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The therapeutic relationship in involuntary inpatient care


Involuntary treatment in a psychiatric hospital is often a long, complicated process likely to elicit strong feelings in patients experiencing it. Relationships with hospital staff members might have an impact on patients' experiences and emotions. Qualitative research in this area would offer a better understanding of patients' views on the role of the ward staff and their involvement in their care.


The present study is part of a large-scale investigation on outcomes of involuntary admission. 60 in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with patients who had been involuntarily admitted in 4 sites in England. The sampling and analysis methodology draws on grounded theory. The sample includes participants admitted under different sections of the Mental Health Act. Their views of the ward staff and their evaluation of professionals-patients relationships were explored. The impact of both positive and negative attitudes and experiences was also discussed. Interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data was coded using MAXqda software for qualitative analysis.


Results indicate that patients report both positive and negative experiences with staff. Positive experiences are perceived as supportive and helpful, whereas negative ones leave patients feeling disrespected, not cared, devalued and losing control over their lives.

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Correspondence to Christina Katsakou.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Katsakou, C., Priebe, S. The therapeutic relationship in involuntary inpatient care. BMC Psychiatry 7, S52 (2007).

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  • Negative Attitude
  • Psychiatric Hospital
  • Inpatient Care
  • Positive Experience
  • Negative Experience