Attachment to the clinical team and its association with therapeutic relationships, social networks, and clinical well-being

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Abstract

Objectives.

To determine (1) inter-relationships between social network size and quality and therapeutic relationship ratings and (2) inter-relationships between attachment style, team attachment, therapeutic relationships, social networks, and clinical and social functioning.

Design.

A cross-sectional survey.

Method.

A sample of 93 people using community mental health teams were assessed on their attachment status, social networks, relationship to the keyworker, attachment to the team, characteristics, and clinical and social functioning. Network size and the number friends and confidants were tested for associations with user- and professional-rated therapeutic relationship. Regression analysis was used to determine variables associated with team attachment.

Results.

There was no evidence that network size or number of confidants was associated with therapeutic relationship ratings. Therapeutic relationship was strongly associated with team attachment, but of the four attachment dimensions, only preoccupied attachment was associated with team attachment.

Conclusion.

There is no evidence that therapeutic relationships are associated with the service user's ‘affability’ or predisposition to form relationships, suggesting that measures of therapeutic relationship and service attachment do measure something distinct about service users’ experience of their care. Team attachment and therapeutic relationship measures seem likely to be measuring very similar constructs. It is possible that service users with more preoccupied attachment styles may find it particularly difficult to form positive attachments to services undergoing frequent change.

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