5 Best Practices For Effective Mental Health Staff Training

Aug 15, 2023 | Blog

Therapists must stay sharp to ensure that patients receive quality treatment and care. With that said, mental health staff training should not only apply to your providers — both healthcare workers and administrative workers should receive ample training.

To ensure that your entire staff is well-prepared, you need to provide them with training that equips them to deal with complex situations and ensures smooth clinical operations.

Here are 5 best practices you need to apply for effective mental health staff training.

Best Practices For Effective Mental Health Staff Training

Adopt a patient-centered approach

A patient-centered approach involves focusing on the needs and grievances of patients over strictly creating a diagnosis. Accommodating patient feedback instills a sense of trust, which encourages the patient to be conducive to treatment. This results in high patient satisfaction and positive patient outcomes.

While only therapists are expected to adopt a patient-centered approach, you can train all other staff in your practice to implement this approach to achieve a holistically positive experience for your patients.

Train everyone on your team to do the following whenever applicable:

  • Actively listening to the patient whenever they speak
  • Maintaining eye contact with the patient
  • Talking about what the patient expects and hopes to achieve from the treatment
  • Using a friendly, conversational tone and minimizing medical jargon
  • Asking follow-up questions

Train every staff member on de-escalation techniques

There may be times when patients become agitated or distressed, which may happen anywhere in the clinic. Sometimes, therapists may be unavailable or preoccupied to be able to address these situations.

Thus, teaching your entire staff about de-escalation techniques equips your practice for challenging patient situations.

Here are some examples of de-escalation techniques that every employee can apply:

  • Exercise empathy and listen to their grievances
  • Focus on identifying the problem and its solution
  • Try to move the situation to a private area
  • Give the patient personal space (at least 3 feet away)
  • Use neutral body language and tone
  • Allow the patient to take time to respond and think about their situation
  • Focus on staff intercommunication

Communicating among staff can become significantly challenging in a mental health practice. Therapists must be able to relay their observations to each other so that a provider can fill in, in case the patient’s primary therapist is unavailable.

One situation where effective staff communication is vital is when a patient asks for a second opinion. If the patient expresses that they will get the medical opinion of another therapist in the practice, the first therapist must be able to communicate their observations and reasoning to the new provider as to why they made their diagnosis in the first place. This gives the second provider sufficient information to work off of, especially when they make their own observations of the patient.

Conduct regular meetings to synchronize staff about the quality of their communication. Identify issues that arose, and coordinate with staff to determine how you can resolve them. Emphasize the potential dangers that can happen if you’re unable to find a solution to instill urgency among them.

Facilitate open forums for feedback and stress management

In 1996, a study was conducted about stress among mental health professionals that still resonates today. The research identified numerous stressors, including:

  • Unrealistic external expectations about the professional’s role
  • Administrative tasks
  • Work interrupting social life
  • Time pressure
  • A perceived 24-hour responsibility of every patient’s life

With mental health clinics being a stressful environment, helping your therapists and other staff is crucial. This issue is difficult to recognize at first glance, as stigma against mental health is especially prevalent among mental health professionals.

It must be stressed among your staff that expressing grievances, stress, and other mental health issues is fine. Even more so, you must teach your staff to accept and support colleagues who are undergoing problems without prejudice.

To do this, create regular open forums and seminars that spread awareness about mental health among staff. Establish an atmosphere where staff are encouraged to voice out their concerns and support those in distress.
Besides improving performance and job satisfaction, this promotes camaraderie among your staff.

Refresh your staff on HIPAA and other regulations

Numerous HIPAA updates have been rolling out since being signed into law in 1996. HIPAA regulations especially become complex in the field of mental health, as some patients are unable to make conscious decisions, especially regarding their health information.

Staying abreast of developments in HIPAA and other regulations is crucial not only for therapists but also for everyone in the practice. The challenge of compliance with regulations in mental health is that staff may forget the risk of violation when discussing patient matters.

This makes it vital to remind every employee in a mental health practice to comply with regulations. Send regular email newsletters to staff, reminding them of the importance of compliance. When new updates to HIPAA or other laws come out, create practice-wide announcements about the changes.

You may also give staff regular refresher quizzes to ensure they stay informed about compliance.

Why Is It Important To Train Your Mental Health Clinic Staff?

A mental health practice thrives when therapists and administrative staff, like mental health clinic receptionists, are proficient and knowledgeable in various areas of clinical operations on top of their respective responsibilities.

Even when certain skills are left unused, your entire staff is at least prepared for any complex situation that may arise.

Here are a few particular reasons why it’s important to train your staff sufficiently:

  • Being flexible with every situation. Equipping all your staff to address any problem prevents workflow bottlenecks and ensures smooth productivity
  • Working together to find solutions. After building proficiency and rapport together, every employee is able to collaborate to solve issues and optimize operations
  • Delivering a positive patient experience. Whenever a patient expresses a complaint, every employee will be able to de-escalate and relieve them

Support Your Clinical Staff For Success

In mental health, every staff member makes a difference. For your practice to achieve clinical success, you must set up your staff with sufficient training. By following these 5 best practices, your clinic will be able to operate smoothly and address any challenging patient situation that comes up.

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