Multidisciplinary mental health treatment plans: what are they, and how are they created?
While not all mental health professionals use treatment plans, they are considered a valuable tool in the treatment of certain psychiatric illnesses and related conditions.
Of course, in many cases, mental health patients live with multiple disorders simultaneously, each of which may require its own special form of treatment. What’s more, the nature of each particular condition will often demand various types of attention and therapy from specialists of different disciplines.
All of these matters should be taken into account when creating a mental health treatment plan. While this may seem like a complex undertaking, many professionals within the field are experienced in collaborating with other specialists to create tailored, multidisciplinary plans for every patient.
By creating networks of mental health professionals as well as “satellite” specialists that may lend their expertise as and when required, a comprehensive treatment plan may be created and executed with ease.
So how does a mental health treatment plan work, and how can specialists from different fields operate in tandem to create one that best serves each patient’s needs?
Creating a mental health treatment plan
Treatment plans are used to great effect throughout the field of mental health medicine. Whether you are training for your PMC-Psych Mental Health NP or hope to become a psychiatrist, social worker, or occupational therapist, this approach is certainly one you should consider.
Every plan should be tailored to meet the patient’s needs by mitigating each challenge that is presented by their condition in every aspect of their day-to-day life.
What is a mental health treatment plan?
Simply put, a treatment plan is a sequential list of goals that is usually agreed between the patient and their primary therapist and is designed to:
- Diagnose and/or assess the nature and specifics of the patient’s condition(s)
- Decide on the correct course of treatment
- Create a step-by-step timeline of that treatment
- Set major goals and contributing objectives
- Improve the patient’s mental health by way of medical intervention and/or occupational therapy
- Tackle any other personal, emotional, and physical issues that are caused by their condition(s)
- Record all progress made while the plan is being followed
- Take steps to boost the patient’s quality of life
- Ensure lasting effects that reduce the chances of relapse or further progression of their condition(s)
- Provide the patient with tools to help them move forward while keeping their condition(s) in check
Depending on the patient’s condition, a plan may include other elements besides the above.
Treatment plans are usually broken down into general, large-scale “goals” and more specific objectives. Usually, multiple objectives make up a goal.
For example, a goal for an individual suffering with severe anxiety may be to develop coping skills to deal with their symptoms. One objective that might aid the patient in working toward that goal could be to consider the top five triggers for their anxiety.
The next may be to plan healthy mechanisms and techniques that will help them to handle those scenarios effectively if and when they arise.
There are many resources available which go into great detail regarding treatment plans and their creation. There are even guides and templates you can follow in order to get as clear an idea as possible of how the technique works.
The role of multidisciplinary psychiatric teams in the creation of treatment plans
Of course, it is rarely the job of a single specialist to decide on the best course of treatment for a mental health patient, nor should it be. As mentioned earlier, psychiatry and mental health are highly complex fields of practice, and many patients present with more than one condition.
To this end, it is vital that practitioners with the correct range of disciplines should each have the correct level of input into a comprehensive treatment plan for each patient.
This plan should be tailored to its subject’s specific needs, covering all areas in which the patient requires treatment and support.
Who is in a multidisciplinary psychiatric team?
Contributors to a multidisciplinary mental health treatment plan may include:
- Mental Health Nurse Practitioners
- Occupational therapists
- Social workers
- Physical therapists
- Speech therapists
Further to this, in the October 2001 Psychiatric Services journal, the article “Requirements for Multidisciplinary Teamwork in Psychiatric Rehabilitation” suggests that a multidisciplinary team may also incorporate: “mobile educators, personal coaches, advocates, and community organizers.”
Today, further advances in the field of mental health have introduced even more specialist skill sets that may be included when building a team to collaborate on a treatment plan.
However, below, we’ll explore the key roles listed above and explain their most common functions within a multidisciplinary mental health team.
A psychiatrist will usually have completed their bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, and a four year residency. This often includes further training.
They will be a medical doctor (usually an M.D.) and will specialize in diagnosing and prescribing treatment for mental health conditions as well as behavioral and emotional disorders.
Whether or not they are the “primary therapist” for the patient, psychiatrists in a multidisciplinary mental health team will be a vital contributor to the treatment plan.
They may diagnose the patient, assess them in terms of medical requirements, provide support to them and their carers or family, and advocate for additional services or resources alongside them. These services may include those provided by the other members of the multidisciplinary team.
