Contributions of a Community-Based Organization for the Transformation of the Mental Health System in Portugal

José Ornelas, Francesca Esposito, Beatrice Sacchetto


This contribution presents how a community-based organization, the AEIPS (Associação para o Estudo e a Integração Psicossocial), founded in 1987 in Lisbon by people with experience of mental illness, along with family members, and professionals of the sector, has influenced a transformative change in the mental health system in Portugal. Inspired by the principles and values of community psychology, since its creation the AEIPS has the goal of fostering the process of de-institutionalization and the development of a system of community-based services aimed at integrating people with experience of mental illness in the community. The adoption of a contextual and ecological perspective, which assumes the recovery as the core mission, has contributed to the development of the AEIPS as a center that promotes bonds between individuals and their communities. In particular, in this article is described how the AEIPS has organized its services in terms of housing, education and employment, facilitating people's access to resources existing in natural settings, such as schools, companies, and other services available to all population. Before explaining how the intervention of this organization is carried out at the operational level in the different areas, the conceptual framework that guides its professional practice will be presented: the recovery and empowerment, the contextual-ecological perspective, and the capabilities approach for the human development. The article will conclude with some reflections on this working experience of more than twenty years, and the transformative impacts of the intervention paradigm proposed at the professional, organizational, social and political level.


community mental health; contextual-ecological approach; recovery; empowerment; capabilities approach.

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Rivista di Psicologia Clinica. Teoria e metodi dell'intervento

Rivista Telematica a Carattere Scientifico Registrazione presso il Tribunale civile di Roma (n.149/2006 del 17/03/2006)

ISSN 1828-9363