Taking care of business: Psychologist self-care in a neoliberal age

Julia Stiles, Rachael Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Psychological practice is complex and demanding, particularly for rural-remote practitioners, and occupational risks of clinical practice are expected to be managed through ongoing professional self-care. This is widely positioned as the personal responsibility of individual clinicians, yet it has public implications given psychologists’ role in national mental health strategies. That social risk is transferred from state to individual arguably reflects a neoliberal rationality that holds the individual accountable, leaving structural conditions unquestioned. This study adopts a post-structural framework and Foucault’s concept of governmentality to consider self-care in light of neoliberal political power. It investigates how neoliberal discourse constructs the way self-care is understood and enacted by clinical and generally registered psychologists working in rural-remote organisations. Interviews with 8 registered rural psychologists are examined using Foucauldian discourse analysis. Neoliberal discourses of the rational, autonomous, responsibilised subject are (re)produced in ways that both enable and constrain self-care practices. As a technology of neoliberal governmentality, professional self-care encourages clinicians to shape themselves to meet the demands of the market, with particular consequences for rural-remote clinicians. Moments of resistance and counter-discourses open possibilities for alternative understandings and practices of professional self-care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-53
Number of pages24
JournalAustralian Community Psychologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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