Track 1.3: Therapeutic Networks: Theorizing a New Lens for Transformative Consumer Research

The purpose of this track is to develop the transformative potential of a therapeutic network theory. Prior research has revealed how therapeutic communities (Moisio and Beruchashvili 2010, Tian et al. 2014) and therapeutic servicescapes (Higgins and Hamilton 2019) can positively impact consumer well-being. Other research has acknowledged how therapeutic experiences manifest in a range of consumption contexts, from art (Bettany 2022) to dog-walking, (Carr et al. 2021), to the natural health marketplace (Thompson 2008). Our track seeks to build on this work by exploring how spaces, places, experiences, and practices converge to comprise a therapeutic network. This is a particularly timely topic for the post-COVID context, where loneliness is increasing around the world (see Dahlberg 2021), and people are turning to the growing wellness marketplace seeking salves for life’s ills (Hess 2020). Even in conventional medicine, “social prescribing” of dance classes, creative writing, walking groups and other activities regarded as therapeutic, is an increasing response to the challenges of widespread poor mental health (Wiseman 2022).


Our track activities will explore whether a therapeutic network lens is helpful in understanding consumer well-being and access to well-being. We are interested in the potential of therapeutic networks to dissolve boundaries by bringing together consumers and service providers, formal and informal stakeholders, self-care and community care. We are equally interested in how boundaries or tensions may manifest in a therapeutic network, exploring who and what is included/excluded in therapeutic networks and how they may be governed. In developing the transformative potential of therapeutic networks, we hope our framing will be useful to organisations developing therapeutic interactions and to individuals seeking to improve their own health and well-being. The track chairs have collaborated on a number of TCR projects and publications; we lead the Academy of Marketing Special Interest Group Consumer Research with Impact for Society (CRIS), and have significant experience in creating social impact. We invite participants with expertise or interest in aspects of health, well-being and therapeutic consumption who are keen to both develop theory and use theory to create meaningful transformations for consumers and social impact organisations. 


For queries related to this track, please email: Susan Dunnett at  

To apply to this track, please email a Research Vision to Susan Dunnett at  


Track Plans
Pre-conference preparations will focus on setting a foundation for theory-building and collaborative working, and will include:


  • Setting up a shared folder bringing together key resources from TCR (and related disciplines) to develop understanding of relevant theory and concepts.
  • Developing an ethics of care approach to our collaboration by drawing on the learnings of recent CRIS Collective work. This will include a guided pre-conference activity where each participant will map and reflect on their own therapeutic network. 
  • Using our networks to identify practitioner mentors from the health, advocacy and social support sectors who would act as a sounding board to ensure the work has transformational potential. 

The conference sessions will begin with lightning presentations from each participant to share reflections on their own therapeutic network map and understandings of the conceptual domain. Our discussions will then focus on defining the therapeutic network lens and mapping out its features and boundaries. We will then identify contexts where such a lens could create social impact to conduct case studies after the conference. Following the conference, we will apply our theorization to a range of case studies to explore its social impact in different TCR contexts. Our goal is to create social impact in and for our case study organisations and to develop a collaborative publication that would bring the therapeutic network lens to the TCR community. We welcome all interested scholars and practitioners to this track. 


Bettany, Shona (2022), “Doing marketing differently: an artnography of cathartic consumption in trauma,” Journal of Marketing Management, DOI: 10.1080/0267257X.2022.2070238
Carr, D., Friedmann, E., Gee, N.R., Gilchrist, C., Sachs-Ericsson, N. and Koodaly, L., 2021. Dog walking and the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on loneliness in older adults. Animals, 11(7), p.1852.
Dahlberg, L. (2021), “Loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Aging & Mental Health, 25(7), pp.1161-1164.
Hess, A. (2020, April 6). Our health is in danger: Wellness wants to fill the void. The New York Times.
Higgins, Leighanne and Kathy Hamilton (2019) “Therapeutic Servicescapes and Market-Mediated Performances of Emotional Suffering,” Journal of Consumer Research, 45, 6, pp. 1230-1253.
Moisio, Risto and Mariam Beruchashvili (2010), “Questing for Well-being at Weight Watchers: The Role of the Spiritual-Therapeutic Model in a Support Group,” Journal of Consumer Research, 36 (February), 857-75.
Thompson, Craig (2003), “Natural Health Discourses and the Therapeutic Production of Consumer Resistance,” The Sociological Quarterly, 44(1), 81-107
Tian, Kelly, Pookie Sautter, Derek Fisher, Sarah Fischbach, Cuauhtemoc Luna-Nevarez, Kevin  Boberg, Jim Kroger, and Richard Vann (2014), “Transforming Health Care: Empowering Therapeutic Communities through Technology-Enhanced Narratives,” Journal of Consumer Research, 41 (August), 237-60.  
Wiseman, Eva (2022), “Better ways to get better: the radical GP changing lives,” The Guardian,


Track Chair Bios


Susan Dunnett is a Senior Lecturer at University of Edinburgh. Her research focusses on consumer vulnerability, in particular: healthcare systems, social support, stigma and illness/health experience. Current projects are impact-driven and funded by the ESRC, exploring resilience in people living with cancer and the mental health experiences of widening participation students in elite Universities. Her work has been published in Journal of Public Policy and Marketing; Journal of Business Research; Journal of Macromarketing; Psychology and Marketing and Journal of Marketing Management. Susan is a co-chair of the Academy of Marketing’s Consumer Research with Impact for Society (CRIS) group with Kathy Hamilton, Emma Banister and Maria Piacentini. 

Kathy Hamilton is Professor in Consumption, Markets and Society at University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Her research focuses on how market-mediated culture impacts consumers, institutions and society, and she prioritises research that has a transformative impact on consumer well-being. Kathy’s most recent project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, explores the emplaced nature of transformative service delivery and how well-being is enacted through the construction of space. Kathy is interested in interdisciplinary research and her work has been published in Journal of Consumer Research, Sociology, Journal of Marketing Management, Annals of Tourism Research and European Journal of Marketing.  

Maria Piacentini is Professor of Consumer Research at Lancaster University Management School and Director of the Centre for Health Futures at Lancaster. Maria is a qualitative social science researcher, and her research focuses on vulnerable consumers coping with difficult marketplaces. Maria’s research has been funded by UKRI (NERC; ESRC), the British Academy, Barnardo’s, and the European Foundation for Alcohol Research. Maria’s work has been published in Journal of Business Research, European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Management, Marketing Theory and Sociology. She is co-editor of Consumer Vulnerability: Conditions, Contexts and Characteristics (Routledge, 2016) and co-author of Consumer Behaviour (Oxford University Press, 3rd Ed. 2022). 

Emma Banister is Professor of Consumption and Society at University of Manchester and a member of the Work and Equalities Institute. Her research focuses on issues of identity and consumer culture and in particular the potentially exclusionary nature of the market. Emma is particularly interested in the family-work interface and associated inequalities. Her work has been published in a number of journals including Sociology, Sociological Review, Sociology of Health & Illness, Marketing Theory, Journal of Business Research, European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Management and Consumption Markets & Culture.


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