"Purpose: This study aims to explore the perspectives of mental health professionals who are in a process of integrating their own experiential knowledge in their professional role. This study considers implications for identity, dilemmas and challenges within the broader organization, when bringing experiential knowledge to practice.
Design/methodology/approach: As part of a participatory action research approach, qualitative methods have been used, such as in-depth interviews, discussions and observations during training and project team.
Findings: The actual use of experiential knowledge by mental health care professionals in their work affected four levels: their personal–professional development; the relation with service users; the relation with colleagues; and their position in the organization.
Research limitations/implications: Because of its limited context, this study may lack generalisability and further research with regard to psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as perceptions from users, is desirable.
Social implications: According to this study, social change starts from a bottom-up movement and synchronously should be facilitated by top-down policy. A dialogue with academic mental health professionals seems crucial to integrate this source of knowledge. Active collaboration with peer workers and supervisors is desired as well.
Originality/value: Professionals with lived experiences play an important role in working recovery-oriented, demonstrating bravery and resilience. Having dealt with mental health distress, they risked stigma and rejections when introducing this as a type of knowledge in current mental health service culture. Next to trainings to facilitate the personal–professional process, investments in the entire organization are needed to transform governance, policy and ethics."