Levels of service user satisfaction in secure settings--a survey of the association between perceived social climate, perceived therapeutic relationship and satisfaction with forensic services

Int J Nurs Stud. 2011 Nov;48(11):1349-56. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2011.05.011.


Background: The interests of users should lead service developments. However, it has been claimed that forensic mental health services have largely ignored examining users' views on the nature and quality of the service offered to them. Perceived social climate and perceived therapeutic relationship are viewed as important indicators of treatment outcome; however previous findings about how these variables may be associated with satisfaction with forensic services are equivocal.

Objectives: This study aims to assess the levels of service user satisfaction in forensic in-patient settings in one mental health trust and explore how the perceived therapeutic relationship of the service users with their key-workers and the perceived social climate of the wards are associated with service user satisfaction.

Design: A cross-sectional survey design was chosen and an independent researcher facilitated the completion of three standardised assessments measuring service user satisfaction, therapeutic relationships and the social climate of the ward.

Method: Forty-four service users detained in secure settings completed the standardised assessments. The study was conducted in four medium secure and three low secure units in one NHS mental health trust. The data was analysed to examine the level of satisfaction with services and how both the therapeutic relationship and the ward environment were related to levels of satisfaction.

Results: The majority of service users who responded were generally satisfied with services; "rehabilitation" and "perceived safety" were viewed most positively. Service users' perceptions about the social climate of the ward were found to have a significant relationship with service users' satisfaction with forensic services. However, the variables with the strongest association with satisfaction with forensic services are service users' perceptions about the nature of therapeutic relations with staff.

Conclusions: This study indicates that service users' satisfaction with forensic services is strongly associated with their experiences of the therapeutic relationship with their key-workers and the social climate of the ward. The findings emphasize the importance of forming and maintaining effective therapeutic relations and reinforce the need to maintain a therapeutic environment free of aggressive tension and threats of violence. The results also highlight the potential for service users to be dissatisfied with their financial situation following admission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Forensic Psychiatry*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration
  • Mental Health Services / standards*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Social Environment
  • United Kingdom