Dignity and equality can contribute to healing processes

Dignity and equality can contribute to healing processes. This was part of the content in the memorial lecture held by Professor Halvard Vike on Wednesday, September 2nd.

Nyhetsartikkel publisert 04/09/15


Halvard Vike is a professor at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo/Telemark University College.

During his fieldwork at Modum Bad, Professor Vike engaged in numerous conversations with patients. The experience of dignity, respect, and equality in social communities was a significant focus for the patients. Vike believes that these meaningful ideals play a crucial role in treatment and act as a key to healing. “The form of dignity and equality discussed can be understood as extending far beyond Modum Bad. However, Modum Bad, as an institution, can provide insights into its implications,” stated Vike.

Studying from Within

In the spring of 2014, Professor Vike and his wife, social anthropologist Heidi Haukelien, lived at Modum Bad for six months. During this period, they studied the institution from within, aiming to understand the significance of context for treatment through observations and conversations with staff and patients. They were searching for the so-called “x-factor.” Did they find it?


Festsalen var full av interesserte tilhørere under Gordon Johnsens minneforelesning.

Critical testing

After critically testing the treatment program, many patients concluded, “They really know what they’re doing.” Previous problematic experiences with mental health services had made patients skeptical. However, at Modum Bad, they felt involved in knowledge-sharing without it being intrusive. The continuity and smooth collaboration among treatment teams were also noted as positive factors. Patients appreciated that all staff members were familiar with their history, eliminating the need to constantly disclose information.

Taking the leap

Safety, credibility, acknowledgment, and appreciation were recurring themes in Vike and Haukelien’s conversations with patients. Many patients felt invested in, which encouraged them to take risks themselves. “Patients’ narratives of healing processes in our material almost always involve at least three elements. They are deeply social and existential,” explained Vike. “Firstly, it’s an experience of being a full, accepted member of a community. Secondly, it’s about experiencing an environment where taking the chance to have new experiences is possible. Thirdly, it’s about realizing that people you trust confirm that you are genuinely renewing yourself.”

Therapy, community, and network

In his conclusion, Vike stated, “We know that the qualities of what is called the therapeutic alliance are crucial for healing. These qualities revolve primarily around experience and meaning. I believe the most significant realization we have after participating in life at Modum for over half a year is that meaningful alliances are far from sufficient when created between two individuals. They are likely far more healing when extended to larger communities and networks that patients themselves create. This is probably the only way the journey away from mental illness can surpass the limitations of therapeutic conversation and become socially real.”

Halvard Vikes speech (PDF)



Minneforeleser Halvard Vike og hans kone Heidi Haukelien (med blomster) sammen med Gordon Johnsens seks barn. Fra venstre: Astrid Johnsen, Nils Johnsen, Irene Engelstad. Til høyre: Sol Dahl, Einar Johnsen og Helen Johnsen Christie.


Rita Eriksen med band holdt årets minneforelesningskonsert.

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