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The use of psychological therapies by mental health nurses in Australia



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This paper examines the usage of psychological therapies by mental health nurses. The paper presents the findings from a questionnaire survey of 528 practising mental health nurses in Australia. Key findings include:

  • Mental health nurses believe employing psychological therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy in their practice will improve therapeutic outcomes for consumers.
  • Mental health nurses overwhelmingly want to employ psychological therapies in their practice.
  • They think mental health nursing and hospital and community health management is too focussed on medical treatment and risk management, which means that their nursing practice is dominated by the administration of medication, excessive documentation, and patient observation.
  • They identify barriers preventing them from practising psychological therapies. These include lack of confidence, low nurse morale, no support from other nurses, low staffing levels, lack of training opportunities, and inadequate support from nursing management.


This paper reports on a research project which examines the feasibility of mental health nurses employing psychological therapies in the nursing care of people with severe mental illness. Attitudes towards current usage and factors influencing the adoption of psychological therapies are investigated. The paper addresses the gap in the Australian nursing literature regarding the therapeutic role of mental health nurses (MHN)s in relation to the use of evidence-based psychological therapies. This paper presents the findings from an online questionnaire survey of 528 practising MHNs in Australia. The findings demonstrate enthusiastic support among nurses towards employing psychological therapies, with 93% of respondents indicating they would like to use psychological therapies in their current practice. Correspondingly, there is strong demand for education and training in applying psychological therapies. A number of barriers to implementing psychological therapies are identified. It is noted that place of employment is a significant factor, with mental health nurses working in the public sector more likely to state institutional barriers are restricting their therapeutic potential and preventing them from implementing psychological therapies.