This paper explores the complex interrelationship between service user and professional social work discourses and provides a critical commentary on their respective contributions to the recent review of mental health policy and legislation in Northern Ireland. The analysis indicates that dominant trends in mental health care, as mediated through service structures and institutional identities, have tended to prioritize the more coercive aspects of the social work role and reinforce existing power inequalities with service users. It is argued that such developments underline the need for a ‘refocusing’ debate in mental health social work to consider how a more appropriate balance can be achieved between its participatory/empowering and regulatory/coercive functions. Whilst highlighting both congruence and dissonance between respective discourses, the paper concludes that opportunities exist within the current change process for service users and social workers to build closer alliances in working together to reconstruct practice, safeguard human rights and develop innovative alternatives to a traditional bio-medical model of treatment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Health(social science)