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A comparative analysis of family caregivers’ perceived relationships with mental health professionals

Objective: Family caregivers’ relationships with mental health professionals who provided care for their mentally ill relative were examined to identify changes in types of contacts and levels of satisfaction over time and differences among caregiver groups. Methods: White upper-middle-class members of a family support group were surveyed by mail in 1991 to obtain information about their contacts with mental health professionals and their opinions about needed supports and services. Data from the 1991 survey were compared with data from a similar group of caregivers surveyed in 1983 and from a 1990-1991 study of white and black caregivers in lower socioeconomic groups. Results: The analysis showed that a significant minority of caregivers continue to be dissatisfied with their contacts with mental health professionals. The 1991 survey found that professionals did not actively involve caregivers in the treatment of their mentally ill family member, and caregivers ranked more communication with professionals as their greatest need. Few differences were found between caregiver groups in types of professional contact or levels of satisfaction. However, care- givers in the lower socioeconomic groups in the 1990-1991 study received more advice from professionals than did support group mem- hers in the 1991 survey, and black caregivers were significantly more satisfied with professional contacts than support group members in the 1991 survey. Conclusions: Partnerships between family caregivers and mental health professionals must be developed and nurtured to address caregivers’ unmet needs.


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