An exploration of perceived coercion into psychological assessment and treatment within a low secure forensic mental health service [2020]

Psychologists working within forensic mental health (FMH) services face challenges around supporting clients’ informed consent when engaging in psychological assessment and treatment. Given that there is little research in this area, this qualitative study interviewed ten forensic inpatients from a low secure FMH service, to determine the impact of any perceived coercion to engage with psychologists. Interviews were transcribed and subject to Thematic Analysis. Three over-arching themes emerged from the analysis: ‘Awareness of Coercive Power’, ‘Experiencing and Responding to Coercion’ and ‘Psychological Treatment is Helpful, But…’. Participants perceived coercion to engage with psychologists. Perceived coercion led to psychological distress, wanting to resist, and superficial engagement. Despite this, therapeutic alliance was established with the psychologist but the quality of the therapeutic alliance was compromised. The findings have implications for psychologists working in FMH services. Suggestions for reducing perceived coercion and future directions for research are discussed.

Cassandra Simms-Sawyers, Helen Miles & Joel Harvey
Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 07 Apr 2020