction are expected to participate equally, most times the client more than the therapist.
It is an active and everchanging process, that should never see the therapist as a provider of a product. Another ramification is that the process also becomes mechanized. It almost becomes an algorithm you can follow to get to a certain end result, not very different from a telemarketer reading out of a pre-written script. When such a process is made to be mechanical, the nuances of interacting with another individual, the consequences of the numerous unique experiences they’ve had is largely discounted in order to abide by the existing method that works.
There is a lot more to ponder about, but I am stopping here. I feel the need to present this piece with a disclaimer: These are some reflections I’ve made after having worked briefly in a small and rather exploitative mental health organization which treated mental wellbeing as a product.