ICS Seminar - 8 June 2023

Exploring young adults’ digital practices, mental health and therapy culture

Presenter: Natalie Ann Hendry

Discussant: Naomi Smith

Chair:  Deborah Stevenson


While the COVID-19 pandemic reinvigorated calls from practitioners and advocates to improve psychotherapy access through social media, we also saw renewed anxieties about social media as a cultural force that potentially misdirects young adults toward psycho(patho)logical framing for seemingly everyday encounters. Much of the popular debate in Australia focused on whether mental health-related content on social media was clinically accurate or trustworthy. Yet this ignores other important questions concerning the relationship between therapy culture, wellbeing practices and digital media, and the pedagogical role of media for therapy.

This paper considers this therapeutic subjectivity and how young adults learn through digital cultures. I discuss a digital ethnography project studying how Australian young adults engage with psychotherapy and therapy-related content on social media. I examine how digital media, including podcasts, social media and messaging platforms and messaging platforms contribute to the work of therapy in complex, often laborious, and sometimes unpredictable ways. Here, I argue that much of the educative work of therapy exists beyond the psychotherapy relationship or therapy room; digital media stand in as therapists between appointments.


Dr Natalie Ann Hendry is a Senior Lecturer in Youth Wellbeing, with the YouthResearch Collective, in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, at The University of Melbourne. Her interdisciplinary research draws on education, critical health and media studies to explore how digital cultures shape health and learning. She is the co-author of Tumblr, with Katrin Tiidenberg and CrystalAbidin, published by Polity Press in 2021.

Event Details

Date & Time: 8 June 2023 | 11:30 am - 1:00 pm

Venue: Zoom + Room: EA.G.18, Parramatta South Campus