Psychotherapy on wheels

If you’re not sure how to fill your time during those dull taxi rides, how about getting some therapy en route to your destination? Stockholm Taxi thinks that its a good idea and kicked off a week-long pilot programme that will have a certified therapist riding alongside you in the taxi, talking you through all your problems.

According to a company spokesperson, in Sweden “around 70% of people said their taxi journeys were a good time for reflection and that they often found their minds wandering”. And it is not uncommon for taxi drivers to lend a sympathetic ear to troubled passengers, so this project is simply putting a trained professional in the back seat so that the driver can concentrate on the road. With the winter season already creeping in and the winter blues skulking right behind it, it is the perfect time to conduct the ‘trial’.

Winter depression is a real problem (something we Automologists in perpetually sunny Malaysia cannot really empathise); Stockholm gets only about five hours of daylight and the temperature can drop to -20°C. But, how much good can an abbreviated therapy session achieve? According to one of the psychologists involved in the project, Mia Fahlen, even a 10-minute trip could provide immeasurable value. More people live alone in Sweden compared to the rest of Europe, and thus “a lot of people are lonely,” Fahlen said. Meanwhile, the taxi driver will be a non-participative audience who is bound to secrecy by a non-disclosure agreement.

There is a tiny problem, though – the company engaged only three therapists during the test run, and the sad but true fact is that everyone (and that includes every taxi passenger) has problems. But the good news is that if you manage to book one of the therapists to come along for your taxi ride, her service is free; one of them shared that a regular session with her would typically cost around 1,200 kroner (US$160) per hour.

Of course, considering the costs, the need for trained therapists and complicated logistics, this seems likely to be short-term marketing gimmick rather than a bona fide ‘trial’. But when asked whether this was simply a ploy to counter Uber, which is incredibly popular in Sweden where public transport, like everything else, is very expensive, the company says that it does not consider the controversial smartphone-app service as a threat and that “as long as everyone is playing by the same rules then we’re happy to have the competition on the roads.”


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