'What makes an excellent mental health doctor?' A response integrating the experiences and views of service users with critical reflections of psychiatrists
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While therapeutic relationships are appropriately recognised as the foundation of mental health service, service users commonly report suboptimal experiences. With shared understanding critical to improvement in practice, we explored service users’ experiences and expectations of psychiatrists and consultations, engaging psychiatrists throughout the process. Using an iterative qualitative approach we co-produced a response to the question ‘what makes an excellent mental health doctor?’ Experiences and expectations of psychiatrists were explored in interviews with 22 service users. Data collection, analysis and interpretation were informed by consultation with peer workers. Findings were contextualised in formal consultations with psychiatrists. As ‘masters of their craft’, excellent mental health doctors engage authentically with service users as people (not diagnoses). They listen, validate experiences and empathise affectively and cognitively. They demonstrate phronesis, applying clinical knowledge compassionately. Psychiatrists share service users’ aspiration of equitable partnership but competing demands and ‘professional boundaries’ constrain engagement. Consistent delivery of the person-centred, recovery-oriented care promoted by policy and sought by service users will require substantial revision of the structure and priorities of mental health services. The insights and experiences of service users must be integral to medical education, and systems must provide robust support to psychiatrists.
Health and Social Care in the Community
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Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified