A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis of ‘Mental Health Recovery’ Talk

Prof Doc Thesis

Walker, H. 2022. A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis of ‘Mental Health Recovery’ Talk. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8v2wy
AuthorsWalker, H.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Constructions of ‘mental health recovery’ derive from varying discourses and differing philosophical assumptions. ‘Biomedical’ and ‘rehabilitative’ constructs appear to dominate the current literature, practice, and policy. Nonetheless, a critical discourse has emerged which challenges these constructions, their use in policy and their wider implications for understanding psychological distress. This research aimed to explore how ‘mental health recovery’ is being constructed in mental health services by those with a significant responsibility concerning the development and provision of care. The purpose was to gain an understanding of how these different ways of talking about ‘recovery’ are indicative of wider social and political struggles and to enable the exploration of possible ideological ramifications on service provision.
Seven mental health practitioners, holding Band 7 positions and above, were interviewed. A Foucauldian discourse analysis, aligned with a critical realist social constructionist position, was used to analyse the transcripts. Analysis identified four main discursive constructions of ‘mental health recovery’: (1) recovery as being well (2) recovery as an ongoing process (3) recovery as being achieved through pluralism (4) recovery as taking place in the interaction with others. The first two constructions were considered to uphold and privilege dominant understandings of psychological distress and ‘recovery’, with the second two interpreted as a resistance to prevailing power structures. Overall, ‘recovery’s’ use in neoliberal policy and practice is argued as problematic considering participant’s constructions of a subjective, relational, and pluralistic process.

KeywordsMental health recovery; discourse; power; neoliberalism; relational; pluralism; counselling psychology
PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8v2wy
File Access Level
Publication dates
Online18 Oct 2022
Publication process dates
Submitted04 Apr 2022
Deposited19 Oct 2022
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