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Professionals harnessing experiential knowledge in Dutch mental health settings

Simona Karbouniaris (Centre for Social Innovation, HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands and Department of Medical Humanities, Amsterdam UMC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Alie Weerman (Research Group Mental Health and Society, Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, Zwolle, The Netherlands)
Bea Dunnewind (Tactus Addiction Treatment, Deventer, The Netherlands)
Jean Pierre Wilken (Centre for Social Innovation, HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Tineke A. Abma (Department of Medical Humanities, Amsterdam UMC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing, Leiden, The Netherlands and Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands)

Mental Health and Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2042-8308

Article publication date: 16 September 2021

Issue publication date: 2 February 2022




This study aims to explore the perspectives of mental health professionals who are in a process of integrating their own experiential knowledge in their professional role. This study considers implications for identity, dilemmas and challenges within the broader organization, when bringing experiential knowledge to practice.


As part of a participatory action research approach, qualitative methods have been used, such as in-depth interviews, discussions and observations during training and project team.


The actual use of experiential knowledge by mental health care professionals in their work affected four levels: their personal–professional development; the relation with service users; the relation with colleagues; and their position in the organization.

Research limitations/implications

Because of its limited context, this study may lack generalisability and further research with regard to psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as perceptions from users, is desirable.

Social implications

According to this study, social change starts from a bottom-up movement and synchronously should be facilitated by top-down policy. A dialogue with academic mental health professionals seems crucial to integrate this source of knowledge. Active collaboration with peer workers and supervisors is desired as well.


Professionals with lived experiences play an important role in working recovery-oriented, demonstrating bravery and resilience. Having dealt with mental health distress, they risked stigma and rejections when introducing this as a type of knowledge in current mental health service culture. Next to trainings to facilitate the personal–professional process, investments in the entire organization are needed to transform governance, policy and ethics.



The authors would like to express gratitude to the professionals with lived experiences. The authors also thank the members of the advisory board for commenting on the article.Declaration of interest statement: The authors report no conflict of interest.


Karbouniaris, S., Weerman, A., Dunnewind, B., Wilken, J.P. and Abma, T.A. (2022), "Professionals harnessing experiential knowledge in Dutch mental health settings", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 75-88.



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