Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Todd Meyers


Since the 1990s, recovery-oriented approaches to mental illness have become the dominant paradigm in contemporary U.S. non-clinical institutional settings. Central to the recovery paradigm is a discourse of self-determination that separates psychiatric pathology from personhood and expects those diagnosed to enact and manage themselves as autonomous subjects - as empowered, responsible, independent, and transformable. For many individuals, however, everyday experiences of illness are at odds with expectations for recovery, defined as a "process of change" through which the self is continuously worked upon and improved (SAMHSA 2011). One particularly popular non-clinical recovery modality is the Clubhouse model of psychosocial rehabilitation - a voluntary, community-based program for individuals diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness. Drawing on four months of ethnographic fieldwork at a Clubhouse in Detroit, this paper examines the possibilities for selfhood conditioned by the program's principles and daily structure and the ways that ideas about recovery entered into ideas about the self and the future. I argue that within the Clubhouse space, members came to model forms of selfhood that often eluded or ran counter to expectations for recovery, and in doing so called into question the possibility for self-determination and autonomous selfhood upon which the logic of recovery relied.