When treatment pressures become coercive: A context-sensitive model of informal coercion in mental healthcare.
Treatment pressures are communicative strategies that mental health professionals use to influence the decision-making of mental health service users and improve their adherence to recommended treatment. Szmukler and Appelbaum describe a spectrum of treatment pressures, which encompasses persuasion, interpersonal leverage, offers and threats, arguing that only a particular type of threat amounts to informal coercion. We contend that this account of informal coercion is insufficiently sensitive to context and fails to recognize the fundamental power imbalance in mental healthcare. Based on a set of counterexamples, we argue that what makes a proposal coercive is not whether service users will actually be made worse off if they reject the proposal, but rather whether they have the justified belief that this is the case. Whether this belief is justified depends on the presence of certain contextual factors, such as strong dependency on professionals and the salient possibility of formal coercion.