Call for Papers: Critical Underpinnings of User/Survivor Research and Co-Production


The journal Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology is calling for proposals for papers “aimed at tackling the ‘hard’ questions implicated in processes of user/survivor inclusion, exclusion and co-production” in mental health services research, program evaluation, policy reform, philosophy and cultural theory. The papers will be considered for inclusion in one or more special issues of the journal, as well as for a planned edited book on the topic.

Call for Papers →

Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology Call for Papers:
Critical Underpinnings of
User/Survivor Research and Co-Production

                       Guest Editors:  Jayasree Kalathil, PhD & Nev Jones, PhD(c)
                       Editorial Assistant:  Clara Humpston, M.Sc.

Over the past several decades, user/survivor leadership in research as well as academic “co-production” (understood as a more robust form of academic co-leadership and shared decision making as opposed to nominal or tokenistic participatory methods) has gained strong traction in the areas of mental health services research, program evaluation, policy reform and, to a lesser extent, philosophy and cultural theory.   In spite of these advances, the theoretical assumptions and implications involved in such projects remain largely underdeveloped and critically un-interrogated.  Likewise, critiques of user/survivor involvement and leadership rarely make their way into peer-reviewed publications, for the most part enduring in the space of informal conversations and behind-the-scenes decision-making.  Certain areas of academic scholarship, including the medical humanities and philosophy of psychiatry and psychology, have similarly failed to consider the unique theoretical contributions scholars or others with lived experience might be in a position to make.  Literary and philosophical analyses of others’ first person accounts, narratives or memoirs often exclude any discussion of the role or contribution of first person theory (broadly understood as the formal or informal interpretation and analysis of the sociopolitics, temporal dynamics, implications and/or rhetorical effects of first person narrative, story-telling or memoir).

The goal of the current call for papers is to solicit proposals aimed at tackling the ‘hard’ questions implicated in processes of user/survivor inclusion, exclusion and co-production.   Proposals will be considered for inclusion in one or more special issues of the journal Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology as well as a planned edited book tentatively targeted for Oxford University Press’International Perspectives on Philosophy & Psychiatry series.   We are soliciting proposals in English from a range of disciplines as well as from diverse positions and standpoints, including but not limited to individuals who identify as service users or survivors.  We particularly encourage the submission of papers that critically appraise user/survivor research, leadership or co-produced work (again, both from peer and non-peer scholars and stakeholders).

Examples of topics of interest include (but are emphatically not limited to):

·      critical explorations of the meaning and value of ‘expertise by experience’, particularly with respect to theoretical and philosophical work
·      implications of the heterogeneity of service experiences, madness/disorder, temporal trajectories of distress and/or recovery, and identity
·      political issues involved in the marginalization and othering of user/survivors with intersecting socio-political minority identities
·      methodological and ethical considerations (including inter- and trans-disciplinarity, leadership in the humanities and basic and translational science vs. applied mental health services research)
·      interrogating key terms:  user involvement, co-production, control, leadership,  co-leadership
·      ethical and methodological issues in relation to academic and theoretical engagement with personal narratives of madness/mental health (including autobiographies and memoirs)
·      divisions between academia, community-based engagement, policy and organizational development, and activism

Proposal details:

We are asking for proposals including a title, five key words and a focused, 500-word abstract.  The special issue editors will get back to potential authors within 6 weeks of the proposal deadline.  Please note that all full submissions will be subject to blinded peer review.

Proposal deadline:  Jan. 15th, 2014

Please send proposals to [email protected] or contact Jayasree Kalathil ([email protected]) or Nev Jones ([email protected]) with any questions.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. My native language is English, so I’m sure I am missing a lot. My Phi Beta Kappa key and various degrees never trained me to understand academic language, which really isn’t designed to be understood by ordinary people anyway. However, I am not among the people who think that if they can’t understand something, it must be “deep.”

    Having gotten that off my mind, as best as I can tell this sounds like a good idea. Any enterprise that includes people with experience as psychiatric survivors probably should be supported. Although I have some thoughts on the subject, I don’t plan to submit any article, as I can’t and won’t write in the pretentious and incomprehensible jargon used in the academic world. I think if people have something to say, they can say it in ordinary and clear language. And if they don’t have much to say, they will cover it up with lots of important-sounding words.

