Working with Adults with Enduring Mental Illness: Emotional Demands Experienced by Occupational Therapists and the Coping Strategies they Employ

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This study addressed the following research question: what emotional demands may be experienced by occupational therapists working with adults with enduring mental illness and what coping strategies do they use? A survey approach, using semi-structured interviews, was employed for this qualitative research study. The sample comprised six senior I occupational therapists currently working with this client group in the community. The data analysis involved developing a thematic framework which identified key issues and recurrent themes in the data. This enabled participants' responses to be compared and contrasted and meaningful data relevant to the research question to be extracted. The findings indicated that working with adults with enduring mental illness can be emotionally demanding but that therapists also find their work rewarding. The characteristics of this client group which may cause emotional strain include their complex, long-term problems and the need for clinicians to provide support over a lengthy period. The most commonly used coping strategies were supervision and discussion with colleagues. The study emphasises the importance of occupational therapists maintaining their own emotional wellbeing, not only to protect their own health but also to provide an effective service for their clients.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2001

More about this publication?
  • The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) is the official journal of the College of Occupational Therapists. Its purpose is to publish articles relevant to theory, practice, research, education and management in occupational therapy internationally.

    BJOT publishes research articles, critical reviews, practice analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and an annual index. Please refer to the author's guide at

    Submissions can be made at

    The 2013 Impact Factor for The British Journal of Occupational Therapy is 0.897.

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