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Abstract Background There is a recognised need to develop clear service models and pathways to provide high quality care in the community for people with complex emotional needs, who may have been given a “personality disorder” diagnosis. Services should be informed by the views of people with these experiences. Aims To systematically review and synthesise qualitative studies on service user experiences of community mental health care for Complex Emotional Needs. Methods We searched six bibliographic databases for papers published since 2003. We included peer reviewed studies reporting data on service user experiences and views about good care from community-based mental health services for adults with CEN, including generic mental health services and specialist “personality disorder” services. Studies using any qualitative method were included and thematic synthesis used to identify over-arching themes. Results Forty-seven papers were included. Main themes were: 1) The need for a long-term perspective on treatment journeys; 2) The need for individualised and holistic care; 3) Large variations in accessibility and quality of mental health services; 4) The centrality of therapeutic relationships; 5) Impacts of ‘personality disorder’ diagnosis. Themes tended to recur across studies from different countries and years. Discussion Recurrent major themes included wanting support that is individualised and holistic, provides continuity over long journeys towards recovery, and that is delivered by empathetic and well-informed clinicians who are hopeful but realistic about the prospects of treatment. Care that met these simple and clearly stated priorities tended to be restricted to often limited periods of treatment by specialist “personality disorder” services: generic and primary care services were often reported as far from adequate. There is an urgent need to co-design and test strategies for improving long-term support and treatment care for people with “personality disorders” throughout the mental health care system.

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Journal article

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