Abstract

A phenomenological study explored occupational therapy students’ experiences in psychiatric fieldwork. Of particular interest was students’ understanding of professional behavior toward persons who use mental health services. Data were gathered from 16 informants via in-depth interviews and participant observation on multiple occasions during fieldwork affiliations. Emerging from informants’ views of professional behavior were difficulties in their reconciling conflicting expectations with regard to emotional and social distance from persons who use mental health services. Additionally, the informants experienced a need to assume authority and maintain control in their dealings with service users. Students’ encounters with such issues during fieldwork are indicative of challenges they may face as health professionals in a changing climate of mental health services. These data are stimuli for reflection on features of professional relationships with service users, particularly in response to expectations of persons with disabilities regarding control over their lives.

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