Beyond the counter-narrative
Exploring alternative narratives of recovery from the psychiatric survivor movement
The discourse of the medical model of mental illness tends to dominate people’s conceptions of the origins and treatments of psychopathology. This reductionistic discourse defines people’s experiences of psychological distress and recovery in terms of illnesses, chemical imbalances, and broken brains. However, the master narrative does not represent every individual’s lived experience, and alternative narratives of mental health and recovery exist that challenge our traditional understandings of normality and psychopathology. Guided by the method of interpretive interactionism, we examined how psychiatric survivors position themselves in relation to the medical model’s narrative of recovery. In its inception, the psychiatric survivor movement created a counter-narrative of protest in opposition to the medical model’s description and treatment of psychopathology. Since then, the movement has moved beyond the counter-narrative and has constructed an alternative narrative; one that is not defined in opposition to the master narrative but instead participates in an entirely different discourse.
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