Belgian policy makers and health insurers are concerned about this proliferating consumption and its negative impact on the overall budget for healthcare. To stop the proliferation, it is now believed that introducing healthcare psychologists might solve the problem. The Belgian healthcare system does not yet refund consultations with psychologists who work in close association with general practitioners, but this could change in the near future. There is talk of implementing a network of healthcare psychologists, who, in a limited number of refunded sessions (probably fewer than 5), would tackle patients’ mental health problems differently (providing information, teaching self-management strategies…). And, in turn, pharmaceutical consumption would decrease.

This belief is naïve. It is based on the idea that common mental suffering can be efficiently addressed by providing the medical consumer with a product. Following Lacan’s ideas on the structure of capitalist discourse, such answers might, at first, have an alleviating effect. Yet, in the end, they leave the subject dissatisfied. Capitalist discourse fuels the fantasy that further innovations will solve the problem, or alternatively, gives rise to the nostalgic fiction that in earlier days life was less complicated.

What really is at stake in the crisis of medical overconsumption is the status of the subject. Capitalist discourse aims to help the subject in what it asks. The effect is a never-ending search for innovation. Indeed, this discursive system assumes that subjective dissatisfaction comes down to a demand the market should address. The subject tries to find the key (S1) to its crisis ($) without believing in the Other. The other is merely an instrumental expert with a portfolio of answers (S2).

Psychoanalytic discourse, by contrast, addresses the subject in terms of the fact that it asks. As a ‘friend of crisis’, the Lacanian psychoanalyst assumes that the object a makes up the tragedy of the subject: subjective dissatisfaction cannot be answered or solved, but a response to its insistence might be formulated. In the project of finding such savoir-faire the psychoanalyst can be an instructive partner for the contemporary subject.