Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Mental health-Terminology, Social service-Terminology, Discourse analysis, Dominance (Psychology), Power (Social sciences), Language, Postmodern, Stigma


Language in the mental health field is rich with powerful metaphors, hyperbolic phrases, and linguistic symbols of historical, political and social meaning. At a closer look, a dominant discourse rooted deep in the grounds of empirical science is revealed. In this theoretical study, mental health language is deconstructed using Critical Discourse Analysis and other related theories to locate and analyze a dominant discourse, which opens space for a non-dominant discourse. Postmodern theory assumes that power, entangled with and interdependent on powerlessness, is an absolute phenomenon, and that power abuse can be revealed through the study of a discourse itself. The purpose of this thesis is to locate the way power in a dominate discourse is practiced and spoken in common, everyday mental health language, in order to connect this power to an 'Other' discourse whose ideology and voice is marginalized. Although there are numerous alternative discourses, one that is gaining recognition and posing hard challenges toward the dominate discourse is the Recovery discourse, a language that speaks clearly about this place of discontinuity and oppression. As all people are subject to and participants of the dominant discourse (to one degree or another), this investigation aims to focus on how social workers participate in the dominant discourse and investigates the role of consciousness regarding power and oppression in therapeutic settings, posing questions about the role and place of social workers, regarding language use in the mental health field.




iii, 110 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 98-110)