Successful transitions

Penelope Kinney's research helps us understand how people can handle significant change successfully.

A lot of rehabilitation work goes into preparing forensic psychiatric clients for graded discharge from a secure ward, to an open rehabilitation ward, to living in the community. But Senior Lecturer Penelope Kinney found that the voice of clients describing what it was like for them to transition from living behind a locked door to successfully managing in the community was limited. They have to learn all over again how to make choices for themselves, including simple things like what to eat and when.

Penelope is interested in transition generally, how people adapt to significant changes in their life.  She is particularly interested in this group of people who tend to be dismissed by society. Her background working in forensic psychiatric services meant she was able to gain permission to conduct interviews with staff and clients about the clients' experiences during this transition. As well as face-to-face interviews with the clients who chose to participate in the research, Penelope conducted walking interviews in the community.  Walking together with each client around a place they chose stimulated topics for conversation.

These interviews yielded rich information about how the clients regain autonomy in their lives. Penelope developed a theoretical framework for the various factors that influence this transition, based around three interactive components:

  • Being Well
  • Becoming an Ex (eg ex-drug-user, ex-beneficiary, and especially an ex-psych service client)
  • Belonging in the Community - all want to be productive and contributing members of society

Successful transition depends not only on what the staff and the clients themselves do, but also ultimately on acceptance by the community in which a former client is living. Penelope identified recommendations for practice to facilitate successful transition.

March 2019

Image credit: Paul Sableman, used under Creative Commons licence Attribution CC BY 2.0.