Creating a Space for Recovery-Focused Psychiatric Nursing Care

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Within contemporary mental health-care, power relationships are regularly played out between psychiatric nurses and service users. These power relationships are often imperceptible to the practicing nurse. For instance, in times of distress, service users often turn to or/and ‘construct’ discourses, beliefs and knowledge that are at odds with those which psychiatric nurses rely on to inform them of the mental status of the service user. The psychiatric nurse is in the position to impose knowledge onto service users, usually in concurrence with ‘traditional or bio-psychiatry’, without realizing or failing to acknowledge that the service user may have an alternative explanation of his/her mental health problems/experiences. In this paper, practice examples, based on the experiences of the four authors (from within and outside of services), are used to illustrate this ‘hidden’ power relationship. The authors use Foucault's ideas about: (i) government; (ii) the knowledge/power nexus and resistance; (iii) and his analytic tool of genealogy to help unravel this paradox within psychiatric nursing practice. The authors also use the emerging discourse of recovery as an alternative (and challenge) to ‘traditional bio-psychiatry’ and consider the implications for psychiatric nursing practice.


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