Focus on service users' needs, coping and empowerment, user involvement, and comprehensiveness are supposed to be key elements of the Community Mental Health Centres in Norway. Taking a user-oriented approach means acknowledging the individual's own expectations, aims and hopes. However, studies that have investigated service users' expectations of treatment and support at Community Mental Health Centres are hard to find.
The aim of the study was therefore to explore service users' expectations at the start of treatment at a Community Mental Health Centre.
Within a collaborative framework, taking a hermeneutic-phenomenological approach, ten service users participated in in-depth interviews about their expectations, hopes and aims for treatment and recovery. The participants sought help due to various mental health issues that had interfered with their lives and created disability and suffering. A data-driven stepwise approach in line with thematic analysis was used. The study was approved by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services.
The following four main themes representing participants' expectations at the start of treatment were elicited: hope for recovery, developing understanding, finding tools for coping and receiving counselling and practical assistance. Participants' expectations about treatment were tightly interwoven with their personal aims and hopes for their future life, and expectations were often related to practical and financial problems, the solution of which being deemed necessary to gain a safe basis for recovery in the long run.
The transferability of the results may be limited by the small number of participants.
The study emphasises how important it is that service users' personal aims and expectations guide the collaborative treatment process. In addition to providing treatment aimed at improving symptoms, Community Mental Health Centres should take a more comprehensive approach than today by providing more support with family issues, social life, education, work and financial issues.