Published online Nov 9, 2018. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v8.i5.114
Peer-review started: July 10, 2018
First decision: August 24, 2018
Revised: October 7, 2018
Accepted: October 23, 2018
Article in press: October 23, 2018
Published online: November 9, 2018
The clinician patient relationship lies at the core of psychiatric practice and delivery of mental health care services. The concept of treatment alliance in psychiatry has its origins in psychotherapy, but has also been influenced by several other constructs such as patient-centred care (PCC) and shared decision-making (SDM). Similarly, there has been a shift in conceptualization of treatment-adherence in psychiatric disorders including bipolar disorder (BD) from illness-centred and clinician-centred approaches to patient-centred ones. Moreover, the traditional compliance based models are being replaced by those based on concordance between clinicians and patients. Newer theories of adherence in BD place considerable emphasis on patient related factors and the clinician patient alliance is considered to be one of the principal determinants of treatment-adherence in BD. Likewise, current notions of treatment alliance in BD also stress the importance of equal and collaborative relationships, sensitivity to patients’ viewpoints, sharing of knowledge, and mutual responsibility and agreement regarding decisions related to treatment. Accumulated evidence from quantitative research, descriptive accounts, qualitative studies and trials of psychosocial interventions indicates that efficacious treatment alliances have a positive influence on adherence in BD. Then again, research on the alliance-adherence link in BD lags behind the existing literature on the subject in other medical and psychiatric conditions in terms of the size and quality of the evidence, the consistency of its findings and clarity about underlying processes mediating this link. Nevertheless, the elements of an effective alliance which could have a positive impact on adherence in BD are reasonably clear and include PCC, collaborative relationships, SDM, open communication, trust, support, and stability and continuity of the relationship. Therefore, clinicians involved in the care of BD would do well to follow these principles and improve their interpersonal and communication skills in order to build productive alliances with their patients. This could go a long way in confronting the ubiquitous problem of non-adherence in BD. The role of future research in firmly establishing the alliance-adherence connection and uncovering the processes underlying this association will also be vital in devising effective ways to manage non-adherence in BD.
Core tip: A collaborative treatment alliance is central to tackling the ubiquitous problem of non-adherence in bipolar disorder (BD). Studies examining the link between alliance and adherence in BD have shown that an effective alliance positively impacts adherence. However, the existing literature is relatively limited, often of variable quality, and has not been able to clearly delineate the mediators of the alliance-adherence connection. Nevertheless, the key elements of productive alliances in BD which could positively influence treatment-adherence are reasonably clear. They can be readily implemented in clinical practice to enhance adherence in BD, till future research further clarifies the alliance-adherence association.