Perceived coercion and the therapeutic relationship: a neglected association?

Psychiatr Serv. 2011 May;62(5):471-6. doi: 10.1176/ps.62.5.pss6205_0471.


Objective: Increasing patient autonomy and decreasing coercion are frequently cited goals in mental health care. Research suggests that the therapeutic relationship and patients' experiences of coercion may be associated. This study investigated the association between the therapeutic relationship and perceived coercion in psychiatric admissions.

Methods: Associations between perceived coercion and the therapeutic relationship and sociodemographic and clinical variables were examined by using data from structured interviews with 164 patients consecutively admitted to two psychiatric hospitals in Oxford, England.

Results: High levels of coercion were experienced by 48% of voluntarily and 89% of involuntarily admitted patients. A high perceived coercion score was significantly associated with involuntary admission and a poor rating of the therapeutic relationship. The therapeutic relationship confounded legal status as a predictor of perceived coercion.

Conclusions: Similar factors may influence patients' experience of both coercion and the therapeutic relationship during psychiatric hospital admission. Hospitalization, even when voluntary, was viewed as more coercive when patients rated their relationship with the admitting clinician negatively. Interventions to improve the therapeutic relationship may reduce perceptions of coercion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Coercion*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • England
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Professional-Patient Relations