Implications of Relational Communication for Therapeutic Discourse Kelly S. McNeilis, Teresa L. Thompson, and Dan O'Hair
Dan O'Hair University of Oklahoma Physicians and patients create a communication context unique to most dyadic encounters. Traditional roles defined by the therapeutic setting are assumed by physicians and patients. Patients seek care and physicians are expected to provide counsel and treatment. Within the context of those roles, physicians and patients are exchanging messages to reveal the nature of the medical condition, negotiate the treatment plan, and establish a relationship that is mutually negotiated. Traditional roles will often give way to negotiated roles that transpire from interaction. How physicians and patients perceive their respective roles and the relationship that ensues can greatly influence various therapeutic outcomes (e.g., satisfaction, compliance, malpractice litigation). Relational definition is an intrinsic component of the medical setting. One of the relational elements that has drawn recent attention involves the process of how physicians and patients attempt to gain control of their relationship. Both physician and patient have reasons for exerting control over the relationship. In this chapter we hope to show that, through relational control analysis, practitioners can understand how their communication of control might influence and have an effect on patients' satisfaction with the physician, subsequent compliance with medical advice, and patients' perceptions of their physician.