Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Promoting the freedom of thought of mental health service users: Nussbaum’s capabilities approach meets values-based practice
  1. Mari Stenlund
  1. Department of Systematic Theology, University of Helsinki, P.O.Box 4, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mari Stenlund, Department of Systematic Theology, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 4, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland; mari.stenlund{at}


This article clarifies how the freedom of thought as a human right can be understood and promoted as a right of mental health service users, especially people with psychotic disorder, by using Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach and Fulford’s and Fulford et al’s values-based practice. According to Nussbaum, freedom of thought seems to primarily protect the capability to think, believe and feel. This capability can be promoted in the context of mental health services by values-based practice. The article points out that both Nussbaum’s approach and values-based practice recognise that people’s values differ. The idea of involving different actors and service users in mental healthcare is also common in both Nussbaum’s approach and values-based practice. However, there are also differences in that values-based practice relies on a ‘good process’ in decision-making, whereas the capabilities approach is oriented towards a ‘right outcome’. However, since process and outcome are linked with each other, these two approaches do not necessarily conflict despite this difference. The article suggests that absolute rights are possible within the two approaches. It also recognises that the capabilities approach, values-based practice and human rights approach lean on liberal values and thus can be combined at least in liberal societies.

  • Capabilities approach
  • values-based practice
  • mental health care
  • service users
  • human rights
  • freedom of thought

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding Finnish Cultural Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Linked Articles

Other content recommended for you