Difficulties implementing a mental health guideline: an exploratory investigation using psychological theory

Susan Michie, Stephen Pilling, Philippa Garety, Paula Whitty, Martin P Eccles, Marie Johnston, Jemma Simmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Evaluations of interventions to improve implementation of guidelines have failed to produce a clear pattern of results favouring a particular method. While implementation depends on clinicians and managers changing a variety of behaviours, psychological theories of behaviour and behaviour change are seldom used to try to understand difficulties in implementation or to develop interventions to overcome them.

OBJECTIVES: This study applied psychological theory to examine explanations for difficulties in implementation. It used a theoretical framework derived from an interdisciplinary consensus exercise to code interviews across 11 theoretical domains. The focus of the study was a National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence's Schizophrenia guideline recommendation that family intervention should be offered to the families of people with schizophrenia.

METHODS: Participants were recruited from community mental health teams from three United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) Trusts; 20 members (social workers, nurses, team managers, psychologists, and psychiatrists) participated. Semi-structured interviews were audio-taped and transcribed. Interview questions were based on the theoretical domains and addressed respondents' knowledge, attitudes and opinions regarding the guideline. Two researchers independently coded the transcript segments from each interview that were related to each theoretical domain. A score of 1 indicated that the transcript segments relating to the domain did not appear to contain description of difficulties in implementation of the family therapy guidelines; similarly a score of 0.5 indicated possible difficulties and a score of 0 indicated definite difficulties.

RESULTS: Coding respondents' answers to questions related to the three domains 'beliefs about consequences,' 'social/professional role and identity,' and 'motivation' produced the three highest total scores indicating that factors relating to these domains were unlikely to constitute difficulties in implementation. 'Environmental context and resources' was the lowest scoring domain, with 'Emotion' scoring the second lowest, suggesting that these were likely to be areas for considering intervention. The two main resources identified as problems were time and training. The emotions that appeared to potentially influence the offer of family therapy were self-doubt and fear.

CONCLUSION: This exploratory study demonstrates an approach to developing a theoretical understanding of implementation difficulties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8
JournalImplementation Science
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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