Collaborative Care: The Dynamic Duo of Mental Health Nurse Practitioners and Psychotherapists

Each person is an individual, which means that mental healthcare needs will look different for everyone. With all the new tools being used in the field of healthcare and mental health, such as electronic health records (EHRs), it’s never been easier for healthcare providers to collaborate and provide highly personalized mental health support.

But what does this look like for patients? How can collaborative care between different providers, such as a mental health nurse practitioner and a psychotherapist, help patients achieve better outcomes? Here’s what you need to know.

Why Collaborative Care is Critical in Mental Healthcare

Collaborative care refers to the practice of having two or more healthcare providers work together to create a personalized treatment and support plan. Each type of healthcare provider has their own areas of expertise. By working together, they can help patients achieve better outcomes overall.

In mental healthcare, collaborative care can help by integrating treatment plans, such as medication combined with talk therapy. It can also be used to help providers with difficult diagnoses or prevent patients from getting the same advice over and over again, even if it isn’t working.

Overall, collaborative care is critical in mental healthcare because it helps providers avoid “blind spots” and come up with a treatment plan that will ultimately provide the best outcome for each patient. Mental health nurse practitioners and psychotherapists often work together in this capacity, as both types of providers specialize in mental health.

The Role of Mental Health Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners now play a key role in delivering quality healthcare to patients in the United States. NPs are highly skilled and trained medical professionals who are able to provide many of the same services as physicians. In some states, nurse practitioners have full practice autonomy and can even prescribe medication.

Mental health nurse practitioners are NPs who specialize in mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They can provide diagnostic services and help patients understand the different factors that could be affecting their mental health.

An NP might recommend medical treatments, lifestyle changes, and/or medication to help their patients treat their mental health concerns or maintain good mental health. If a patient needs therapy, a mental health nurse practitioner might work with a psychotherapist to develop a treatment plan.

How Psychotherapists Support Patients

A mental health nurse practitioner is generally more focused on treating mental health issues through solutions like medication and medical support. A psychotherapist, on the other hand, typically works with the patient on working through trauma and developing better mental health through talk therapy.

Psychotherapists meet with their patients as often as multiple times weekly to discuss different ways that their mental health problems affect their lives. They might provide strategies for coping with triggers, dig deep into the potential causes of a patient’s condition, and work with the patient to improve their daily thought patterns and habits.

A psychotherapist might use different types of therapeutic approaches to treat patients, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Mindfulness-Based Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Humanistic Therapy
  • Emotion-Focused Therapy
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Narrative Therapy
  • Holistic Therapy

Depending on the needs of the patient, a combination approach might be needed. Many people continue to see psychotherapists long-term for ongoing mental health support.

Collaborative Care for Improved Mental Health

Collaborative care between these types of mental health providers can help address mental health problems in an effective, holistic way. This approach will take into account both medical factors and the patient’s life experience that could be affecting their mental health.

Generally, collaborative care starts with one or more initial assessments, which the providers will share with one another. They might work together to determine a diagnosis for the patient, especially if the results are not clear-cut.

Once they have given the patient a diagnosis, they will collaborate on a treatment plan. That might involve a combination of approaches, such as inpatient treatment and/or lifestyle changes, medication, and psychotherapy. Some of these treatments might be long-term, though it depends on the individual patient’s needs and willingness to continue with treatment.

During the patient’s treatment and any long-term monitoring, the healthcare providers will keep each other updated and discuss any needed adjustments to the treatment plan. The goal overall is to help people maintain good mental health long-term.

One of the most significant benefits of collaboration between healthcare providers is the continuity of care they are able to provide. Instead of starting from scratch at each appointment and having the patient go over everything each time, providers can keep each other updated and make the ongoing treatment process much easier for the patient and more effective overall.

Collaborative Care: A Holistic Approach

Human health, and especially mental health, is complicated. Our mental health is affected by a wide range of factors, from our environment to our genetics. As mental health needs can be extremely complex, it makes sense to take a holistic approach to the process.

Collaborative care is a holistic approach. It uses the skillsets of multiple providers to help patients address all of the potential causes of their mental health concerns. By using this process to get a more in-depth look at each patient’s mental health, providers can streamline care and help their patients achieve transformative results, ultimately improving their quality of life.