Mutual relating: developing interpersonal relationships in the community


Terence McCann, School of Nursing, La Trobe University, Albury/Wodonga Campus, Wodonga, Victoria 3690, Australia. E-mail:


Mutual relating: developing interpersonal relationships in the community

Aim of the paper. This paper, which is part of a larger study that examined how community mental health nurses promoted wellness with young adult who were experiencing an early episode of psychotic illness, aims to explicate how nurses develop interpersonal relationships with these consumers.

Rationale. Research into the development of interpersonal skills is important because they are an essential foundation to the promotion of wellness in psychotic illness.

Design/methods. The study used Strauss and Corbin’s approach to grounded theory methodology. Concurrent data collection and analysis was undertaken incorporating interviews and observations. The study took place in the community, in rural and regional New South Wales, Australia, and involved consumers, significant others, and community mental health nurses.

Results. The findings show that several strategies are associated with mutual relating. Attempting to understand necessitates nurses trying to see it from insiders’ points of view, while acknowledging that they can never completely understand their illness experience. Being friendly indicates that the qualities of a friendly relationship should be implicit in a professional friendship. Tuning in involves taking account of and adjusting to consumers’ ways of dressing, communicating, and the types of approaches that consumers prefer. Revealing oneself is a process that helps put both consumers and nurses at ease, and helps dispel the perception consumers take part in a one-sided relationship. Being there for them, is a particular type of obligation that entails nurses being accountable for the care they provide, being a spokesperson for consumers, if required, and avoiding collusion with others. Related to avoiding collusion, is the issue of maintaining confidentiality, particularly within the context of interacting with significant others.

Conclusion. The results of the study have implications for the way nurses develop and maintain interpersonal relationships with consumers, and this is affected by nurses’ personal and professional attributes.