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An Interview

With Jean Pierre Wilken

Jean Pierre Wilken

The CARe Network for Recovery and Inclusion is an International network which serves professionals, service users and organizations to promote the transition from institutional to community-based and recovery-based care.

The CARe Network is active in the field of mental health care, social care and welfare services for persons with psychiatric, learning and physical disabilities consisting of members in 20 different countries in Europe and Central Asia, and started to extend its activities in Africa.

The CARe Network changed its name from CARe Europe in March 2018, emphasizing the global perspective and horizontal organization structure of the initiative. 

1. Growth always produces change; but change does not necessarily produce growth. What has been the most amazing growth of The CARe Network?


Growth is not what is the most important. What matters most are people who are committed to advocate for the core values of the CARe Network. People who want to change current practices in mental health care, who want to make practices more recovery and community oriented.

2. What are the challenges facing mental health care? How will The CARe Network contribute to overcome these new challenges?

In many countries, especially in the Eastern part of Europe and Central Asia, many people facing mental health problems become institutionalised. They are faced with social exclusion and a medical system which is narrowing life down to an illness or a behavioural problem. The challenge is to change the current system. Hospitalisation should be avoided as much as possible. Care should be provided close to normal life, so that the mental health issue is distorting daily life as less as necessary. A focus on personal recovery means that the personal experiences and needs of the person are guiding the professional. Medication, psychotherapy and counselling support this personal recovery process. Professional support is focussed on the whole life, including all the areas which are important for a decent quality of life, such as the living conditions, work, income, education and social relationships. The CARe Network offers knowledge and training resources. In the network, we give each other inspiration and we share good examples of new practices.

3. Since the founding of CARe Europe and its change to The CARe Network, what are the most exciting moments over the last 7 years?

I think it is a good step to change the name. This was a desire of our partners In Central Asia. Recently, we are involved in activities in Nigeria, so  we expand to Africa. To add ‘network’ to the name CARe, expresses better what we are: a network of people and organisations sharing the same vision. The CARe Network has step by step developed itself into a movement where a lot of promising activities take place. Of course, the most important activities happen locally, in local organisations. The CARe Network offers a framework which supports these local activities. For me, the international meetings are always a highlight. That’s where we meet each other, inspire each other and learn from each other. I am always impressed by the courage and perseverance of our core members. Over the years they continue developing new initiatives, often in spite of very limited resources and an unfavourable political climate.

4. Digital technology is advancing exponentially. How do you think The CARe Network can leverage on it and alert mental health and social care professionals?

I have the feeling that we are just about to connect to this new area. An initiative as Helpific is very promise full. It shows that using the opportunities web based platforms can offer, it really adds new services to people with a disability. I think the CARe Network can introduce modern forms of E-Health to Eastern European and Central Asian countries. One of the ways we can do this is to spread these resources through our new Russian website.

5. What will be the future perspective of The CARe Network? What is your vision?

My dream is that the CARe Network will become stronger the coming years: connecting more dedicated people, developing more initiatives. The different areas we have identified are all important for accomplishing our mission. These are: developing recovery based care and services, including peer led initiatives, spreading ICT applications and supporting social enterprises.

Jean Pierre

About Jean Pierre Wilken

Jean Pierre Wilken is a professor at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences since 2002. He graduated in social sciences and psychology, and got his PhD degree at Tilburg University on a thesis titled Recovering Care. A contribution to a theory and practice of good care.

He worked at the Regional Institute for Sheltered Living, the Faculty of Social Sciences of Utrecht University, the National Hospital Institute of the Netherlands and Storm Rehabilitation, a European Centre for Psychosocial Rehabilitation. Between 1996 and 2007, he was Director of Research and Development at Storm Rehabilitation, and between 2008 and 2009 he worked as Head of Knowledge Development and Quality at the Rino Group.

Since September 2009, he is a full-time professor at the research group for Participation, Care and Support, which is part of the Research Centre for Social Innovation at HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht. Since 2012, Jean Pierre Wilken is also visiting professor of Social Work Innovation at Tallinn University, Estonia.

His research circles around social inclusion of people in marginalised positions, especially in relation to a disability. The research group has four programmes:

  1. human rights and social inclusion

  2. professionality in the transforming social domain

  3. experiences as a source of knowledge, recovery and empowerment

  4. quality of care in complex situations, effective collaboration between service users, family carers, voluntary carers and professionals.

Fields of expertise: Disability, Evidence for policy / knowledge valorisation, Health and wellbeing, Inclusive social development / inclusive societies / social inclusion, Participation, Social policy

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