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Seeing the psychiatrist: an autoethnographic account


P. Burnard
Cardiff School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies
Cardiff University
Heath Park Campus


Autoethnography is a fairly recent approach to ethnography and one in which the writer becomes the ‘subject’ of the study. It remains an approach under question until more has been done in the field. In this account, I describe attending an interview with a psychiatrist, as a patient. I map out the process I encountered and offer, alongside the map, various critical and reflective comments. I offer a summary of my ‘findings’ and close with a critical evaluation both of the method and of the paper. Findings included: a comfortable and comforting ‘setting up’ of the interview; a sense of moving into the ‘patient role’; a clear indication of how the interview would proceed; and empathic manner on the part of the psychiatrist and a sound process of follow-through with my general practitioner. In the critique section, I try to answer the question as to whether or not authoethnography is self-indulgent and the degree to which it can or cannot help others in understanding mental health issues. I remain uncertain about both the method and its value. In the end, it is probably for the reader to answer these questions.