Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 238–258 | Cite as

The Patient’s View: Issues of Theory and Practice

  • Livia VelpryEmail author
Original Paper


Almost all the knowledge now produced about psychiatry includes what is called “the patient’s or client’s perspective.” This paper analyzes how this notion has been framed in the discourses on mental health over the last two decades, particularly in mental health research and in anthropology. The very concept of the “patient’s perspective” is a social and historical construct. Despite its remarkable prevalence, the notion remains vague. Mental health research pictures it as a stable attribute of the individual. Anthropologists integrate the contextual nature of the patient view; but they still largely envision the psychiatric patient as a rational actor producing narratives based on common sense. However, in psychiatric practice, the client’s perspective is not something the patient individually produces; it is rather shaped by and in a context. To explore this process, my research investigated interactions between staff and patients in a French community mental health center, and showed that the client’s perspective is the result of a collective process. Further analysis demonstrates that eliciting or producing the patient’s view is sometimes considered a therapeutic goal in itself, since being granted the status of a rational and narrative actor gives access to the most valued model of care, one that is based on partnership. Being an outcome that is negotiated between patients and care providers, the “patient’s view” then becomes a new resource in mental health settings.


Mental illness Mental health research Subjective experience Autonomy France 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS-Inserm-Paris 5CESAMES (Centre de Recherche Psychotropes, Santé Mentale, Société)ParisFrance

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