The purpose of this paper is to explore student experiences of learning from mental health service users and carers.
In total, 30 clinical psychology trainees and ex-trainees took part in an online survey (n=21) or focus group (n=9). Responses were analysed using interpretative thematic analysis.
A number of themes were identified. There were two pre-conditions of learning: valuing the teaching and emotional arousal. Participants’ learning experiences were characterised by cognitive and meta-cognitive processes: active learning, reflection, increased attention and vivid memories. Furthermore, participants might have a meta-cognitive experience of having learned something, but being unsure what that something was. Participants reported learning about the lives of service users, about themselves and about the wider societal context for people with mental health difficulties.
In order to facilitate learning students should value the input of service users. This allows them to contain and use the emotional arousal the teaching produces. Furthermore, leaving students with a feeling that something has been learned but not being exactly sure what that has been may facilitate students seeking out further opportunities for service user involvement.
Few studies have explored the process of learning from mental health service users and carers. In the current study, the emotion aroused in participants was primary. Furthermore, a new meta-cognitive experience, namely, the experience of having learned something, but not being sure what has been learned, has been identified.