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    • I read this before you posted, I was thinking the exact same thing “I can’t and won’t write in the pretentious and incomprehensible jargon used in the academic world.”

      The wording of this article may get an A+ by some English professor in Harvard but what are they saying ?

      Your view may have value if you can do this 500 word writing assignment ?

      I can say what I want to say with a few keystokes and a copy paste.

      I don’t like Psychiatric Coercion and Restraint

      I don’t like being one of these

      I don’t like the way they coerce children with threats of injection to do medical experiments with Risperdal.


      A rage outburst was defined as sufficient agitation and loss of control such that the child was unable to “time out” (i.e. sit in a chair for 10 minutes on being told to do so) … If there was a second episode, the child was told “You need some medicine to help you get back in control. Take this medicine or we may have to give you a shot”. If agreeable, the child was given 0.015 mg/kg of liquid risperidone.”

      The children “If agreeable…”

      I could write 500 words describing the medical experiment I think should be done on those monsters against there will and make Steven Kings horror stories look bland.


      It will be a study of withdrawal reactions and tardive psychosis, first these doctors who did the Risperdal experiment on the unwilling children will be told to take a liquid drug of my choosing , they will be told “Take this medicine or we may have to give you a shot”. If agreeable…

      If the doctors who did the experiment on the children showed no evidence of addiction/depedence by day 120 following drug administration, the dose for a next rage will be increased.

      The doctors who did the Risperdal study on the unwilling children will again be told “Take this medicine or we may have to give you a shot”. If agreeable…

      And be given a triple dose for an additional 120 days…

      Adverse events such as sedation (as noted on the Agitation Inventory), extrapyramidal symptoms and akathisia will be measured at the end of any rage outburst in which medication was administered to the doctors who did the medical experiments on the captive children against there will using a coding inventory I will describe later in chapter 2 of “A taste of there own medicine”.

      Look for copies in a bookstore near you.

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      • The attitude that all discourse should be immediately understandable to all people is so tired. No one walks into astrophysicists’ calls for papers and cries about how pretentious they are being for not using language or concepts or even a style that everyone is familiar with. I totally get that sometimes it is intimidating, frustrating, even to a degree alienating or shame-producing, to encounter a world of words and concepts that seem impenetrable. But, barring willful obfuscation, there is a value to specialist languages. They are specialist tool-sets. Surgeons need specialized tools to do their work, tools that are not found in everyone’s kitchen drawers. Similarly, literary theorists and philosophers need special conceptual tools to do their work.
        To ever learn anything, to ever really *travel* in the world of ideas, one needs to at times read outside of one’s comfort zone. And just because you cant or dont want to engage with something doesn’t make it pretentious.

        I dont want to sound like I’m fully defending academic language, I’m certainly not suggesting that it is the “best” language, or that everyone should learn it or use it. However, to go out of one’s way to say that it is useless is equally as unfair.

        I for one am a psychiatric survivor who doesn’t find this call for papers alienating or annoying– in fact it really excited me to see that. We are being invited to participate in a knowledge-production process that is an alternative to psychiatric knowledge-production. I find that really exciting.

        Just because we are psychiatric survivors doesn’t mean that we are all the same, nor does it mean that we are all similarly disposed to philosophy, scholarship, or whatever. I respect your right to be uninterested in such things, but I also wanted to leave this comment so that people could see that not all of us are uninterested. I find it exciting and welcoming– and being or feeling welcomed is not necessarily something I have experienced much in my life. It is something I would like to experience more, and to turn one’s alienation via psychiatric diagnosis into participation in a community of scholars seems worthwhile to me, if anyone would choose to do that.

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    • I have hesitated to register for comments on MiA even though I have written blogposts before. Now that I have registered to comment I see the guidelines say: “We find that comments that attack a person’s character or underlying motives tend to shut down the dialogue.”

      What better way to “shut down the dialogue” than attack members of our community–those who are themselves survivors of psychiatry and emotional distress and have risen to personal and professional achievements such as these folks?

      There is continual and legitimate anger about the power of psychiatry and the co-optation of research evidence on this site. But when someone productively and intelligently contributes to the theoretical and research dialogue, they are themselves an “elitist sellout”? We should be damn proud of people who have worked so hard and struggled so much to contribute in ways that not only support others, but contribute to the person’s own well-being so they can continue to fight every day for a better world.

