, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 183-195

Shame-Inducing Encounters. Negative Emotional Aspects of Sickness-Absentees' Interactions with Rehabilitation Professionals

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There is little knowledge on how sickness absentees experience encounters with rehabilitation professionals. This paper explores and describes negative emotions (“shame” in a broad sense) experienced by individuals on sick leave in their interactions with rehabilitation professionals. We performed a qualitative analysis of data from five focus-group interviews. The participants had experience of sickness absence with back diagnoses and discussed factors that facilitate or impede return to work. Reports of demeaning experiences in encounters with rehabilitation workers were frequent and could be divided into two major categories: 1) subjects perceived the behavior of rehabilitation professionals as distanced in a negative way, and felt that they were treated in an indifferent and nonchalant manner or fairly routinely; 2) subjects felt that they were disqualified, which included being discredited or belittled. This explorative study indicates the need for further, more directed investigations of emotional aspects of interactions between sickness absentees and rehabilitation professionals.