Communication Skills for Patient Engagement: Argumentation Competencies As Means to Prevent or Limit Reactance Arousal, with an Example from the Italian Healthcare System

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Abstract

The paper discusses the role of argumentative competencies for the achievement of patient engagement through communication in doctor-patient consultations. The achievement of patient engagement is being proposed by recent studies as a condition that can facilitate in particular patient adherence, which involves behavior change. One obstacle to behavior change that has been observed is reactance, i.e. resistance to persuasive messages when a threat to freedom is perceived. In the medical field, reactance theory has been mostly applied in the field of mental health, less frequently to understand non adherence in general. However, a few studies have revealed that reactance can actually explain in part the motives behind non adherence. These studies propose that the arousal of reactance could be limited or prevented by adopting relational measures aimed at giving patients the feeling that they still hold some control over the process of care and that the ‘impositions’ on their freedoms are acceptable because they have had the opportunity to decide about them. However, they do not discuss how these strategies should be operationalized at the dialogical level. A debated issue in the study of reactance is the role played by knowledge. It seems that pure information regarding an issue is likely to represent a threat in itself. Complementary to this is the finding that quality of argument does not impact on the degree of reactance. These findings pose a problem in view of the goal of patient education, itself considered as a necessary premise for any process of patient engagement and adherence. It seems necessary to move away from a conception of education as mere transmission of information and look for more effective ways of transferring knowledge to patients. With regard to this issue, the paper argues that useful insights can be found in studies on science education, in which it is shown experimentally that argumentative processes favor learning and understanding. Drawing on previous studies and taking an interdisciplinary perspective on the issue, the paper brings into the discussion on engagement concepts developed in the field of argumentation theory, showing how the suggestions for avoiding reactance could be realized dialogically.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)1-10
Numero di pagine10
RivistaFrontiers in Psychology
Volume7
DOI
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2016

Keywords

  • adherence
  • deliberation dialogue
  • patient education
  • patient engagement
  • psychological reactance

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