Therapeutic alliance, anorexia nervosa and the inpatient setting: A mixed methods study

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Journal Article
Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2018, 74 (2), pp. 443 - 453
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© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Aims: The aim of this study was to understand the context of the inpatient setting for the treatment of anorexia nervosa and the implications for the therapeutic alliance between nurses and consumers. Background: The nature of the therapeutic alliance is dependent on the contextual factors that influence interactions. The inpatient setting for the treatment of anorexia nervosa is one such setting where the therapeutic alliance is operative, yet challenging and poorly understood. Design: A two-phase explanatory sequential design was employed. Descriptive statistics from phase one informed phase two interviews. Phase two data were analysed through thematic analysis. Methods: A convenience sample of nurses and consumers were recruited from six wards, in five hospitals. Phase one involved the completion of a survey (N = 128) that measured the strength of the therapeutic alliance, as well as other elements of ward context. Phase two interviews (N = 54) were focused on the therapeutic alliance between nurses and consumers and the implications of the inpatient setting. Data collection occurred between May 2014 - February 2015. Results: Anorexia nervosa as an illness carries destructive implications for the quality of the therapeutic alliance. Nurses’ intimate position in the inpatient setting and interpersonal capacity is influential in overcoming the obstacles that impede the therapeutic alliance. Conclusion: Nurses’ capacity for developing therapeutic alliances is in part dependent on a supportive ward organization and the adequacy of resources to permit meaningful interactions with consumers with anorexia nervosa. Understanding the contextual factors specific to the inpatient setting enhances nurses’ ability to develop therapeutic alliances.
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