Applying the capabilities approach to the mental health field: a contribution to the evaluation and innovation of community mental health program

Webinar with Beatrice Sacchetto, 28 April 2022, 18h (CET).

Discussant. Prof. José Ornelas

About the webinar

The capabilities approach emerged as an alternative framework for evaluating quality of life, considering broader dimensions of well-being and pointing out the role of the social and political arena that may hinder or foster individuals’ potential. In this sense, it seems to share the same underlying ecological perspective as community psychology, encompassing an understanding of people as social beings within interpersonal, social, institutional, and political networks. The capabilities account is also consistent with community mental health models based on empowerment, recovery and community integration; in fact, the capabilities focus on individual agency and choice converges with decision-making power, self-determination and social participation.

The capabilities framework is particularly relevant for groups that suffer discrimination and social exclusion, as they may need more institutional and social support than other socially advantaged groups to access social opportunities and achieve their potential. Throughout the history people with mental health problems have suffered social exclusion and lack of power in the mental health system. Moreover, the involvement of people with mental health challenges in research and service evaluation has traditionally been scarce, especially in the construction of outcome measures.

The current webinar will present a research with the main aim of contributing to the evaluation and innovation of community mental health programs, presenting a new measure – the Achieved Capabilities Questionnaire for Community Mental Health (ACQ-CMH) – based on the capabilities framework and developed through collaboration with people with lived experience of mental illness.

It will also be highlighted a) the innovation of the theoretical capabilities approach, considering the historical and current background of the mental health field; b) the linkages with community psychology models and values; c) the relevance of the collaborative approach in research and evaluation in the mental health field; d) the main research results and its implications for transformative change.


About the presenter

Dr. Beatrice Sacchetto completed her PhD in Community Psychology in 2021, at the ISPA-University Institute of Lisbon. She is actually an Integrated Researcher of the Applied Psychology Research Center Capabilities & Inclusion – APPsyCI, and the coordinator of the community center of the Association for the Study and Psychosocial Rehabilitation (AEIPS), an NGO in Lisbon that provides support services for people with experience of mental illness.

She recently coordinated an EEA Grants project on leadership, capabilities and empowerment in mental health, and previously worked in an IC&DT FCT project on community integration and capabilities of people with mental health challenges. Dr. Sacchetto has a large experience in both research and intervention in mental health towards a community psychology perspective, applying collaborative approaches to promote community-centered and empowering processes and results. Particularly, she has widely investigated and published about the adaption of Nussbaum’s capabilities framework to the community mental health field, in order to provide an innovative evaluative framework for community mental health programs.


About the discussant

Prof. José Ornelas is a Clinical and Community Psychologist, specialized in community intervention and integration of people in extremely vulnerable situations. Completed his first doctoral degree in the Boston University (USA) – 1979-1984; and a second doctoral degree in the University of Oporto (1999). He completed his aggregation in the University of the Azores (2009). From 2016 to 2019 Ornelas was the principal investigator of the Horizon 2020 HOME_EU Reversing Homelessness in Europe, GA/726997, and is currently the coordinator of the EEAGRANTS Project (OC4-B11 | ISPA) PEER NETWORK: Gender Violence and Empowerment. He is the scientific adviser of a community-based program on the promotion of educational achievement in 5 Portuguese national counties, in parallel with teaching and research supervision of Master’s and Doctoral theses on Psychology.