Bernice Brijan

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

My PhD research is aimed at developing the notion of personal recovery as applied to psychiatric illness. Personal recovery can be understood as an attitude, a stance, and a way of approaching the day's challenges while living with a mental disorder. Coming to terms with the loss that comes with psychiatric illness is central to processes of recovery. Up until now, the centrality of grief and loss has been noted insufficiently due to a main focus on autonomy and empowerment in processes of recovery. It will be suggested that part of the problem is that current models of personal recovery presuppose 'the world'. As a result, alterations that occur in the background structure of experience, which can be understood as existential changes in the sense of reality and belonging to the world, are not taken into account. These existential changes often concern a particular type of loss: a lost sense of feeling 'at home' in the world or feeling connected to the world, as has been reported in many cases of, e.g., schizophrenia and severe depression. These experiences have been addressed in the field of phenomenological psychopathology with the help of the concept of existential feeling. However, from a phenomenological perspective it has been noted insufficiently how these existential changes often also involve grief over the loss that comes with psychiatric illness and, more specifically, how this is integral to the condition. The PhD research therefore aims to bring together these strands of thought. Not only will it then be possible to approach personal recovery from an existential perspective; it also enables to further develop the notion of personal recovery in the context of psychiatric illness. In line with the concept of existential feeling it will be argued that personal recovery in essence should be understood as recovery of hope and trust (in 'the world'). This will be addressed from a philosophical-theological perspective and in close understanding with religious approaches of healing through hope and trust.


2018-2020 Board member of the Tilburg PhD Platform (TiPP), Tilburg University

2018-2020 Chair of the PhD Council, TST, Tilburg University

2017-2020 Board member of Journal Schrift, VBK Media

2014-2017 Student member of the Education Committee, TST, Tilburg University

2013-2014 Student member of the Faculty Board, TST, Tilburg University


  • Grief
  • Existential loss
  • Personal recovery and healing
  • Psychiatry
  • Religious experience