Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 89 Issue 4 (December 2016), Pages 369-482

Exploring narratives of psychological input in the acute inpatient setting (pages 464-482)

Objectives

This research explored what happens when psychological input is offered in the inpatient setting and examined service users' and staff members' understanding and portrayal of these experiences.

Design

Narrative analysis, an interview design, was used to examine experiences of inpatient psychological interventions in National Health Service inpatient mental health settings.

Methods

Ten participants (four service users and six staff members; five males and five females; seven White British, one White Irish, one Black African, and one Black Caribbean) were recruited via clinical psychologists from an inpatient psychology department and participated in 18‐ to 90‐min interviews.

Results

Evidence suggested that direct, indirect, and strategic psychological interventions were used in the inpatient setting, with formulation and the therapeutic relationship conceptualized as common features. Connections between inpatient psychology and change, evidenced in the stories, suggested that interventions can help people make sense of a crisis, improve relationships, and contribute to meaningful recovery. Evidence of barriers suggests that psychological input in this setting might not always be compatible with everyone's needs.

Conclusions

This paper explored service users' and staff members' experiences of psychological input in the inpatient setting. The analysis revealed that psychological provision in the inpatient mental health setting is varied and encompasses direct and indirect input, valued by service users and clinicians. It also identified that psychological input in the acute inpatient mental health setting is perceived as meaningful and can lead to changes at an interpersonal and intrapersonal level. There is a sense that providing psychological thinking in the inpatient setting can be challenging due to environmental constraints and individual factors. This highlights the need for further research focused on the costs and clinical effectiveness of providing psychological thinking within the acute inpatient mental health setting.

Practitioner points

  • Staff members and service users made connections between psychological input and change, suggesting that interventions can improve relationships, help people make sense of a crisis, and contribute to meaningful recovery.
  • There are significant barriers to and challenges of providing psychological input in this setting: Some participants suggested that this approach might not suit everyone.

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