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Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2018 Feb;27(1):349-357. doi: 10.1111/inm.12328. Epub 2017 Mar 16.

Psychoeducation for bipolar disorder: A discourse analysis.

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Department of Psychological Medicine and Māori, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Indigenous Health Institute, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand.


Psychoeducation has become a common intervention within mental health settings. It aims to increase people's ability to manage a life with a long-term illness. For people with bipolar disorder, psychoeducation is one of a range of psychosocial interventions now considered part of contemporary mental health practice. It has taken on a 'common sense' status that results in little critique of psychoeducation practices. Using a published manual on psychoeducation and bipolar disorder as its data, Foucauldian discourse analysis was used in the present study for a critical perspective on psychoeducation in order to explore the taken-for-granted assumptions on which it is based. It identifies that the text produces three key subject positions for people with bipolar disorder. To practice self-management, a person must: (i) accept and recognize the authority of psychiatry to know them; (ii) come to see that they can moderate themselves; and (iii) see themselves as able to undertake a reflexive process of self-examination and change. These findings highlight the circular and discursive quality to the construct of insight that is central to how psychoeducation is practiced. Using Foucault's construct of pastoral power, it also draws attention to the asymmetrical nature of power relations between the clinician and the person with bipolar disorder. An effect of the use of medical discourse in psychoeducation is to limit its ability to work with ambivalence and contradiction. A critical approach to psychotherapy and education offers an alternate paradigm on which to basis psychoeducation practices.


bipolar disorder; discourse analysis; psychiatry; self-management

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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