User involvement in Sommerstua

Image: Dagfinn Bjørgen and peer support specialist Liv Randi Fandrem

Dagfinn Bjørgen and peer support specialist Liv Randi Fandrem standing in front of Sommerstua.

Sommerstua treffsted in Trondheim holds a gathering once every six months to discuss various topics. At Tuesday 29th November the topic was user involvement, and Dagfinn Bjørgen of KBT was invited to speak.

Bjørgen spoke about his view of what constitutes user involvement, and what happens during what he calls a negotiating situation between users and service providers. According to Bjørgen, user involvement means making users capable of setting boundaries, and make demands of the service apparatus – but also of themselves. It is about having faith in each other, and walking the road ahead together.

User involvement serves to provide authority over one’s own life. There are as many roads to a better life, as there are people in the world. What is one person’s road to recovery may not be the same for another. Bjørgen emphasized that a place like Sommerstua can serve as an arena for recovery. Sommerstua has various activities where one can get out of one’s comfort zone.

A total of 24 people attended the gathering, and several of them participated and provided input to the discussion. Being able to share experiences and discuss what makes a service good, and what needs to be improved, is user involvement in action.

One member of the audience pointed out that recovery doesn’t necessarily mean becoming more active and do more, but that it can also mean learning to accept yourself for who you are, and your life. Another highlighted the importance of having authority in one’s own life, to be able to say no and to stand up for one’s self – but that it can be challenging, and is something that must be practiced. Recovery entails learning to handle challenging situations, despite the risk of not succeeding each time. Giving yourself the room to fail is important for maintaining the courage to keep trying.

Sommerstua is a municipal meeting place for people with problems relating to mental health. They assist in growth through activities and social community in a safe and including environment. KBT has previously conducted several evaluations of Sommerstua.
Liv Randi Fandrem is working as peer support specialist at Sommerstua, and is currently employed in the project “Erfaringskonsulent i kommunal virksomhet” [Peer specialist in municipal businesses].

In order to apply recovery and user involvement successfully, the users and the services must come together to develop a mutual understanding.


TEXT: Ingvild M. Kvisle and Dagfinn Bjørgen

About Anne B. Plathe

Project team member in KBT. Works with Canada-Norway research collaboration, User Interviews User, web page and social media.