- Mental health nurse practitioners
Mental health nurse practitioners often serve a similar function as a psychiatrist or MD in the mental health sphere and within a multidisciplinary team. They can assess and diagnose patients, as well as helping to create treatment plans and evaluate patient progress.
To become a mental health nurse practitioner, a person will usually need to attend nursing school, become a registered nurse, attain their master’s/post master’s degree, and become certified.
- Occupational therapists
An occupational therapist will need to have a master’s degree in occupational therapy, along with placement or fieldwork experience, certification, and an occupational therapy license.
Their job is to help patients easily engage with day-to-day life and activities, providing them with resources. Occupational therapists also aid patients in the development of skills and methods to make their daily tasks manageable despite their condition.
Depending on a specific patient’s condition, an occupational therapist’s role may be integral to the multidisciplinary mental health team when creating a treatment plan. Alternatively, their expertise may only be required every so often.
- Social workers
As a general rule, social workers are employed to assist individuals, families, and organizations in the management of day-to-day issues and encourage positive engagement with dependents, associates, and wider society.
Social work is a huge field, covering a wide range of specialties from family and child social work to roles focusing on substance abuse and misuse, elder care, employment, education, and much more.
A clinical mental health social worker will be qualified to aid patients in achieving independence throughout their daily lives. They may provide talking therapy, direct the patient toward useful resources, offer support, and advocate for certain therapies and treatments.
Professionals of this kind usually require a master’s in social work and need to have completed a relevant practicum or internship. They will also need to be licensed.
While mental health social workers are more likely to be involved in a treatment plan, virtually any kind of social worker may feature within the process.
Their role is often vital in ensuring the independence and daily well-being of the patient, and they may aid in areas of advocacy.
A mental health counselor focuses on the emotional, behavioral, and cognitive aspects of mental health conditions.
They will assess a patient and discuss treatment options with them, as well as aiding them in the understanding of their individual triggers and stressors and helping them to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Depending on the state in which they practice, a counselor may be able to diagnose certain conditions. However, in other locations, a medical doctor such as a psychiatrist may be required to do this.
Mental health counselors usually require a master’s degree in mental health counseling and a relevant license.
The contributions of a dietitian may be required to a greater or lesser extent within a treatment plan, depending on the patient’s condition and its impact on their day to day life.
Many mental health patients develop an unhealthy relationship with food, whether that involves undereating or overeating due to stress or depression, an aversion to certain types of food or an obsession with a particular meal, or the effects of an eating disorder.
A dietitian can help the patient or their carers to develop suitable meal plans and can also provide guidance, advice, and support to the patient in order to improve their relationship with food.
Mental health dietitians require either a bachelor’s degree in the field or an associate’s degree with the correct curriculum requirements. They will also need to pass specific exams and hold a relevant license.
- Physical therapists
This is another role that may be applied to varying extents depending on the specific requirements of each patient.
A physical therapist may provide exercise therapy in order to improve a patient’s mood, or they can create a program of activities to counteract any negative physical effects of mental illness, such as immobility.
Physical therapists require a doctor of physical therapy degree. They must also pass a National Physical Therapy Examination and become licensed.
- Speech therapists and speech language pathologists
Speech therapy may be a requirement in some treatment plans.
A speech therapist may be engaged to help patients with communication difficulties including stuttering, selective mutism, and the vocal tics that accompany conditions like Tourette’s syndrome.
In addition, a specialist of this kind may aid patients to improve their general communication abilities and can even work to resolve swallowing difficulties.
To become a speech language pathologist, an individual must hold a master’s degree in speech language pathology, pass the Praxis exam in speech language pathology, and hold the relevant license.
How multidisciplinary mental health teams work together
The specialisms of various team members may be required to a greater or lesser extent depending on the specifics of each case.
For this reason, it is often the case that particular “core” team members meet to discuss and work on the treatment plan at regular intervals, while others may be contacted to apply their expertise as and when required.
For a set-up of this kind to work well, it is vital for a team to:
- Have shared goals and values
- Understand and respect the competencies of other team members
- Learn from other disciplines and respect their different views and perspectives
It is important to consider the function, application and execution of a treatment plan when working in the mental health sector and, in particular, the value of a plan that has been created by specialists from a range of relevant disciplines.
As you continue to pursue your medical career, even if you are not required to implement this practice yourself, you may still benefit from understanding how the method works, particularly as you may one day find yourself working alongside other specialists who base much of their work on treatment plans.
In conclusion, the complexity and range of the mental health conditions with which patients may exhibit result in a need for a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. When numerous specialists interact and contribute to a single plan, the results can be exceptionally effective.