Disciplining the depressed? Considering contemporary treatments of depression as disciplinary techniques
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This study has many different features just like the object with which it grapples – depression and its treatment. The study can be considered multiple yet singular in the same way depression can. It begins by exploring some of the current conceptualisations of depression and the differing theoretical perspectives held. From here, a brief historical sketch is laid out, examining some of the discontinuities in depression’s history, and highlighting the need to situate depression both socially and historically. The focus then shifts to the contemporary climate surrounding the treatment of depression and to Michel Foucault’s disciplinary techniques. These techniques are used as analytical tools and applied to four current treatments of depression: computerised cognitive behavioural therapy, guided self-help, cognitive behavioural therapy and behavioural activation. The analysis shows that in many ways these treatments do align with, and thus can be considered, disciplinary techniques. This increases the importance of considering issues of politics and power in relation to how people with depression are treated. However, this does not tell the full story; looking solely at disciplinary techniques does not capture the complexity of today’s treatments of depression. In attempting to adopt a conceptual approach that can speak to and complement clinical work, the notion of multiplicity is then discussed as a way of retaining the important insights of Foucault’s work but also attending to the specific clinical practices that make depression what it is today.