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Interprofessional practice and education in mental health and addiction services

Collaborative practice between different health professions

What is interprofessional practice?

Interprofessional practice is a type of collaborative practice between different health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, allied health roles (including psychologists and social workers), support workers (including peer support workers) and addiction practitioners.

In New Zealand, interprofessional practice is defined as:

When all members of the health service delivery team participate in the team's activities and rely on one another to accomplish common goals and improve health care delivery, thus improving [people’s] quality experience.

(See National Centre for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice).

There is increasing research looking at the benefits of interprofessional practice in mental health and addiction settings.

The literature shows interprofessional practice can have a positive impact on people accessing services, as well as mental health and addiction workers.

Interprofessional practice is about sharing leadership and practice

Interprofessional team members work interdependently to share leadership, decision-making and responsibilities to meet the person’s needs, as illustrated below.

This is different from multidisciplinary models, where team members cooperate with each other to meet people’s needs but often work in ‘silos’ or a ‘hierarchy’ (Körner, 2010).

What is interprofessional education?

An important component in preparing health workers for collaborative practice is interprofessional education.

The World Health Organization has described a collaborative-ready worker as “someone who has learned how to work in an interprofessional team and is competent to do so” (WHO, 2010, p. 7).

Interprofessional education “occurs when two or more professions learn about, from and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes” (WHO, 2010, p. 13).

Nearly one-quarter of interprofessional education courses are provided by universities (WHO, 2010). In New Zealand, interprofessional education courses or programmes are offered by Auckland University of Technology, University of Auckland, University of Otago, and other tertiary providers.

Interprofessional education consists of six core themes

Adapted from Thistlethwaite & Moran (2010)

Developing and implementing sustainable interprofessional practice

Te Pou undertook a literature review, Developing sustainable interprofessional practice in mental health and addiction services, to provide information about how interprofessional practice is currently being implemented nationally and internationally for the purpose of informing the sustainable development of this approach in New Zealand mental health and addiction services.

The literature review is supported by a factsheet, Implementing interprofessional practice in mental health and addiction services, summarising the key benefits of interprofessional practice and the mechanisms that are needed to support sustainable implementation.

Additional resources

Key contact

Angela Gruar (she/her)