Foucault’s Care of the Self: A Case from Mental Health Work

Julian Randall, Iain Munro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


This research concerns mental health workers who treat the victims of sexual abuse. The health workers were all part of a forum composed of doctors, counsellors and a community psychiatric nurse, who met to discuss issues of best practice in their everyday work. The research examined how these workers make sense of their work, particularly in terms of how they understand the concept of care and the kinds of knowledge that they use in their work, professional and otherwise. A great deal of scepticism was expressed concerning the traditional medical approaches to caring for the victims of abuse, and as a consequence these practitioners developed pragmatic and exploratory approaches to caring in order to help their clients. Many important similarities exist between the accounts given by the medical and voluntary practitioners of this forum and the insights of Michel Foucault’s genealogical studies of medicine, particularly his analysis of processes of normalization and his later work on the care of the self. This paper provides a re-evaluation of the concept of mental health care in terms of Foucault’s concept of ‘the care of the self’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1485-1504
Number of pages20
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2010


  • normalization
  • care of the self
  • Foucault
  • professionalism
  • identity
  • mental health

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