• Maja Østergaard Hansen
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
The relation between client and professional in the social psychiatry is often considered the focal point of the intervention and a good relation is of great importance for the client’s wellbeing and chance of recovery. The relation between client and professional is, however, also of a particular character as a result of the special circumstances in the social psychiatry. The professional spends much of her time in the home of the client, which often results in close and long lasting relationships dominated by the individual’s personality. This raises a number of dilemmas, as the relation is both equal and asymmetric at the same time. As a professional, you must give something personal in the relationship and at the same time not give too much. Also the professional must balance between respecting the client’s right to autonomy on one side and on the other the obligation to intervene when necessary.
This thesis investigates the good personal relation between residents and contact persons at a social psychiatric living facility. How does a good personal relation influence the interaction between residents and how can the contact persons actively promote such a relation? The empirical basis of the study consists of participatory observation in combination with semi-structured qualitative interviews with three residents and a contact person of each resident. Using Thomas J. Scheff’s theory of emotions and the social bond, including his concept of attunement and feelings of pride and shame, an analysis of the interaction between residents and their contact persons is made. Additionally, the findings of the study are discussed in relation to selected dilemmas that occur in social work and that are of particular relevance in the social psychiatry. The analysis is structured around four themes.
In the first theme, it is found that non-verbal communication is a central element of the interaction as it causes the residents to feel safe and to feel seen and understood by the contact persons. The non-verbal communication not only signals attunement but is also an indication of a secure social bond.
The second theme concerns the contact persons’ handling of the professional role and their relation to the residents. The analysis shows that it strengthens the social bond when the contact persons are honest and direct about vulnerable emotions and needs that arise in the interaction with the residents. Also, it promotes attunement that the residents know about the contact persons’ life outside the living facility. For example, it can signal attentiveness and awareness of the resident’s thoughts and feelings when the contact persons tell stories about themselves. Moreover, it seems to promote attunement when the residents are able to show concern for and understanding of the contact person’s thoughts and feelings. Lastly, it is discussed how these findings are compatible with the professional role, as a potential discrepancy can be seen between the theoretical findings of the analysis and the existing norms concerning the role of the professional.
The third theme consists of an analysis of a relation that at first glance seems to be engulfed. However, the analysis shows that the social bond in this case is intact and that the resident and the contact person are attuned. As a result, the help that is given by the contact person is of a positive character that promotes development for the resident, and the relation can overcome conflicts and disagreements, as these do not weaken the social bond. Although it is argued that the resident and contact person are attuned, the relation also serves as a useful platform for a discussion of the balance between respecting the resident as an actively self-determining subject and the professional’s obligation to intervene.
Lastly, the third theme concerns the appearance of genuine love in the relation between residents and contact persons. Using Scheff’s concept of love, it is shown that at least one relation can be defined as genuine and mutual love. Furthermore, it is argued that expressing feelings of love can promote attunement. An important point, however, is that a professional relation can be good and promote development for the resident without it being love. Most important is that the resident and the contact person are attuned and the social bond is secure. The idea of love in a professional relation might seem controversial as the relation is also asymmetric, but it is argued that this does not necessarily contradict.
To sum up, Scheff’s theory and the results of the analysis have shown to be a useful basis for the investigation of a good personal relationship between residents and contact persons and for a discussion of the professional role.
LanguageDanish
Publication date8 May 2014
Number of pages131
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 197445002