Category Archives: Self-disclosure

Lived experience conference

There is increasing recognition of the value of lived experience and the important contribution people with personal experience of mental health issues can make to mental health care.

Peer workers already exist in a number of different organisational work settings and roles. However, at the same time, many other professionals also have valuable lived experience, which could be an asset to services.

Navigating the boundaries between ‘the personal’ and ‘the professional’ is a complex task for mental health services. But Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust are facing this challenge head on.

They have supported Jonny Lovell, a PhD student in the International Centre for Mental Health Social Research, to undertake research with practitioners and service users on sharing lived experience. And they are holding a day conference on this topic on Friday 6th November in Leeds.

Jonny will be presenting his research alongside others such as Rachel Perkins OBE and the TIme to Change team.

Some questions which the conference will address include:

  • How can we work towards acknowledging and embracing all of our lived experience in the most helpful, effective and appropriate ways?
  • How can we work together to challenge the stigma which continues to exist in many services and settings?
  • How can we capture the power and promise of the wealth and breadth of lived experience available to us?

It looks like a really interesting day and a great opportunity to hear some of the early findings of Jonny’s research.

More information about the conference can be found here.

Sharing lived experience: how personal is ‘personal’?

Practitioners sometimes share things about themselves with the people they work with; sometimes personal things, sometimes non-personal, everyday things. But which ones are which? How personal is ‘personal’?

The International Centre for Mental Health Social Research and Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust are undertaking research on sharing lived experience by mental health practitioners with service users. As part of that, we’d like to know how ‘personal’ different types of information are considered to be. So we are asking volunteers to complete a short questionnaire.

Several other studies have graded disclosures according to how personal the information being shared is. However, some research suggests views change over time, so it may be the case that people nowadays are more open about themselves, and see information about themselves as less personal than they would have done in the past. Since there are no studies that have rated disclosures according to how personal they are in the UK, in recent years, with the professionals that the current study is engaging with, it is necessary to construct a new scale.

If you want to take part, you’ll be asked to rate different things that a practitioner might share with a service user, according to how personal you think they are. If you are involved in social work or social care, whether in mental health services or otherwise, please consider taking part in this survey.

The survey takes approximately five minutes to complete and you could win a £20 Amazon gift voucher.

You can take part on-line by clicking here.

Further information about the study is available from the Chief Investigator, Jonny Lovell, by email: Also, you can keep up to date with the study by visting Jonny’s blog.

Thank you!

Visit of Chief Social Workers to York: 9th May

On Friday 9th May the Chief Social Workers will be visiting York. Isabelle Trowler and Lyn Romeo provide leadership for the profession to drive forward the improvement and reform programme for social work and it will be a pleasure to welcome them to York.

They will be meeting with social work staff, students and practice educators at the University of York in the morning. In the afternoon they will be attending an open seminar jointly organised by the International Centre for Mental Health Social Research and Making Research Count. This seminar has an open invitation to practitioners in the region (and beyond) to come and meet the Chief Social Workers.

The afternoon seminar begins with presentations from two social work PhD students from ICMHSR. Tracee Green will talk about her research on parenting assessments and Jonny Lovell will talk about his study on self-disclosure by practitioners in mental health services. Both are experienced practitioners whose studies have arisen from practice-based questions, highlighting the contribution to social work research which practitioners can make.

The second part of the session will be an interactive dialogue with the Chief Social Workers about their role. This will feature a panel discussion with Social Work  Directors from across the region.

There are still places available at this seminar. Please click here to find out how you can book your place.

Sharing lived experience in mental health services

Self-disclosure refers to sharing information about ourselves with other people. Most people share things all the time without thinking much about it, including what they had for tea last night, what they think about social issues, and more personal things, like their past experiences and their personal identities.

It is these last two types of disclosure – experiences and identity – that tend to cause most controversy, especially in professional settings. How much should a therapist share about themselves with a service user? What about doctors, nurses, and social workers? What should they share, or what is acceptable for them to share?

Opinion is divided between those who think professionals should be a neutral, blank canvas, and those who think judicious disclosure can be beneficial to the therapeutic relationship. The divide isn’t always that neat, of course. Practitioners might decide to disclose some things, in some settings or roles, but not in others. The decision on whether to share information might also be affected by how personal it is. For some professionals, though, disclosure about the self is an integral and necessary part of their job.

Peer Mentors share (or disclose) information about their “lived experience” automatically because of the job they do. This can help to build relationships with service users in ways that they might find helpful, beneficial, and an aid to recovery. If service users benefit from Peer Mentors sharing information about themselves, then sharing lived experience by other professionals might also be beneficial and welcomed by service users. On the other hand, disclosures made by doctors and nurses, for example, might be seen as unprofessional, or unwelcome. 

There is little training, guidance or research available on the subject of self-disclosure and sharing lived experience in mental health interventions to help people make decisions about what to share and when. To address this issue, the International Centre for Mental Health Social Research at the University of York, and Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, are working together to find out what service users and staff think about self-disclosure (or sharing lived experience) so we can produce guidance and training that will be delivered and evaluated.

The research will involve recruiting service user researchers to collaborate in all aspects of the research. Views will be sought about self-disclosure and sharing lived experience from both practitioners and service users through a survey, and focus groups will examine emerging themes. From there, a collaboration between practitioners, service users, and researchers will develop training and guidance that will be delivered and evaluated. Discussions are also taking place with a mental health service in Australia, with a view to undertaking the research out there too, to get wider perspectives and provide a comparison to the UK investigation.

The methods and tools for undertaking the research are in the process of development and, after ethical approval is gained, it is anticipated that the field work will begin in the summer of 2014. One service user has come forward with an interest in being involved as a researcher, and one mental health practitioner has offered their services too, which is great news (thank you for getting involved!).

Consultation about the research took place at the Lived Experience in the Workforce conference in Leeds in December 2013, and with Leeds Researchers (the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust service user research group) in January 2014. The comments and suggestions received have been integrated into the research design.

Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome at any stage, so if there is something that you’d like to say, please get in touch with the Lead Researcher, Jonny Lovell, PhD Student in the International Centre for Mental Health Social Research, in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of York, by email:

Find regular updates about the study, please follow Jonny’s blog.