Wright, Karen Margaret and Hacking, Suzanne
An angel on my shoulder: a study of relationships between women with anorexia and healthcare professionals.
Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 19
Adults with anorexia are an under-researched group because the usual focus is on adolescents. The relationships that occur between healthcare professionals and adults with anorexia are often challenging, because they do not necessarily agree on the goals of treatment. The therapeutic relationship is widely recognized as crucial to care, even healing and restorative in its own right but problematic in this setting. This is a phenomenological study of how therapeutic relationships are negotiated and maintained in a day care service. Six women with anorexia nervosa and seven of their healthcare professionals were interviewed in the care setting to explore their lived experience of their relationships. Six important themes emerged from the interviews: the authenticity of the relationship, safety, the externalization of the eating disorder, recovery measured in kilos, the power of hope and optimism and the use and acceptance of maternalism in the care setting. Findings suggest that patients appreciated the safety and security of care, but some were using the service as respite rather than recovery. Patients saw goals and tasks related directly to weight gain as irrelevant to their main concerns, but engagement with people who provided a secure, nurturing and maternalistic context for safety and optimism was seen as supportive.