Background: Shared decision making represents a clinical consultation model where both clinician and service user are conceptualised as experts; information is shared bilaterally and joint treatment decisions are reached. Little previous research has been conducted to assess experience of this model in psychiatric practice. The current project therefore sought to explore the attitudes and experiences of consultant psychiatrists relating to shared decision making in the prescribing of antipsychotic medications. Methods: A qualitative research design allowed the experiences and beliefs of participants in relation to shared decision making to be elicited. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants from a range of clinical backgrounds and with varying length of clinical experience. A semi-structured interview schedule was utilised and was adapted in subsequent interviews to reflect emergent themes. Data analysis was completed in parallel with interviews in order to guide interview topics and to inform recruitment. A directed analysis method was utilised for interview analysis with themes identified being fitted to a framework identified from the research literature as applicable to the practice of shared decision making. Examples of themes contradictory to, or not adequately explained by, the framework were sought. Results: A total of 26 consultant psychiatrists were interviewed. Participants expressed support for the shared decision making model, but also acknowledged that it was necessary to be flexible as the clinical situation dictated. A number of potential barriers to the process were perceived however: The commonest barrier was the clinician's beliefs regarding the service users' insight into their mental disorder, presented in some cases as an absolute barrier to shared decision making. In addition factors external to the clinician - service user relationship were identified as impacting on the decision making process, including; environmental factors, financial constraints as well as societal perceptions of mental disorder in general and antipsychotic medication in particular. Conclusions: This project has allowed identification of potential barriers to shared decision making in psychiatric practice. Further work is necessary to observe the decision making process in clinical practice and also to identify means in which the identified barriers, in particular 'lack of insight', may be more effectively managed. © 2014 Shepherd et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.