Taylor Swift’s new album—The Tortured Poets Department— has been taking the world by storm since its release. This is nothing new for the pop star, as she’s one of the biggest names in the world currently, but this album in particular has garnered more attention than any of her previous. There could be a number of reasons for this, but what I’m most interested in is the impact of this album on society, and the themes that connect it to mental health and how it’s able to showcase itself in the therapeutic space.

Swift has long been known to write songs about her own life—including romantic relationships, heartbreak, loss, joy, and the pressure of being in the public eye. These themes have attracted both criticism and acceptance, much like the artist herself. The Tortured Poets Department (TTPD), more so than her other albums, or eras, has displayed, arguably, more vulnerability than any of her previous works. Within these songs she takes the listener through the past two or so years of her life, bringing us along a journey of pain, hatred, loss, and depression—amongst other themes. While her situations may be unique to her as a billionaire pop star, these themes are shared amongst the general public. Swift has a way of opening the door for others to feel acceptance around these emotions because of her ability to relay thematic struggles experienced by all. Because Swift releases music around these topics, she actively combats the inherent isolation within mental health struggles. Instead, due to her vulnerability, others are now offered permission to combat their own loneliness in these experiences and to embrace vulnerability within connection.

 The other power that Swift possesses, as she shares these difficult emotions within her songs, is the use of her status as a global icon, offering further de-stigmatization of these themes and mental illness. Swift is one of the biggest names in the world, her tour receiving more revenue than any in history, and consistently breaking sales records for her albums. She is constantly in the public eye, whether that be at football games, with her significant other, or out on her own doing press for her album or tour. Due to this saturation of her in the media, her monetary status, and overwhelming success—she is often viewed as someone who has it all going for her; or someone who has their life together with no flaws. This album goes directly against that idea, as within the song “I can do it with a broken heart,” Swift alludes to the fact that she had severe depression during the moments when she was smiling and performing on history’s largest grossing, most popular tour. This idea can teach others that even if it seems like someone has everything going for them, there’s so much more happening beneath the surface. It’s also a reminder that striving for perfection in life is an impossible task, as someone who maybe seems like she could have a perfect life, really vulnerably shares that she doesn’t, and that she also struggles.

 Swift’s idea of albums defining eras of her life is also a beautiful example of accepting all of one’s emotions as being part of who someone is, without it becoming one’s identity. The idea of albums as eras of someone’s life allows for acceptance of lived experience without it becoming a full representation of who someone is. This connects with the therapeutic space as it combines with the idea that someone’s trauma, experience, or emotions do not define their identity, but can instead be something to be understood and processed. Another way of viewing this is that someone is not their depression, they are simply someone who has depression. This alleviates the burden of viewing oneself in the light of something so heavy. With TTPD especially, Swift is able to show this idea of eras and identity, and also accepting really hard feelings. Again, this album captures vulnerable, dark themes and emotions, and yet Swift doesn’t shy from emoting them. This provides an outlet and catharsis for others to name, acknowledge, and accept their equally difficult parts and emotions.