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Understanding how people who use illicit drugs and alcohol experience relationships with psychiatric inpatient staff

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>01/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number1
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)51-58
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date10/07/14
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Psychiatric inpatient services are often required to provide care for people with mental health difficulties who use illicit drugs or alcohol (people with coexisting difficulties). In other settings, relationships between service users and staff can be important in alleviating distress and improving outcomes. This study explored how people with coexisting difficulties experienced relationships with staff in psychiatric inpatient services to increase understanding of these relationships.
Ten adult service users (5 male, 5 female) from eight inpatient wards participated in semi-structured interviews. All participants had mental health diagnoses, and self-reported use of illicit drugs and/or heavy alcohol consumption. Data was analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.
Analysis yielded three consistent themes: ‘weighing up the risk of relationships’, ‘relationships intertwined with power and control’ and ‘seeking compassionate care’. These themes highlighted the negative impact that service users’ anticipation of rejection could have upon their willingness to develop relationships with staff, and the conflict which could occur due to their perceived difference to staff. Findings also highlighted that consistent, compassionate care by staff could minimise group differences and alleviate rejection fears.
Previous experiences of rejection and power structures within psychiatric inpatient services can influence the abilities of people with coexisting difficulties to develop relationships with staff. It is, therefore, important for staff and services to demonstrate consistent care, where staff are sympathetic and show a desire to alleviate suffering and to encourage clinical approaches which foster equality and mutual understanding between staff and service users.