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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


GARCIA-CABEZA, Ignacio; VALENTI, Emanuel  y  CALCEDO, Alfredo. Perception and use of informal coercion in outpatient treatment: a focus group study with mental health professionals of Latin culture. Salud Ment [online]. 2017, vol.40, n.2, pp.63-70. ISSN 0185-3325.


In addition to compulsion (involuntary hospitalization, seclusion, restraint, etc.), there are broader forms of coercion (persuasion, interpersonal pressure, inducement or threat), called informal or covert coercion, all of which try to improve patients adherence to treatment.


To analyse the use of covert coercion in mental health outpatients and the mental health professionals´ views on this practice comparing four countries (Spain, Italy, Mexico and Chile).


We conducted a qualitative research using four focus groups in each country with mental health professionals working in mental health centres and based on a thematic analysis approach. Sample. The total sample was made up of 98 professionals (31 psychiatrists, 25 clinical psychologists, 28 nurses, eight social workers and six other professionals).


The use of informal coercion was recognized in clinical practice, but its intensity was related to professionals´ characteristics and to factors related to diagnosis, clinical course, perceived risk, insight, therapeutic relationship and organizational issues in the delivery of services. Its use was justified by effectiveness in improving adherence and, generally, in seeking benefits for the patient, but sometimes in a paternalistic way.

Discussion and conclusion.

Our results match those described in the literature in terms of: 1. sociodemographic and clinical profile; 2. the reason that leads to its use (adherence); 3. ethical justification (search for patient´s benefit, trying not to impair his freedom); hence, the most intense forms (threat) were misperceived. Our professionals acknowledged the use of covert coercion in their clinical practice, justifying it on ethical and clinical grounds.

Palabras llave : Coercion; pressure; autonomy; focus group; community mental health services.

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