Psychiatric Quarterly

, Volume 86, Issue 4, pp 471–495 | Cite as

The Art of Helpful Relationships with Professionals: A Meta-ethnography of the Perspective of Persons with Severe Mental Illness

  • Amanda LjungbergEmail author
  • Anne Denhov
  • Alain Topor
Original Paper


Relationships with professionals have been shown to be helpful to persons with severe mental illness (SMI) in relation to a variety of services. In this article, we aimed to synthesize the available qualitative research to acquire a deepened understanding of what helpful relationships with professionals consists of, from the perspective of persons with SMI. To do this, we created a meta-ethnography of 21 studies, through which ten themes and an overarching interpretation were created. The findings show that helpful relationships with professionals are relationships where the persons with SMI get to spend time with professionals that they know and trust, who gives them access to resources, support, collaboration and valued interpersonal processes, which are allowed to transgress the boundaries of the professional relationship. The overarching interpretation shows that the relationship that persons with SMI form with professionals is a professional relationship as well as an interpersonal relationship. Both these dimensions entail actions and processes that can be helpful to persons with SMI. Therefore, it is important to recognize and acknowledge both the functional roles of service user and service provider, as well as the roles of two persons interacting with each other, in a manner that may go beyond the purview of the traditional professionalism. Furthermore, the helpful components of this relationship are determined by the individual preferences, needs and wishes of persons with SMI.


Helpful relationships Alliance Severe mental illness User’s perspective Meta-ethnography Meta-synthesis 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research and Development UnitPsychiatry South StockholmJohanneshov, StockholmSweden
  2. 2.Department of Social WorkStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Faculty of Health and Sport SciencesUniversity of AgderGrimstadNorway

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