Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Consumer movement, Psychotherapy patients-Political activity, Psychotherapy-Moral and ethical aspects, Autonomy (Psychology), Oppression (Psychology), Theoretical, Mental health consumer movement, Psychiatric survivor movement, Self-determination, Psychiatric oppression


This theoretical thesis explores the origins of the modern concept of "mental illness" and traces the development of the mental health consumer and psychiatric survivor movements, modern social justice movements that work to change and/or dismantle the system of oppression that has long denied those labeled mentally ill the right to make basic decisions about their own lives. Working from a critical theoretical frame influenced by historical discourse analysis and post-structuralist theory, the thesis first examines the multiple constructions of madness and mental distress in the Western world since the Middle Ages, suggesting that the current biomedical model of mental illness is similarly constructed by modern social, political, and economic forces. Attention is then turned to the mental health consumer and psychiatric survivor movements, and the discourse utilized by each movement to challenge the dominant biomedical discourse. Finally, implications for social workers and other progressive/dissident mental health professionals are explored. Ultimately, this thesis suggests that ethical clinical practice is possible when clinicians listen to the voices of those they serve and continue to question how knowledge and power are (re)produced in the mental health system.




iii, 69 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 59-69)