Cooptation of Survivor Knowledge: Dangers of Substituted Values and Voice

Cooptation of Survivor Knowledge: Dangers of Substituted Values and Voice

Darby Penney, M.L.S.

We will explore the process of cooptation by examining what happens to survivor knowledge, values and identity when powerful institutions seek to maintain the status quo in the face of pressure for social change. We will discuss how public mental health authorities have co-opted survivor authority and experiences, using examples taken from peer support and lessons learned from the Women Co-Occurring Disorders and Violence Study (WCDVS). This 90-minute workshop offers a combination of didactic presentation and lively facilitated discussion. We hope to address important questions, including: Is it possible for psychiatric survivors to work with allies and not lose our own identities in the process? How do we resist cooptation? Who has the authority to speak about the experiences of psychiatric survivors?

Learning Goals and Objectives: By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. broadly define the process of cooptation;

  2. describe some ways that dominant groups, like public mental health authorities, use their power to co-opt social justice movements and effectively neutralize challenges to the status quo;

  3. provide examples from peer support and the Women, Co- Occurring Disorders and Violence Study (WCDCS) of how psychiatric survivor-derived values and principles were compromised and survivor knowledge, narratives and identities appropriated;

  4. engage in dialogue about what constitutes expertise, who qualifies to tell survivor stories, and whether it is possible to collaborate with policymakers and clinicians while resisting cooptation.

Link to brief presenter bios: Darby Penney, M.L.S.