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“You feed and water a rose bush and eventually it blossoms”: Constructions of self-transformation among mental health court defendants.

NCJ Number
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry Volume: 85 Dated: 2022
Date Published

The authors report on their examination of the ways in which mental health court defendants navigate programmatic demands while balancing attention to their own well-being and treatment needs, with particular attention to issues of compliance and engagement; they discuss the theory behind their research, recruitment and participation, distinct adaptive responses, and conclusions.


This study qualitatively examined adaptive responses to mental health court mandates through individual interviews with defendants in a mental health court. Thematic analysis of interview data revealed that defendants engaged in meaning-making to comprehend and adapt to the perceived programmatic demands of mental health court. Programmatic burdens, court-enforced accountability, and intrinsic rewards were themes that converged to form a distinct adaptive response: construction of self-transformation narratives. Defendants in this study tended to interpret the intense burdens of participation as intrinsically rewarding and meaningful, leading them to see the expectations of mental health court as an opportunity to better themselves. The findings help to differentiate between compliance versus full treatment engagement among defendants with serious mental illness (SMI). This study's findings have important implications for how individuals with serious mental illness engage with court diversion programs and mandated treatment, and how these defendants may be best served in specialized mental health court programs. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2022