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  • Author or Editor: Hubert Kaszyński x
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For many years we have been pointing out that a promising method of teaching about mental health is to provide interested parties (especially students and social therapists in general) with first-hand knowledge about mental illness (Kaszyński, 1999). It is therefore essential to have direct contact with individuals with mental illnesses in order to understand them and modify our stereotyped view of deep emotional problems (Couture and Penn, 2003). This approach, which we call ‘social education’, requires above all a willingness to submit to the authority of those who are predominantly the focus of our educational interactions and themselves subject to authority. As a result, this approach makes us advocates of empowerment. If the objective of our educational activity is to answer the question of how to support people in their development and motivate them to change, then an essential condition becomes our ability to perceive and experience the external world from the subjective perspective of those who become partners in the educational relationship.

First, we present the history of shaping the concept of service-user involvement at the Institute of Sociology of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. We emphasise that its indisputable strength is the involvement and cooperation of various actors – academic teachers, people with experience of the diseases, students, social welfare practitioners and therapists. It is necessary to highlight at this point the particular importance of the participation of students with experience of emotional difficulties in the educational process.

The activities described in this chapter are undertaken by a team of lecturers professionally associated with the Institute of Sociology of the Jagiellonian University and social practitioners involved in various activities for people with mental health problems. From the very beginning, the project was based on close cooperation between both groups.

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The research focus of the article – based on Aaron Antonovsky’s sense of coherence – is the analysis of recovery from the perspective of clinical social work. The methodological approach adopted in the study is based on the co-creation of knowledge together with 29 people experienced in deep mental health problems who agreed to participate in the process of intersubjectively defining mental crises, the possibilities of overcoming these and thus the ways of understanding recovery. The results of the study show that the basis of the recovery process is meeting a set of five needs: (1) effectiveness, (2) emotionality, (3) connectedness, (4) coherent identity and (5) affirmation of the past. A certain pool of individual experiences acquired during this process is a source of the formation of internalised beliefs that can be linked by a sense of ‘manageability’ (resulting from the satisfaction of the first three of the aforementioned needs), ‘comprehensibility’ (related to the need for ‘coherent identity’) and ‘meaningfulness’ (related to the need to ‘affirm the past’).

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