Culture Conflict in a Community Mental Health Center

Helen B. Schwartzman*, Anita W. Kneifel, Merton S. Krause

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The ordinary ambiguity of clients' membership in service organizations is heightened when lay members of an organization's service community or catchment area are made members of its service staff. It is further heightened when the methods of training, supervising, and governing staff resemble the methods of serving or treating clients. The ethos or culture of the early community mental health movement promoted an extreme form of this ambiguity: an expressive openness between and equality of clients and staff, and a structural openness which allowed easy movement from the client role to the staff role and vice versa. A service organization of this kind would conflict with a more traditionally bureaucratic and professional organization, but an organization containing both community and traditional mental health ideologies contains a destructive form of culture conflict within itself. In such a self‐contradictory organization the structural ambiguity of the client role cannot be adequately understood without first examining the nature of this culture conflict; this is the purpose of our ethnographic analysis of a community mental health center. 1978 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-110
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1978

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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