Personal storytelling in mental health recovery

Date12 March 2018
Published date12 March 2018
AuthorKate P. Nurser,Imogen Rushworth,Tom Shakespeare,Deirdre Williams
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Mental health
Personal storytelling in mental
health recovery
Kate P. Nurser, Imogen Rushworth, Tom Shakespeare and Deirdre Williams
Purpose Creating more positive individual narratives around illness and identity is at the heart of the mental
health care recovery movement. Some recovery services explicitly use personal storytelling as an
intervention. The purpose of this paper is to look at individual experiences of a personal storytelling
intervention, a recovery college Telling My Story (TMS) course.
Design/methodology/approach Eight participants who had attended the TMS course offered at a UK
recovery college were interviewed. Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.
Findings Five key themes, namely a highly emotional experience, feeling safe to disclose, renewed sense
of self, two-way process and a novel opportunity, were emerged.
Originality/value The findings suggest that storytelling can be a highly meaningful experience and an
important part of the individuals recovery journey. They also begin to identify elements of the storytelling
process which might aid recovery, and point to pragmatic setting conditions for storytelling interventions to
be helpful. More time could be dedicated to individualstelling their story within UK mental health services, and
the authors can use this insight into the experience of personal storytelling to guide any future developments.
Keywords Interpretative phenomenological analysis, Storytelling, Narrative therapy,
Mental health recovery
Paper type Research paper
Personal recovery in mental health involves a deeply individual journey of finding meaning in
life, beyond the limitations of a mental health problem (Anthony, 1993). The recovery
approach moves away from professional-led care and instead empowers individuals to
become experts in their own self-care; building on their strengths to re-discover an identity
that is separate from illness or disability (Perkins et al., 2012). The key concepts found to be
important in personal recovery are conceptualised by the CHIME framework (Leamy
et al., 2011): connectedness, hope and optimism, identity, meaning and purpose, and
An innovation in the UK recovery movement has been the development of recovery colleges,
which take an educational approach to addressing mental health difficulties. Individual service
users, professionals and carers can attend as students on courses that are co-produced and
co-facilitated by those with lived experience of mental health problems (Perkins et al., 2012).
Recovery colleges are underpinned by an ethos of experience sharing and normalising of
mental health difficulties, and personal storytelling is at the heart of this. Peer workers aim to instil
hope in others by sharing their story; as relatable people who are reconstructing a positive
self-identity despite the challenges of a mental health problem (Repper, 2013). In addition,
individuals are encouraged to form their own recovery story and to share this with others
(Shepherd et al., 2014).
It is thought that having a self-authored record of what has happened supports the individual to
move forwards in their recovery, through making sense of their experiences and feeling heard by
others (Scottish Recovery Network, 2012). Some recovery colleges offer specific courses
that equip people to tell their own recovery story. Recovery College East (RCE; part of
Received 25 August 2017
Revised 1 November 2017
Accepted 18 November 2017
Kate P. Nurser is a Clinical
Psychologist at the
Cambridgeshire and
Peterborough NHS Foundation
Trust, Fulbourn, UK; and is at
the Department of Clinical
Psychology, Norwich Medical
School, University of East
Anglia, Norwich, UK.
Imogen Rushworth is based at
the Department of Clinical
Psychology, Norwich Medical
School, University of East
Anglia, Norwich, UK.
Tom Shakespeare is a
Professor of Disability
Research at the Department of
Clinical Psychology, Norwich
Medical School, University of
East Anglia, Norwich, UK.
Deirdre Willi ams is based at
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS
FoundationTrust, Norwich, UK.
DOI 10.1108/MHRJ-08-2017-0034 VOL. 23 NO. 1 2018, pp. 25-36, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1361-9322
PAG E 25

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