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Someone to talk to: public views and experiences of emotional support

Does Britain have an emerging 'therapy culture', characterised by increasing recourse to formal emotional support, such as counselling and self-help groups? If not, how do people address difficulties in their emotional lives? Despite academic theorising about the 'rise of therapy culture' and the increasing policy attention to matters of mental well-being, very little empirical information is available in this area. The aim of this study is to provide theoretically-informed, policy-relevant, rigorous empirical data on public views and experiences of formal and informal emotional support and the role of 'emotions talk' in relation to each.

The research will use the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey to measure views and experiences of emotional support across the population as a whole and map variations across different sub-groups. The survey will also be used to identify individuals with particular beliefs or experiences to take part in detailed qualitative follow-up interviews. These will explore issues such as: the role and importance of talking relative to other forms of support; the basis on which people feel able to place 'emotional trust' in others; and how views and experiences of emotional support may have changed over time, both for individuals and for society more generally.