Social therapeutics is a philosophically informed, practically oriented method in which human beings are related to as creators of their culture and ensemble performers of their lives. Originally developed by Fred Newman as a radical psychotherapy in the1970s, it has evolved into a practical human development methodology with broad application across the life span, cultures and environments. It is the basis for dozens of social interventions that bring the social therapeutic understanding of learning and development to therapy offices, clinics, hospitals, classrooms, after-school programs, workplaces, and communities worldwide.
Located within the postmodern and cultural-historical activity theory movements in psychology, psychotherapy and education, social therapeutics contributes to the theoretical work of scholars and researchers working to create new more humane and transformative psychological practice and method. Its on-the-ground effectiveness in supporting the social-emotional growth of people of all ages and backgrounds is a challenge to mainstream psychological thought and the educational, therapeutic, and youth, community and organizational development practices that are based on it.
Social therapeutics focuses on social growth and collective creativity, not on individualized pathology or particularized problem solving. It is a psychology that relates to all people as active and responsible creators and re-creators of social-cultural-emotional life (or, as Fred Newman and I like to say, as revolutionary — with a small r — performers).
Some Important Concepts
- Development doesn’t happen to us—we create it.
- We can continue to develop throughout our lives and throughout the extended lives of our communities and of our species.
- There are no predetermined stages of development; we create our stages for development.
- Creating new emotions is what we mean by emotional development.
The Group Develops
- Building groups that create new things together is the activity of development. It is the building of the group that is developmental.
- Groups that bring different kinds of people together have a better chance of generating development than homogeneous groups.
- Performance is the human ability to simultaneously be who we are and who we are not/who we are becoming.
- Performing is how we learn and develop—not only as babies but throughout life.
- We have the capacity to create new performances of ourselves. The point is to exercise it.
- If you can perform on stage you can perform in life.
- Performance is an ensemble/group/social activity. You can’t do it alone.
For more information see the Training page