Psychology and psychiatry: Perceptions of conflict and role differentiation

Thelma Jean Rowe (1993)

This study was conducted to examine the relationship between the fields of psychology and psychiatry. The relationship is one with a history of intense conflict. Currently, this is evidenced in legislative and court battles over the issue of admitting and prescribing privileges for psychologists. A review of the literature indicated that there is a blurring of professional roles with a corresponding lack of role differentiation. Researchers, in their discussions of the relationship between the two fields, have related this lack of differentiation to the presence of unresolved conflict. In order to examine these issues, ten psychologists and ten psychiatrists were interviewed. Using a semi-standardized interview protocol, responses were gathered regarding their general perceptions of conflict and the level of role differentiation between the two professions. Additionally, responses were gathered regarding the subjects' personal experiences with conflict and role differentiation. The data was interpreted using a qualitative analysis of the information obtained from the interviews. Findings were addressed regarding patterns or themes that emerged from the data, with an emphasis on conflict and role differentiation. The majority of the professionals in this sample described clear role differentiation and minimal conflict. Most described positive work relationships. However, their perceptions of the fields, in general, were that both conflict and poor role differentiation did exist. These findings suggest that, although subjects were aware of the problems in the relationship between the two fields, the professionals in this study had been able to manage conflict in their own practices by clearly defining their roles in relation to the other profession. The findings were considered in relation to implications for theory, research and clinical practice.