In Japan, a radical approach called tōjisha-kenkyū has emerged to challenge the prescriptive narratives that dominate mainstream psychiatry. In tōjisha-kenkyū, which roughly translates as ‘the science of the self’ or ‘self-supported research’, people with disabilities and/or mental illness learn to study their own experiences. During the past few decades, this approach has grown from a grassroots movement created by people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses in a small Hokkaido fishing town, to a revolutionary method for moving beyond psychiatry – a method that is being embraced across the strata of Japan’s rapidly ageing society.

Tōjisha-kenkyū simply encourages people to ‘study’ their own problems, and to investigate patterns and solutions in the writing and testimonies of fellow tōjisha.

Self-reflection is at the heart of this practice. Tōjisha-kenkyū incorporates various forms of reflection developed in clinical methods, such as social skills training and cognitive behavioural therapy, but the reflections of a tōjisha don’t begin and end at the individual. Instead, self-reflection is always shared, becoming a form of knowledge that can be communally reflected upon and improved.

Read more in Aeon.

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