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Psychiatr Serv. 2013 May 1;64(5):431-6. doi: 10.1176/

Leverage, the treatment relationship, and treatment participation.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, 401 Parnassus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


OBJECTIVE Although many psychiatric patients experience various forms of pressure or leverage to participate in community treatment, the association between such experiences and treatment participation is controversial. This study evaluated the hypothesis that aspects of the treatment relationship, such as the working alliance, psychological reactance, and perceived coercion, could be important in understanding treatment adherence and satisfaction in a group of patients at risk of experiencing leverage. METHODS A total of 198 outpatients at two community mental health centers completed structured interviews including measures of the treatment relationship, treatment participation, experience of leverage, and clinical functioning. Regression analyses were used to assess associations between the treatment relationship and treatment adherence and satisfaction while concomitantly considering experiences of leverage, demographic characteristics, and clinical functioning. RESULTS Approximately four in ten participants reported experiencing some form of leverage to adhere to treatment during the previous six months, such as pressures related to the criminal justice system, money, housing, and outpatient commitment. Patients who perceived greater coercion to participate in treatment were more likely to report taking their medications as prescribed. Higher satisfaction with treatment was associated with lower perceived coercion, a better working alliance, and lower levels of psychological reactance. CONCLUSIONS Benefits in medication adherence associated with interventions that patients perceive as coercive may come at a cost of decreased satisfaction with treatment. Aspects of the treatment relationship hold promise for individualizing treatment planning in a way that addresses satisfaction as well as adherence.

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