Psychiatric patient assaults on staff are a serious problem, affecting staff, patients, and organizations. To understand the etiology of aggressive events, researchers have documented characteristics of aggressive patients, their victims, and to a lesser degree, the patient-provider interaction. Missing in the literature is how staff's different perceptions of aggressive incidents might impact their reactions. In this study, we conducted in-depth, semistructured interviews with 11 health care professionals working in a psychiatric ward in one Israeli psychiatric hospital. Through content analysis, we revealed two main themes: patients' and providers' controllability over patients' aggression. From the intersection of these two themes, four prototypes of the aggressive encounter emerged: the power struggle, the therapeutic encounter, inverse power relations, and victim-to-victim encounters, each distinctively characterized by different emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses. We discuss our findings in light of attribution theory, which carries important theoretical and practical implications for handling aggression.
- health care professionals
- risk, perceptions