      In case anyone missed it, here is part of Nev’s story of suffering in a philosophy program (posted on your own site: and the full story can be found here:

      To attack someone like this in such tangential ways is a disgrace to our “community”, and I urge everyone to think of the real value of survivor-led research and theory development.

      Not by ANY MEASURE could this post be judged to have anything to do with human rights violations or holding the field (or our own lives) back. I am not myself trained in philosophy or related theory. Sometimes as a trained applied social sciences researcher, I have difficulty with the language. Sometimes it’s useful; sometimes it’s not. But I never see it as implicating the writer in being “out to get me” because I’m not trained in that language. If anything, it inspires me. I should hope these efforts and this work inspires everyone else, too.

      You can email me at [email protected] if you have an issue with personal achievements that demonstrate true and pure resilience after such adversity.

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      • I hope Laysha isn’t referring to my particular post. I had mixed feelings when I wrote it, since (1) I know that she and Nev have organized a really helpful group for grad students with psych histories that several of my friends have joined and have found lots of support from, and (2) the basic idea of this invitation I think is a very good one.

        But I really do have a big problem with academic language and its pretentiouness. Nobody has to write like that.

        So I certainly didn’t intend what I wrote to be a personal attack, as I respect both of the people who came out with this invitation. It’s the dishonesty of academia I was criticising, not you.

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        • Ted, you never answered my question about how you can call this specialized language “pretentious” when the technical languages of other disciplines seem to be getting a free pass. Are atrophysicists’ specialized languages “pretentious,” too? Biologists’? Statisticians?

          Surely you would not speak the way an astrophysicist writes, because no one really speaks the way technical discourses are written.

          I hope the tone of this comment doesn’t seem cruel– I genuinely want to know why you think the language style of the CFP (or of the social sciences / humanities in general?) is pretentious and useless.

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          • I think I understand Ted’s point. This is the focus:

            ““aimed at tackling the ‘hard’ questions implicated in processes of user/survivor inclusion, exclusion and co-production””

            The word I hone in on in that message is *exclusion*.

            I think there is a real language barrier, and I think language certainly would be a defining element in determining *exclusion*.

            That’s my point of view on it.

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  2. Hello fellow MAD members!

    I can completely relate to what you are saying regarding these academic papers. I am a PhD applicant and a freelance journalist. Over the years, I have had to summarize a number of academic studies and put them into language the average American can make any sense…and believe me, it is quite a task! (Although, I like to think I am at least a little smarter because of it and I happen to know the answers to more Jeopardy questions than the average bear!)

    Pretty soon, I will be tasked with composing these papers…joy!

    Anyway, there is a website dedicated to simplifying this process and creating easy-to-read articles about very complicated subjects for the purpose of research.

    Here it is: I am a contributor for DugDug and recently wrote an article that relates to the topic of the Resilience Builder Program (RBP), a group-therapy approach to treating children with mental disorders without the use of medication or dehumanizing treatments.

    Unfortunately, there is little documented research published about RBP in the form of these fancily-written papers we are talking about. This is problematic because these papers are what move the medical and psychiatric community forward.

    The article I wrote ( focuses on why so little research is available: because people often drop out of research projects and the outcome can not be measure.

    I know we might think these papers are exhaustive (and often way over our heads!) but thank goodness there are academics out there working to find alternative methods to treatment and collect the research needed to substantiate this treatment!

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  3. I have been thinkng about my first post on this all day.

    Was I out of line ? I kept asking myself. I remember this.

    The new Nero will approach us with the silky manners of a doctor, and though all will be in fact as compulsory as the tunica molesta or Smithfield or Tyburn, all will go on within the unemotional therapeutic sphere where words like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or ‘freedom’ and ‘slavery’ are never heard…

    Even if the treatment is painful, even if it is life-long, even if it is fatal, that will be only a regrettable accident; the intention was purely therapeutic…

    But because they are ‘treatment, not punishment, they can be criticized only by fellow-experts and on technical grounds, never by men as men and on grounds of justice…

    – C. S. Lewis

    The fight is for basic inalienable human rights to the field of mental health, including, but not limited to, full informed consent regarding the medical legitimacy of psychiatric diagnosis, the risks of psychiatric treatments, the right to all available medical alternatives, and the right to refuse any treatment considered harmful.

    Human rights are a nonnegotiable demand.

