Exploring forensic mental health service users' views on work: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Jean McQueen, Turner Jennifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to capture the views of forensic mental health service users; focusing on how services promote the aspiration to work, the development of skills for work, and the vocational rehabilitation process. It seeks to provide insight into forensic mental health service users' views on the barriers and enablers to accessing work together with suggestions for enhancing practice, and implications for further research. Design/methodology/approach: Ten participants from a range of forensic mental health services throughout Scotland took part in semi-structured interviews. Participants were involved in either paid work, voluntary work or work preparation. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) allowed exploration of an individual's lived experiences and how they make sense of this. Findings: Service users valued the opportunity to address vocational issues at the earliest opportunity in their rehabilitation. Work had an overwhelmingly positive impact on mental health. Analysis of interview transcripts revealed three master themes: "Normalising my life": the positive impact of work; "Gradual steps": facing barriers; and "Practical help and encouragement": feeling supported. There is much to gain from good multidisciplinary rehabilitation within secure hospitals and the community, with work playing an important role in recovery and symptom control. Forensic services should focus on employment and the aspiration to work early, demonstrating awareness that attitude and the aspiration to work are a much more reliable indicator of success than diagnosis and mental health symptoms. Originality/value: Few qualitative studies have investigated service users' views of work within forensic mental health, yet such information can be crucial to enhance and improve service delivery. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-179
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Forensic Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2012


  • Employment
  • Forensic mental health
  • Mental illness
  • Occupational therapy
  • Patient care
  • Rehabilitation
  • United Kingdom
  • Vocational rehabilitation


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