The use of Repertory Grids to explore the experiences of compassion by mothers in a Mother and Baby Unit.

  • Rebecca Gillham

Student thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology


Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) are recommended for the treatment of women requiring admission while pregnant or in the first year following childbirth. In this thesis, the experience of such an admission was explored. In the systematic review, the evidence relating to psychological outcomes from a MBU admission was synthesised and critically evaluated. This included outcomes relating to maternal mental health, the mother-child relationship and child development. Further aims focused on evaluating the quality of the available research, the efficacy of specific treatments and the utility of various assessment tools. A total of 23 papers met the inclusion criteria for this review. Overall the findings were highly positive, indicating a beneficial impact on maternal mental health and the mother-child relationship, and the absence of negative effects on child development. However these findings were limited by the relatively poor methodologies employed, with most studies including no comparison group nor any follow-up after discharge. There was insufficient evidence to explore the impact of specific interventions. It was possible however to make recommendations regarding the appropriateness of specific tools for both clinical and research purposes, as well as to identify further research priorities.The impact of one aspect of a MBU admission was explored in the empirical paper: the experience of compassion from nursing staff. Compassion is an increasingly discussed concept in the National Health Service (NHS) and is incorporated into the NHS Constitution, the values statements of various NHS Trusts and the code of ethics for nursing staff. Despite the differences between MBU admissions and admissions to general psychiatric inpatient units, no research had previously explored the experience of compassion by mothers admitted to a MBU. Repertory Grid interviews were completed with 15 mothers regarding their perceptions of both psychiatric and nursery nurses. The findings indicated the central role of compassion as well as its perceived impact on recovery. Additional valued characteristics in nursing staff included the ability to cope in stressful situations without becoming overwhelmed, and a willingness to be flexible in the application of rules and professional boundaries. The implications of these results for both nurses and managers are discussed, as well as future research directions.The final paper consists of a critical reflection of the research and the research process. This includes an evaluation of the decision making processes and discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of this research.
Date of Award31 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAnja Wittkowski (Supervisor) & Dougal Hare (Supervisor)

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