Community mental health team's constructions of service users with a diagnosis of borderline personality: an ethnographic study

Angus Forsyth

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The psychiatric diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) leads to service users experiencing stigmatising and disempowering attitudes from professional mental health staff. To date, a nursing theory has not been developed to understand mental health nurses’ personal and professional constructions towards service users with this diagnosis. The development of such theory may enable improved service user engagement, collaboration and recovery for this group of individuals. This study answered the questions of determining the nature of mental health nurses’ beliefs towards service users with a diagnosis of BPD and how these beliefs affect their therapeutic relationships with this service user group. An ethnographic approach was used in this study. Data was collected using a combination of observation of the patient assessment and allocation meeting within a community mental health team; and ethnographic interviews with named nurses for service users with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. A reflective journal was also kept by the lead researcher. N-Vivo Version 7 was used to aid data analysis and this involved examining the scripts for repetitive patterns or sequences including descriptions, figures of speech, metaphors etc. in order to illuminate differences between different practices and contexts. Findings from the study elicited a model of how CPNs construct BPD categorisations and a potential pathway to alienation is described together with recommendations for the development of CMHTs and CPNs when working with BPD. Development of reflexive practice can be a vehicle for developing alternative constructions of BPD and recovery informed practice can reduce stigmatising practices experienced by service users with BPD.
Original languageEnglish
  • Hill, Michael, Supervisor
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Mar 2011


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