The aim of this contribution is to explore how different treatments are experienced from the perspective of individu-als with mental illnesses. We used data drawn from qualitative, narrative interviews. When asked to discuss their lives, people rarely discuss their psychiatric treatment. When asked about treatment, they describe hospitalization and medication but not out-patient care. What is described as most helpful are relationships with others, especially in 24-hour centers, clubhouses, and user-run organizations; places where they report feeling that they are accepted, understood, and cared about. Also important are experiences of “giving back” to others and employment as ways of increasing participants’ sense of self-worth and value. Participants also indicated the importance of med-ication, but described protracted processes of having to find the right prescriber, the right medication, at the right dosage, and taking the medication long enough to derive its benefits. For others, symptoms were described as being an integral part of who they were and not something they wanted to eliminate. Traditional treatments (e.g., medication), if given by a practitioner who understands the person and is willing to try to find the right medication and dosage, may serve as a foundation for instrumental experiences of being accepted, understood, valued, and being able to give back to others.
c1 Dr. L. Davidson, Program for Recovery and Community Health, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, Erector Square, Building 1, 319 Peck Street, New Haven, CT 06513 (USA). Fax: (203) 764-7595 E-mail: Larry.Davidson@Yale.edu