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Soc Sci Med. 2000 Feb;50(4):495-506.

A critical review of the concept of patient motivation in the literature on physical rehabilitation.

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Department of Public Health Sciences, Guy's King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, London, UK.


Rehabilitation professionals have long suspected that a patient's motivation plays an important role in determining the outcome of therapy, despite the lack of a clear definition of the phenomenon. The fact that such a subjective concept is commonly used by clinicians prompted this investigation into the range and nature of professional understandings of patient motivation. The literature dealing with physical rehabilitation and motivation was reviewed and was found to fall into three broad groups. One group of mainly clinical articles conceives of motivation as an internal 'personality trait' of the individual patient, and explains the nature and causes of motivation purely in terms of internal dispositions. Another body of literature considers motivation to be a quality which is affected by social factors, and stresses the importance of awareness of such factors in explaining motivation. The third approach considers social factors in combination with personality or clinical characteristics. It is argued that the personality-based approach facilitates moralising in the therapeutic encounter, a problem which is both highlighted and critiqued by the methodology which emphasises the importance of social factors. The practical implications of the relative merits of these different theories of motivation are considered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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