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  4. I would appreciate if commentators care and dare to respond also to the challenge in the project’s quest: a critical – pondered arguments by the writer – appraisal – considering what are the key points and the nature of thinking – of research by user/survivors.

    It is about what are the main questions of survivor research? What are the social signatures in saying one is a survivor/user/activist? What knowledge – beliefs in views on life, social positioning or belonging, values claimed necessary – is used in the survivor movement and in survivor researchß What do we have to offer when we recuse to own ‘naive’ lived experience only?

    What are the essential features survivors/consumers see as needed in the overall-picture and framework for the knowledge of survivors? How can we not be one-sided or rely on taken for granted beliefs ?

    How can we bring together the similar and essential from our diversely interpreted distress experiences and use it to bring about change in mental health services research which is dominantly restricted to technological expert investigations and distant controllable concepts.

    I do wonder that survivors writing about yoga and meditation and spirituality – all philosophies and practices which to me seem strangely closer to east asian cultures than western ones – are generally welcomed warmly by peers.

    When it comes to the challenge of building survivor/user knowledge and reflecting on it’s main features – I wonder why this intellectual project of survivor research seems less reflected upon but readily decried in some commentaries.

    I sincerely wish that survivor/users take care enough to see what the challenge to build survivor knowledge is about: a critical enterprise is one in which one or a group is asked to get to know ones/their thinking and beliefs. Thus use key words and beliefs with the ability to move and remove from standpoints. This allows to learn and to argue with respect even if the arguments of the other(s) differ from mine/my group’s.

    I wish genuine interest and respect to be granted not only to organic food, kandalini and meditation but also to the challenging enterprise of how-to-do survivor research.

    Kind wishes,
    Ute Maria

    PS I am a non-native English writer. I still care and dare to answer to the call for papers/ideas/comments on the nature of survivor research.

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  5. I don’t consider myself to be a survivor. I’m a fatality who isn’t buried yet.

    I’m an obliterated wreck. I can’t write anything, I can only grunt and scream. I see there is no calling to take account of people like me: unburied fatality, damned and condemned, untreatable, unfixable, incurable.

    The worst part, for me, is knowing how many people are so satisfied that I’m destroyed. And they really are.

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  6. I hear all your voices and comments ranging from the impenetrability of academic language to the lack of voice that we have. All of these are important and perhaps this is exactly the kind of thing that the editors are looking for.

    What would happen if we flooded them with submissions? It would increase the chance that some of our submissions would get accepted and that we _would_ have a voice. There is nothing in the call that says the submissions have to be written in academic language, or that a submission could not discuss the barrier that academic language presents towards survivor participation.

    Anyway, I’m happy to participate in a joint submission. I do not want to write something by myself, but am happy to participate. My thoughts are on topics such as:
    1) Unburied fatalities: how surviving means not dieing
    2) Having a voice
    3) Having a community
    4) Having professional identities when people assume that we do not
    5) Efforts by mental health professionals to disrupt our communities and prevent us from connecting with each other
    I would also be open to any other survivor related topics.

    If anyone is interested in working with me on a submission, please email:
    [email protected]

    Let’s use our community here on MIA to get these journal editors to pay attention to us. Let’s give them the submissions that they say they want!

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  7. I think I may have been a little too strong in my comments. I sounded as if I was dismissing the basic idea of the post. I think the basic idea is fine. I know that at least one of the writers is a psych survivor herself, and that she is one of the organizers of a support group for psych survivors who are in grad school and dealing with the bigotry we all have to deal with when we are out of the closet. Several people that I know are or have been in this group, and they tell me it really gave them a lot of support that they needed.

    But just the same, this kind of pretentious academic writing just bugs the sh– out of me. I think folks in the academic environment who are not yet established think they are supposed to write this way.

    I am not at all intimidated by such stuff, because frankly this writing style, to me, is just a way to cover up the fact that the writer has nothing much worth saying. This stuff is really very poor English, but unfortunately part of the academic culture.

    When I have something to say, I can usually make myself very clear. Why can’t they?

    I’m sorry if this seems like an attack on the people who wrote this proposal, which I think is a very good idea. But really, I think you don’t have to follow this kind of ridiculous academic tradition. Sorry. I feel a bit guilty, even.

    And after all this, and I will sound as if I am contradicting myself, I encourage people to write something for this project because it seems very worthwhile.

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