Clinician perspectives on what constitutes good practice in community services for people with complex emotional needs: A qualitative thematic meta-synthesis

Jordan Troup, Billie Lever Taylor, Luke Sheridan Rains*, Eva Broeckelmann, Jessica Russell, Tamar Jeynes, Chris Cooper, Thomas Steare, Zainab Dedat, Shirley McNicholas, Sian Oram, Oliver Dale, Sonia Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction The need to improve the quality of community mental health services for people with Complex Emotional Needs (CEN) (who may have a diagnosis of ‘personality disorder’) is recognised internationally and has become a renewed policy priority in England. Such improvement requires positive engagement from clinicians across the service system, and their perspectives on achieving good practice need to be understood. Aim To synthesise qualitative evidence on clinician perspectives on what constitutes good practice, and what helps or prevents it being achieved, in community mental health services for people with CEN. Methods Six bibliographic databases were searched for studies published since 2003 and supplementary citation tracking was conducted. Studies that used any recognised qualitative method and reported clinician experiences and perspectives on community-based mental health services for adults with CEN were eligible for this review, including generic and specialist settings. Meta-synthesis was used to generate and synthesise over-arching themes across included studies. Results Twenty-nine papers were eligible for inclusion, most with samples given a ‘personality disorder’ diagnosis. Six over-arching themes were identified: 1. The use and misuse of diagnosis; 2. The patient journey into services: nowhere to go; 3. Therapeutic relationships: connection and distance; 4. The nature of treatment: not doing too much or too little; 5. Managing safety issues and crises: being measured and proactive; 6. Clinician and wider service needs: whose needs are they anyway? The overall quality of the evidence was moderate. Discussion Through summarising the literature on clinician perspectives on good practice for people with CEN, over-arching priorities were identified on which there appears to be substantial consensus. In their focus on needs such as for a long-term perspective on treatment journeys, high quality and consistent therapeutic relationships, and a balanced approach to safety, clinician priorities are mainly congruent with those found in studies on service user views. They also identify clinician needs that should be met for good care to be provided, including for supervision, joint working and organisational support.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0267787
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5 May
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2022


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