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A review of the role of illness models in severe mental health problems.

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>03/2003
<mark>Journal</mark>Clinical Psychology Review
Issue number2
Number of pages26
Pages (from-to)171-196
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The ways in which people think about illness experiences have been associated with a variety of important behaviours and emotional responses in patients, carers, and professionals. Some of these responses have been shown to be related to outcome. Explicit models such as the self-regulation model (SRM) [Leventhal, H., Nerenz, D. R., & Steele, D. F. (1984). Illness representations and coping with health threats. In A. Baum & J. Singer (Eds.), A handbook of psychology and health. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 219–252.] have been shown to be useful in highlighting key beliefs across a wide range of different physical illnesses. The specific beliefs about mental illness that have been assessed have been varied and largely without a common theoretical framework. This has resulted in a literature from which it is difficult to draw firm conclusions. The central aim of this paper is to assess the applicability of the SRM to mental illness. To this end, we review studies to date that have examined the beliefs that people with a mental illness have about their experiences. In addition, we review studies that have examined the beliefs of relatives of people with a mental illness and professionals who work with this population. We assess to what extent these studies are consistent with the SRM before suggesting ways in which the model could be further developed and tested. The SRM is presented as a useful framework for more advanced investigations into the function of beliefs about mental illness and how these can be modified in order to effect outcome. Developing psychological theories common to both physical and mental health may eventually result in an integrated approach in which mental illness becomes less stigmatised within the treatment setting.