Happy new year everyone. Te Pou offices are now open for 2021. 

Happy new year everyone. Te Pou offices are now open for 2021. 

Safe Practice Effective Communication

What is SPEC?

Safe Practice Effective Communication (SPEC) is a four-day, District Health Board (DHB) based national training course which supports best and least restrictive practice in mental health inpatient units. This four-day course includes training in restraint minimisation, communication, de-escalation, collaborative ways of working, and the teaching of personal restraint and breakaway techniques. All four days must be completed by participants, with the balance of content being focused on prevention and early effective communication.

Who governs this programme nationally?

There is a National SPEC Collaborative Governance Board that meets regularly to oversee the implementation and development of SPEC across New Zealand. Please see copies of minutes below.

SPEC Chair:

  • Anne Brebner – Director of Mental Health Nursing, CMDHB; and Northern region representative 

Governance Board Members:

  • Jeff Hammond, Director of Mental Health Nursing and Central region representative
  • Louise Travers - General Manager, Southern DHB, representing general managers 
  • Dean Rangihuna – Te Kaihapai, Maori Consumer Advisor and SPEC Trainer representative CDHB 
  • Kerri Butler – Director/Consultant, Take Notice, representative member of Te Huarahi O Te Kete Pounamu 
  • Dr John Crawshaw – Director and Chief Advisor of Mental Health – Ministry of Health 
  • Jane Bodkin – Chief Advisor, Office of the Chief Nursing Office, Ministry of Health 
  • Valerie Williams – Kaimanaaki, Te Roopu Mākohakoha, representing Te Rau Ora 
  • Caro Swanson – Principal Advisor - Mental Health & Service User Lead, Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui and co-lead, Least restrictive practice project 
  • Gilbert Azuela – Project Lead, Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui
  • Carole Kennedy – Waikato DHB, Midland region nursing rep
  • Heather Casey – Southern DHB, Southern region nursing rep
  • SPEC Master Trainer – TBC

Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui currently provides administrative support to the SPEC programme. Contact Olivia Risi if you have any questions. 

Who can attend this training?

Staff members who work in DHB mental health inpatient services.

Can SPEC Training be used beyond mental health inpatient services?

Some parts of the SPEC training programme such as least restrictive practice principles and communications skills training do have a wider application but there are also aspects of the training that only apply to an inpatient mental health setting.

At this time, you can enquire via your local DHB if they provide training opportunities for other areas of mental health and health services, and/or register your interest in future developments with the collaborative by contacting Jeff Hammond.

Can staff who attend a SPEC course train others?

No. Attending a SPEC course provides you with the skills to provide a best practice, least restrictive response in mental health inpatient services.  It does not provide the skills, authority or permission to teach SPEC to others.

How can I become a SPEC trainer?

There is a specific course and selection process to become a SPEC trainer and DHB staff who wish to become SPEC trainers can enquire about this via their local Director of Mental Health Nursing, or a current local SPEC trainer.

SPEC Governance Group meeting minutes


The SPEC logo design was a collaboration between Te Pou and the SPEC governance group. Elements of the design are representative of SPEC principles: person-centred, least restrictive, and trauma-informed approaches and are underpinned by principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The logo includes the puhoro pattern which is representative of calming ocean waters and the colours were chosen for their therapeutic properties. The pūtātara is an instrument customarily made from New Zealand’s small native conch shell, representative of communication. The shell grows to itself, with no restrictions. People often pause to listen to the ocean through a shell. Pausing, Hearing and Reflecting is something workers should do before applying any restrictive practice.