Experiences of and attitudes toward mental health services among older youths in foster care

Bethany R Lee, Michelle R Munson, Norma C Ware, Marcia T Ollie, Lionel D Scott, J Curtis McMillen
Psychiatric Services: a Journal of the American Psychiatric Association 2006, 57 (4): 487-92

OBJECTIVES: This study explored the experiences of youths in the Missouri foster care system who were receiving mental health services in order to identify characteristics that they valued in relationships with mental health professionals and in the services they received and to examine whether their attitudes toward services were associated with their experiences with services.

METHODS: As part of a larger study, 389 youths aged 17 years were asked open-ended questions about their experiences with mental health providers. The qualitative responses were classified through thematic analysis, and the frequencies of themes were assessed. Service use was measured, and the confidence subscale of the Attitude Toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help scale was used to measure attitudes.

RESULTS: Youths' comments generally centered on three aspects of their mental health care: their relationship with their mental health provider, the level of professionalism of their provider, and the effects of the treatment, including medication management. Youths who reported only negative experiences had less positive attitudes toward services than other youths, but they were not any more likely to have experienced changes in service use or medication six months later.

CONCLUSIONS: Soliciting feedback from youths about mental health services is important to the provision of high-quality care. In addition to themes identified in similar studies, this study suggests that medication management plays an important role in the acceptability of the treatment that youths receive.

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