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Reworking therapeutic landscapes : the spatiality of an 'alternative' self-help group.

Laws, Jennifer (2009) 'Reworking therapeutic landscapes : the spatiality of an 'alternative' self-help group.', Social science & medicine., 69 (12). pp. 1827-1833.


Since Gesler first introduced the concept in 1992, the language of ‘therapeutic landscapes’ has attained a core position in the toolkit of health/place studies. Whilst many authors using the term acknowledge that therapeutic landscapes are often also spaces of contestation, few if any have extended this to incorporate a serious critique of therapy itself. In this article, I use the case study of an ‘alternative’ psychiatric survivor (self-help) group in the north of England to attempt just this. Based on a ten month period of ethnography, I engage with the spaces – meeting places and venues – occupied by the group, focusing on the dilapidated and reputedly dangerous city park where the group hosts its most regular meetings. Three qualities of these spaces were found to be particularly embraced by the group: spaces of agency and appropriation; a space in the world; and a non-technical relation with space. The article uses these three themes to explore how the unconventional spaces of the group are not mere products of marginality but a serious aspect of mobilising the dissident and ‘anti-psychiatric’ recovery sought by its members. Through attending to what the survivors found helpful in the park, a more sensitive rendition of ‘anti-psychiatry’ as it relates to the group is developed. The therapeutic landscapes framework as put forward by Gesler retains currency in highlighting the importance of place to the processes and identity of the group. However, it is also suggested that the ‘dissident topophilias’ of the survivors express a critique of current therapeutic landscapes thinking, challenging the supposition that it is the planned, the pleasant and the professional that provide the best backdrops for recovery.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Therapeutic landscapes, Psychiatric survivorship, Talking therapies, Self-help, Mental health.
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Publisher statement:NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Social science & medicine. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Social science & medicine, 69, 12, 2009, 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.09.034
Record Created:29 Aug 2012 15:20
Last Modified:04 Sep 2012 10:58

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