• mental health;
  • narrative theory;
  • philosophy;
  • qualitative methodology;
  • theory development

Accessible summary

  • This paper critiques conventional qualitative assumptions around ‘lived experience’ from a post-structural qualitative inquiry perspective.
  • On the basis of this critique, it describes and discusses some broad emerging implications for qualitative inquiry in mental health nursing, identifying published work which illustrates these implications.
  • The paper ends with an outline of the arguable benefits of, and some challenges for, qualitative research in mental health nursing embracing post-structural sensibilities.


Qualitative studies in mental health nursing research deploying the ‘lived experience’ construct are often written on the basis of conventional qualitative inquiry assumptions. These include the presentation of the ‘authentic voice’ of research participants, related to their ‘lived experience’ and underpinned by a meta-assumption of the ‘metaphysics of presence’. This set of assumptions is critiqued on the basis of contemporary post-structural qualitative scholarship. Implications for mental health nursing qualitative research emerging from this critique are described in relation to illustrative published work, and some benefits and challenges for researchers embracing post-structural sensibilities are outlined.