In the last thirty years, humanitarian programmes have increasingly sought to preserve not only physical life and health, but also to address psychological needs and promote social well-being. This growing prioritisation of psychological issues in humanitarian settings can be seen in the development of new types of assistance efforts, described by the umbrella term “mental health and psychosocial” (MHPSS). However, mental health and psychosocial programmes have been widely criticised, and the MHPSS field marked by intense debate.In this paper, the author defines international therapeutic governance and describes research by Vanessa Pupava onpsychosocial programming as being homogenising, pathologising, controlling and depoliticising. Assimilating and synthesising Pupavac’s critique, the paper creates a four-fold evaluative framework and then analyses its critical utility.
It goes on to to analyse current practice as represented by the 2007 IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support.The author argues that practitioners have made significant progress in moving toward a culturally-appropriate and empowering model of psychosocial programming within humanitarian interventions, although individual programmes would still benefit from situation-specific evaluation. She finds that the 2007 IASC Guidelines have addressed Pupavac’s critiques of homogenisation and pathologisation. However, there remains the potential for MHPSS programmes to contribute to the controlling and depoliticising nature of broader humanitarian programming.