In medical therapeutics, exoskeleton refers to external protections, supports, and appliances. By analogy, psychosocial exoskeletons can be envisioned as assistive psychological and social structures that brace and extend individuals' coping abilities. This article considers the utility of defining “psychosocial exoskeletons” as a framework to encompass psychological and social devices that enhance coping, and “therapeutic psychosocial exoskeletons” as devices assisting psychiatric treatment. Clinical observations were augmented via selective narrative review using PubMed and PsychInfo.
A range of psychological and social devices were identified that constitute psychosocial exoskeletons. In extremes, psychosocial exoskeletons may prescribe comprehensive lifestyles including dress, rites, taboos, and acceptable relationships. These devices may enhance normal or psychopathological development.
Therapeutic psychosocial exoskeletons consist of intentionally prescribed psychotherapeutic and sociotherapeutic interventions assembled to address patient-centered problems. Elements may include counseling and psychotherapies, peer-based recovery programs, institutional programs, and social interventions involving financial assistance, supported employment, pets, and other practical resources.