Student wellbeing and the therapeutic turn in education Academic Article uri icon


  • This article considers current concerns with promoting student mental health and wellbeing against the backdrop of critiques of the ‘therapeutic turn’ in education. It begins by situating accounts of ‘therapeutic education’ within broader theorisation of therapeutic culture. In doing so, the importance of this work is acknowledged, but key assumptions are questioned. The emergence of concerns about self-esteem and wellbeing are then examined through an analysis of changing educational aims in Australia. This enables consideration of the broader context for policy reforms and emergent ideas about the importance of fostering wellbeing and attending to the social and emotional aspects of learning. Finally, the article argues for the salience of historicising both educational policy and scholarly critiques of therapeutic education in order to: (1) situate the contemporary emphasis on student wellbeing within a longer history of educational reforms aimed at supporting young people; (2) unsettle taken-for-granted ways in which mental health and wellbeing are currently foregrounded in contemporary schooling; and (3) develop new perspectives on the therapeutic turn in education.

publication date

  • 2014