Experiences of Mental Health Service Users on Their Empowerment and Social Integration in the Community

Vasiliki Yotsidi, Kalliope Kounenou


The transition from institutionalized towards community mental health services demands the evolution from social exclusion to integration practices. Empowerment of people with mental disorders, through their involvement in planning and service provision, prevails as a cutting-edge in such practices. Along these lines, this study adopted a structured bottom-up research methodology to explore the experiences of people with severe mental disorders on nine areas of their community participation. Three focus groups of 18 persons with psychotic disorders who were treated on an out-patient community mental health centre were set up. Qualitative data analysis showed that the areas of treatment, housing, education, and entertainment have turned to be more accessible for mental health service users than those of employment, active citizenship, social relations, social networks and activities in the community. The latter were revealed to still be obstructed by specific personal and social variables, which should be taken into account for community-based treatment to become more responsive and tailor-made. Results are discussed in relation to the role of counselling psychology in improving community mental health services and ensuring that service providers empathize with and respond to individuals' understanding of their condition and what contributes to their care and well-being.


community mental health; social integration; empowerment; focus groups; service users