Abstract This qualitative study explored how professionals and parents with mental illness experience their relationships with each other, what aspects of interaction promote a constructive relationship and the role of wider organisational and systemic factors. A purposive sample of 30 adult mental health and children’s services professionals, and 21 parents completed semi-structured interviews. Professionals’ transparent, non-judgemental, empathetic and positive approach and ability to form partnerships and to share power with parents were keys in building trusting relationships with them. Professionals’ capacity to use limited self-disclosure of their own personal experiences (i.e. parenting) enabled them to develop constructive relationships with parents. Equally, important was parents’ willingness to form partnerships with professionals and to accept a whole family approach to service delivery. Professionals’ limited understanding of mental illness and focus on administration hindered their relationships with parents. An understanding of what constitutes a constructive relationship between professionals and parents and how it develops may help professionals to reflect upon how they engage parents and to do it well. It may also assist organisations to develop the necessary structures and resources to create the conditions for promoting constructive engagement between professionals and parents.
- adult mental health services, children’s services, mental illness, parents, professional relationships, procedural justice.