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Lisa Bortolotti (University of Birmingham)

Every two weeks, on Thrusdays

Fall 2021 Edition

Philosophy of Psychiatry Webinar, Canada Research Chair on Epistemic Injustice and Agency, Amandine Catala.

Lisa Bortolotti (University of Birmingham)

30 septembre 2021, 15h30.

« The Agential Stance: How to support young people in mental health clinical encounters »


In this paper we ask what it takes for a practitioner to support a user’s sense of agency within a mental healthcare encounter. Our emphasis is on users who are also young people and seek help during a crisis, though the themes considered here can as well apply to different clinical populations and, with some qualifications, to personal relationships more widely. In our project we bring together a group of young people, clinicians, and academics from philosophy, psychology, and psychiatry to learn what undermines and supports young people’s sense of agency by using real-life video-recorded mental healthcare encounters. Our question is this: in a mental healthcare context, what does it take for a practitioner to interact with a user in a way that does not undermine the user’s sense of agency? In the paper we plan to provide a preliminary answer to this question by offering a brief explanation and some examples for each of the themes we have identified. In order for a practitioner not to undermine a user’s sense of agency, the practitioner needs to validate the user’s experiences; legitimise the user’s choice to seek help; avoid uncritically labelling or objectifying the user; affirm the user’s capacity to contribute to positive change; and involve the user in the decision-making process. We discuss the implications of the agential stance for the clinical encounter and suggest that the results of our study can inform the training of mental healthcare practitioners.