Teaching psychotherapy to mental health professionals

Psychotherapy is a talking treatment provided by trained professionals in a structured, boundaried, and containing manner. The focus of the treatment is on feelings, relationships, ways of thinking, and patterns of behaviour. The aim of this chapter is to offer some tips for teaching psychotherapy to mental health professionals.

Task of teaching

Whom are you teaching and why?

It is important to be clear about the task of the teaching. What are the needs and level of interest in the audience? Do the participants want to find out about the application of psychotherapeutic understanding to mental health in general, their particular patient group, and the demands of their job, or do they want to find out about psychotherapeutic practice? Usually it is the former, known as the application of psychotherapeutic thinking in general mental health practice.

Mental health professionals come from different professional backgrounds, most commonly medicine, nursing, social work, occupational therapy (OT), and clinical psychology. Therefore, most teams have a complex mix of backgrounds and experience. They will have some general preoccupations, and some that are specific to the service they work in. For example, a team working with dementia may have very different preoccupations than home treatment or crisis teams. Psychiatrists may require a different form of psychotherapy teaching from a group of social workers, as therapeutic applications in their roles are different.

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