Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 50, Issue 8, pp 886–895 | Cite as

Trust, Deals and Authority: Community Mental Health Professionals’ Experiences of Influencing Reluctant Patients

  • Jorun RugkåsaEmail author
  • Krysia Canvin
  • Julia Sinclair
  • Anna Sulman
  • Tom Burns
Original Paper


The emphasis on care in the community in current mental health policy poses challenges for community mental health professionals with responsibility for patients who do not wish to receive services. Previous studies report that professionals employ a range of behaviors to influence reluctant patients. We investigated professionals’ own conceptualizations of such influencing behaviors through focus groups with community teams in England. Participants perceived that good, trusting relationships are a prerequisite to the negotiation of reciprocal agreements that, in turn, lead to patient-centred care. They described that although asserting professional authority sometimes is necessary, it can be a potential threat to relationships. Balancing potentially conflicting processes—one based on reciprocity and the other on authority—represents a challenge in clinical practice. By providing descriptive accounts of micro-level dynamics of clinical encounters, our analysis shows how the authoritative aspect of the professional role has the potential to undermine therapeutic interactions with reluctant patients. We argue that such micro-level analyses are necessary to enhance our understanding of how patient-centered mental health policy may be implemented through clinical practice.


Leverage Informal coercion Coercion Mental health Community psychiatry Qualitative research 



We thank our focus group participants for making this study possible. This article presents independent research funded by the National Institute of Health Research (Program Grant for Applied Research, Grant Number RP-PG-0606-1006). The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jorun Rugkåsa
    • 1
    Email author
  • Krysia Canvin
    • 2
  • Julia Sinclair
    • 3
  • Anna Sulman
    • 2
  • Tom Burns
    • 2
  1. 1.Health Services Research UnitAkershus University HospitalLørenskogNorway
  2. 2.Social Psychiatry Group, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  3. 3.Clinical and Experimental Sciences (CNS and Psychiatry), Faculty of MedicineUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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