Psychotherapy Essentials in Mental Health Nursing

Psychotherapy Essentials in Mental Health Nursing is a training program designed to strengthen community mental health nursing practice. It will equip participants with a set of psychotherapy skills that are specific to mental health nursing, and oriented towards supporting consumers in their self-determined recovery journeys.

The program is supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the Victorian Chief Mental Health Nurse. It has been developed by the Centre for Psychiatric Nursing, and based on a successful pilot developed and delivered by Eastern Health.

The psychotherapeutic model taught by Psychotherapeutic Essentials is wholly oriented towards supporting the consumer recovery journey. This approach is different to some dominant modes of psychotherapy practice, where ‘reducing symptoms’ or achieving ‘illness remission’ is the goal. The model takes a trauma-informed perspective, and views people’s internal and interpersonal experiences as adaptive and relational.

The program is designed to help community mental health nurses focus their practice on creating the space for consumers to make meaning from their experiences in ways that make the best sense to them. It sees the potential for nurse-consumer conversations to take the form of a healing dialogues, where the starting point is ‘what is happening for you?’, not ‘what is wrong with you?’. ‘Healing’ in this context is both a process of interpersonal connection, and a process of helping people to unpack the mental states, personal experiences, bodily sensations and interpersonal relationships that are causing them distress.

Watch this video for an overview of the development, content and rollout of the Psychotherapeutic Essentials program to Victorian AMHs in 2018 and onwards.  

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  • What are the 'building blocks' of this program's psychotherapeutic model?

    Psychotherapy Essentials' psychotherapeutic model has four foundational influences:

    1. The humanistic tradition of mental health nursing, and the critical importance of interpersonal relationships in this context
    2. The consumer recovery movement, and it’s focus on a self-determined process of recovery from mental illness that is unique to each individual
    3. The ‘common factors’ movement within psychotherapy, and the opportunity it presents to find a unified approach to applying psychotherapy skills in a community mental health context.  There are scores of evidence-based approaches or ‘types’ of psychotherapy, but research increasingly shows that what’s effective relates more to the approaches these have in common, rather than the specific interventions they advocate.
    4. An understanding that mental health care is situated within a diverse range of social contexts, personal recovery stories, and human and civil rights implications
  • How is the program structured and delivered?

    Psychotherapy Essentials uses a blended learning approach to deliver:

    1. Five online learning modules, that introduce participants to psychotherapeutic nursing concepts and theory via a series of online lectures and interviews with key practice leaders. Participants will also engage in online discussion about this content with CPN educators, and other community mental health nurses. Each module represents one day’s work.
    2. Four days of face-to-face workshops, which will orient participants to a set of techniques and capabilities, and enable participants to practice these skills in a series of simulated psychotherapeutic conversations.
    3. Assessment will occur over a fifth day, where participants’ capabilities will be assessed by their peers and course leaders, with feedback from both a consumer consultant and their local nurse educator(s).
  • What will I learn in this course?

    Click here for an overview of the expected learning outcomes & topics covered by Psychotherapy Essentials.

  • What sort of time commitment / study leave is required?

    The minimum time commitment is ten days. An additional two to three days is highly recommended, to enable you to fully absorb and engage with the content provided.

  • How do I enrol in the course?

    If you're a Nurse Educator or Nurse Consultant working for a Victorian AMHS and you have an interest in bringing Psychotherapy Essentials to your area please contact program leader Robert Trett at

    If you're a community mental health nurse interested in enrolling in Psychotherapy Essentials, contact your Nurse Education team to express your interest. Currently, the CPN only accepts expressions of interest from Nurse Education teams within Victorian Area Mental Health Services (AMHS).