William L. White, MA
Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services
In 1976, Dr. Thomasina Borkman identified two fundamentally different ways of knowing: science-grounded professional knowledge and the experiential knowledge of peer-based recovery support groups. Where scientific knowledge places great value on understanding a problem from the outside through the lens of objective distance and carefully controlled experiments, experiential knowledge seeks to understand a problem from close-up and inside—from the subjective experience of those who have lived through and solved the problem. Whereas scientific truth is conveyed in the form of data, experiential truth is transmitted through stories and the inherited wisdom of community elders. Science, in its pride of precision, focuses on the segment; experience, in its pride of the pragmatic, focuses on what works as a whole. Science stands and demands, “Where is your proof?” Experience stands in response and proclaims, “I am the proof!” and offers its biographical evidence.