Mind your own mind: How therapy app Mindler systematically reinforces digital healthism through technological elements
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In a mission to make mental healthcare more accessible, digital online therapy apps are emerging as an alternative to traditional therapy. One of these apps, Mindler, is gaining popularity in the Netherlands as it promises individuals a quicker and more effective route to professional help. Mindler’s approach of allowing users to choose their own therapist, and book a session for whenever it suits the individual, is carried out in the completely digital environment of their app. This digitisation raises questions on how these digital online therapy apps might reflect, reinforce and shift social structures and understandings about mental healthcare. Building on the notion that within digital technologies are embedded cultural values and ideologies, this thesis explores the way Mindler’s interface and affordances might add to existing understandings and ideologies about health, by systematically analysing the app by using the walkthrough method. In doing this, this thesis focuses on how technical elements reinforce the ideology of digital healthism, which renders the user individually responsible for maintaining or going after “good” mental health. As this approach combines perspectives from new media studies and critical digital health studies, this thesis acts as an example of how scholars from these fields can incorporate theory and methodology from the other field, in order to add more depth and substantiation to their research on digital health technologies. This thesis claims that despite allowing for more accessible mental healthcare, Mindler reinforces digital healthism through its app reflecting the same neoliberal rationality as seems to have caused the defects in traditional therapy to which these digital therapy apps claim to be an alternative.