Working the System: Doing Postmodern Therapies in Aotearoa New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis documents a qualitative research study of twenty postmodern therapy practitioners in Aotearoa New Zealand, focusing on their experiences in the wider field of therapy. The participants were aligned in their subscribing to postmodern critiques of therapy as a instrument of power, and in their interest in, and use of, therapy techniques and approaches that have grown out of those critiques – including narrative therapy, critical psychology, “Just Therapy”, and feminist poststructuralist therapy approaches. I argue that these practitioners represent a social movement within the field of therapy. The thesis examines the nature of the wider therapy field in Aotearoa New Zealand, analysing the perspectives of the participants. I demonstrate how this field has become increasingly dominated by the twin forces of neoliberalism and bio-science, making postmodern therapy work difficult, particularly within public sector services. In the final substantive part of the thesis, I critically examine and appraise the strategies used by participants to negotiate and resist these forces. This discussion is divided into two main chapters, dealing first with the participants who have difficulty in engaging in official politics and who consequently attempt to operate “under the radar” of management surveillance: these participants are characterised as “battlers”, “burn-outs” and “blow-outs”. Then, I turn my attention to the second group of participants – “infiltrators”, “outsiders” and “accepters” – who strategically utilise symbolic capital to pose resistance, or simply leave the public system. I also consider the professed abilities of this second group to cultivate a postmodern sensibility and to tolerate contradiction and compromise. I conclude this investigation of the possibilites for resistance to neoliberal and bio-scientific discourses by recommending greater strengthening of this local postmodern therapy movement.