Therapist Mia Fahlén and taxi driver Haci Demirol. Photo: Brett Ascarelli / Radio Sweden

A taxi ride with a back-seat therapist

"It's like a little bubble in here"
6:34 min

A taxi company in the Swedish capital is offering customers the chance to see a therapist as they get driven from point A to point B. 

For two weeks, the company has run the campaign where customers pay just the ordinary rate for the ride, and if they want, they can have a session with a psychologist thrown in for free. 

Radio Sweden's reporter booked one of these rides. What came to pick her up was an ordinary cab, except for the addition of a cognitive behavioral therapist called Mia Fahlén, sitting in the back seat. One of the first things Fahlén made clear was that a taxi session shouldn't be seen as a "treatment". At her clinic, it generally takes at least a dozen sessions to treat a patient, maybe even double that. By contrast, a taxi ride like this might be over in as little as 20 minutes.

"This is more like guidance conversation, not unlike if you write a question for a psychologist in a newspaper column or if you call in to talk to the radio psychologist to ask a question and hopefully get an answer that will help you get somewhere," Fahlén said.

As for why she decided to participate as one of three therapists, Fahlén said, "The idea was interesting to have a stranger coming into the car with a question that I couldn't – I didn't know, have no idea what would come, and have a limited time to try to help in some direction."

Besides the professional challenge, Fahlén added, "It would be brilliant for me if I could help somebody to find help before the problem is really big."

However, she stressed she was not doing this to get more clients into her ordinary practice, saying, "I don't feel that would be ethically right." She also claimed that the clinic she works for is strapped for time enough as it is and that they have to turn away referrals. 

As for the taxi driver, Haci Demirol, he has a non-disclosure agreement like all the other taxi drivers in this company. He's been doing this for 24 years, and he said this whole idea is nothing new for him: "It feels like someone else is doing the job instead of me. I'm psychologist, therapist, driver, everything!"

But Mia Fahlén jumped in to give her opinion that while Haci Demirol's role is to comfort people and listen to people when they need it, hers is more to push them to make a change.

According to the taxi company, the campaign has been incredibly popular with the media, but some "ordinary" people have also been taking of advantage of it – though, not all the time slots were booked. The two-week campaign ends today, and the company is going to evaluate how it went before deciding whether to offer this service again.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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