The therapeutic relationship and the mental health nurse: it is time to articulate what we do!

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Browne, G, Cashin, A & Graham, IW 2012, 'The therapeutic relationship and the mental health nurse: it is time to articulate what we do!', Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, vol. 19, no. 9, pp. 839-843.

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The role of Mental Health Nursing has always been to support people living with a mental illness to strive for dignified meaningful lives. This is consistent with the modern commitment to recovery focused care. The commitment to Mental Health Nursing practice informed by the available evidence is increasingly reflected in the policy of health services and the practice of clinical nurses. This is admirable, but assumes that the evidence is available.

This opinion piece reflects on a nursing history of the development of mental health care and presents an argument that if Mental Health Nurses are to embrace evidence-based practice (there probably is not a choice) they need to be, like the other mental health professions, able to clearly describe and define the many and varied contributions they make to the health of the consumers of mental health services (consumers).

Mental Health Nursing has attempted to develop a theory of the profession under the banner of the therapeutic relationship. Because of the diversity of the way they work this grand theory becomes too unwieldy to use and attempts at an all encompassing definition are problematic.

If Mental Health Nurses are to regain recognition for the contribution they make they will need to identify the things they do. That is, not to undervalue the therapeutic relationship but rather make arguments that clearly articulate the further contributions Mental Health Nurses make within that therapeutic relationship (Happell 2011).

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