The dynamics of interpersonal trust: implications for care at times of psychological crisis

Larkin, Michael and Boden-Stuart, Zoë (2024). The dynamics of interpersonal trust: implications for care at times of psychological crisis. Philosophical Psychology, 37(1) pp. 148–166.



'Trust' can describe many different positive features of our social relationships with others. In this exploratory paper, we reflect on some of the ways in which people orient themselves towards others in the context of a psychological crisis, a time when trust may be threatened or eroded. We draw upon qualitative data extracts from two previously reported studies, in order to illustrate and develop some observations about the dynamics of relational trust during such periods of acute distress. We show how these dynamics arise out of particular contexts and have particular consequences for psychological health. We discuss how, in a relationship mediated by trust, it can sometimes be an act of care - towards self, or towards others - to filter and limit the extent of what one entrusts to another. We suggest that further consideration by philosophers can be very helpful to the mental health field here, if we are to understand the negotiation of interpersonal trust in the context of mental health crises. We note that it would be extremely helpful to understand more about how to create the kinds of environments which afford trust.

Plain Language Summary

This paper draws on people's experiences of mental health crises to think about how the trust between them and their loved ones is shaped by this type of event. It argues that mental health services in particular need to think about how to support the development of trust between individuals at times of crisis.

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