Mental health nursing and the problematic of supervision as a confessional act

David Banks, Andrew Clifton, Mike Purdy, Paul Crawshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Mental health nurses frequently draw on self-disclosure practices within their working relationships. These ‘confessional’ acts can in turn be predicated on traditional assumptions of moral authority exercised by more senior colleagues. More broadly, attention has been drawn to the increasing significance of ‘technologies of the self’ inside neo-liberal regimes of governance. Through various forms of self-disclosure people are obliged ‘to speak the truth about themselves’. By publically declaring themselves as ‘fit for purpose’ nurses are required to be reflexive, self-monitoring individuals, capable of constructing their own identities and biographies, and guided by expert knowledges. In this way, risk becomes a form of governance, as the individuals continually find themselves balancing risks and opportunities. Foucault's insights into the importance of ‘care of the self’ and ‘surveillance of the self’ to systems of social order and governance, such as mental health services, are significant in identifying nursing as a potential form of confessional practice. ‘Reflective practice’ and ‘clinical supervision’ are therefore ‘technologies’, functioning as ‘modes of surveillance’, and as ‘confessional practices’. So ‘clinical supervision’ may be understood as part of a process of ‘governance’ that does not necessarily empower nurses, but can act to guide, correct and modify ways in which they conduct themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595-600
JournalJournal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


Dive into the research topics of 'Mental health nursing and the problematic of supervision as a confessional act'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this