Tojisha/Peer Membership Categories and Sequential Order in Tojisha Kenkyu Sessions for People with Mental Illness
Tojisha kenkyu began as a peer-support group session for people with mental illness in a Bethel community in Japan. Tojisha kenkyu means "research (kenkyu) by the affected parties/members (tojisha)," or self-directed research (Nakamura 2013). Video data of tojisha kenkyu were taken from outpatient hospital sessions over a period of four months. Each session was held once a week for ninety minutes. Participants include seven tojishamembers and two facilitators who were hospital social workers.
We focus on some of their procedures, or steps (Nakamura 2013:174), and explicate how participants categorize each other in the tojisha kenkyu interaction. One procedure is to differentiate between "the problem" and "the person as problem presenter." The person, who is considered to have a problem, is categorized as a problem presenter/struggler. The other procedure is to create a self-diagnosis. The problem presenter is categorized as a researcher who can create a self-diagnosis. Other participants, including facilitators, are categorized as (co)researchers, but the presenter has priority access to the problems and has the right to answer questions from other participants. In this way, the problem presenter shifts his/her self-categorization from a mentally ill person to a researcher and tojisha member. In these sequences, other participants, even facilitators, are also categorized as tojisha co-members. We use transcripts of video data to show how these tojisha/peer members and other categories are collaboratively used in the sequences of tojisha kenkyu sessions. This study shows how tojisha kenkyu is an alternative way to have understand people with and without mental illness, and to highlight the social relationships in mental health.