H. Peplau's theory of interpersonal relations

Photo of Hildegaard Peplau with the article title "Theory of interpersonal relations".

What theory for therapeutic nursing can teach us about building relationships?

The Theory of Interpersonal Relations was created by a nurse and theorist Hildegaard Peplau in 1952, and in couple of decades became a tabletop model for a psychiatric nursing. It belongs to the class of middle-range theories: take data from research and observations, and generalize statements to be applied in practice.

Key concepts

Hildegaard Peplau explains that nursing is therapeutic because it is a healing art, assisting a patient who is sick or in need of health care. It is also an interpersonal process because of the interaction between two or more individuals who have a common goal.

The last definition is particularly interesting to take a look at through the prism of interpersonal relations with people you know. Since it had such a great impact on nursing practices, it is peculiar to contemplate its applications in regular relationships.

To define the setting of Peplau’s theory four parameters are used: person, environment, health — a symbol of a personality forward movement, and nursing — a “significant, therapeutic, interpersonal process” of cooperation that is directed at another human to increase health.

Relationship between the nurse and patient in Peplau's theory of interpersonal relations include 4 stages. Let’s take a look at them from two perspectives:
a) original concept of the nursing process
b) interpretation for regular relationships

Stages of Interpersonal Relationship

  • Orientation.
    a) In nursing, the orientation phase is a period to collect information and define the problem. It starts when the nurse meets the patient, and the two are strangers. After defining the problem, the nurse is ready to identify the type of service needed by the patient.
    b) For general interpersonal communication, the orientation phase can cover the first meeting between people and include intensive information collection about another individual. How the person looks like, what he talks about, what emotions he expresses, etc.
  • Identification.
    a) Identification in Peplau’s theory features the selection of an appropriate assistance by a professional. In this phase, the patient begins to feel as if he or she belongs, and feels capable of dealing with the problem which decreases the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.
    b) One can think of the identification as a stage of mutual picking the cooperation strategy, in a broader sense: what can we do together? There are numerous opportunities: small-talk, hanging out, thorough conversation, or even a joint project. People adjust behaviour and start to act accordingly.
  • Exploitation.
    a) The exploitation phase in nursing means the patient uses professional assistance for problem-solving alternatives to the most possible extent.
    b) Regarding the person-person interaction, we can say that during this stage people extract the mutual value from a cooperation between them. They talk, meet, work together out of mutual benefits.
  • Resolution.
    a) In the resolution phase, the patient no longer needs professional services and gives up dependent behaviour.
    b) “Resolution” in the regular interpersonal relationships may happen when people no longer receive mutual value from the relationship and change their behavior. It can be an open-ended (e.g., finished the project, nothing more to do but good to stay in touch) or close (don’t talk anymore) termination.

Despite the fact that we are able to notice a lot of similarities between patient care and individuals’ connection settings, there are two distinctive traits of the Interpersonal Relations Theory for nursing. That’s why one shouldn’t draw a complete analogy between that and casual interpersonal relationships.

Comparison of nursing and regular interpersonal relations applications

The first, Peplau’s theory considers interaction as asymmetrical, with every side having a clear role and functions: nurse and patient.  
The second, therapeutic relationship between the patient and nurse has a well-defined time scope, which is reflected in the resolution phase: when the patient no longer needs assistance, relationship ends, and they are likely to not meet again. In the contrary, interpersonal connection between two people might last a lot longer, with it's periods of build up and decline.

Thank you! This was the review of Hildegaard Peplau’s Interpersonal Relations Theory. It’s great to know about relationship theories and apply them to building connections. Stay in touch!

[1] https://nursing-theory.org/theories-and-models/peplau-theory-of-interpersonal-relations.php
[2] https://nurseslabs.com/hildegard-peplaus-interpersonal-relations-theory/#h-hildegard-peplau-s-interpersonal-relations-theory

Prepared by the team of Knei, personal connections tool

Knei logo

Keep in touch with us!

Knei team newsletter with updates and interpersonal relations tips:

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Engage with Knei community on social media: