Uncharted water: An autoethnographic analysis of negotiating the self-other hyphen in working with a mental health service user

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Background: Working in partnership with people who use the health system is an expectation of UK Government and local health policy. Within the field of mental health those who use/have used the psychiatric system have often experienced it as marginalising. Development of partnership working with services-users provides the potential for their voices to be heard within dominant discourses (the
intention of inclusion), however, this is not problematized and there is little literature focused on nurses’ experience of negotiating partnership working with service users.
Aim: This paper presents an autoethnographic exploration of the author’s experience of working closely with a psychiatric service-user in academic and research related activities over a period of seven years.
Method: Autoethnographic approach focusing on the self-other hyphen
(Fine 1994) as the space between the two of us in which our subjectivities meet and are negotiated I draw on Ahmed (2014, 2012) and others to analyse the emotional work that happened. Attempting to take the side of the service-user from my subjective position as psychiatric nurse, is problematised.
Findings: Negotiating this relationship for both of us was emotionally challenging. As a psychiatric nurse I find myself positioned as representative of a system which had caused pain and hurt to this (and many other) service user. I confront shame and anger, whilst also becoming the object towards which anger and hurt are directed.
Discussion: My analysis identifies that whilst the work that we attempted was motivated by the hope that it would enable the service user voice to be heard
in the dominant discourses of mental health services, academia and mental
health nursing, this was in tension with a fear of/being colonised/colonising
which became insurmountable.
Conclusion: The discursive positions of service user and psychiatric professional have significant implications for successful partnership working.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019
EventRCN International Nursing Research Conference 2019 - Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Sep 20195 Sep 2019


ConferenceRCN International Nursing Research Conference 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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