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10 top tips – Mental health and allied health practice

10 Top Tips – Mental Health and Allied Health practice


  1. Prepare for and predict that you will need a skill set in MH practice

Are you thinking that MH practice is not a major training need for yourself or your team?

Well, given that 1 in 5 adults aged 16-85 in Australia experience a mental illness in any given year, it is actually quite likely that someone in your team and up to 20% of clients through the door, will require you to have a mental health practice skill set. Head to and to start learning more about prevalence, diagnoses and where to start developing a mental health-friendly skill set.


  1. Understand what it can mean for those who you work with

Do you personally know someone who has a mental health condition? Met a carer? Worked with a colleague? Is it you? Chances are you have met someone with lived experience, however no two stories are the same. To learn more about the stories and to gain a deeper understanding of the daily challenges some of our most vulnerable face, try prioritising time with clients or colleagues to understand their journey. You can also access podcasts, read transcripts, or for those who love a government report, try the executive summary from the ‘Carer feedback on 5th National Plan – is the plan helping consumers?’ at


  1. Understand Mental Health is a continuum

People with or without a diagnosis of a MH condition can fluctuate from optimum well-being and maximum mental illness, to minimum mental illness and minimal well-being. Some people even with a diagnosis can have optimum well-being and those without a diagnosis can have minimal mental well-being at any given time. The impact on practice is remembering and allowing for the idea that mental health and wellbeing are not static factors, rather they are dynamic, for clients, colleagues, students and ourselves.



  1. Know the current Australian guidelines for practice

Do you want to know more about Recovery-Oriented practice? Want to reflect against and align with a national framework? Keen to follow some direction for your professional development and quality improvement projects? Then refer to the Mental Health Commission website and associated links and look for

  • A National Framework for Recovery-Oriented Mental Health Services: Guide For Practitioners and Providers
  • 5th National MH and Suicide Prevention Plan
  • National Plan for Managing Seclusion and Restraint



  1. Build and sustain therapeutic relationships

Do you take the time to get to know your clients or staff? Engage with them in preferred activities? Show curiosity about how they see a certain situation? Schedule time to ‘hold’ appointments for those who have difficulty with regular attendance? Are you persistent, and consistent? Do you do you what you say you will?

Read more about the importance of the therapeutic relationship and how to make it happen in practice,


  1. Learn about and assess for readiness for change

Ever wondered why some clients struggle to make the changes in behaviour or habits that are not conducive to their mental wellness? Get frustrated that even after education and demonstration of benefit some changes are still really hard to embed? Perhaps consider mapping the complexity of the presentation against the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). Even then it can be hard to know what to work on ‘first’ or how to negotiate ‘goals’. Maybe take a Motivational Interviewing (MI) approach, and really understand what level of readiness to change your client or colleague is at. Find out more about the ICF at the World Health Organization (WHO) main page, and read up on or look for local education on MI or Stages of Change via a wealth of online, face to face, or hard copy resources.




  1. Practice personal and professional reflection and resilience

Providing clinical services to complex community clients, supporting staff with comorbid mental health diagnosis or just sticking to your chosen profession for a lifelong career – it takes time, attention and care. Have a read of a great article at on normalising support for allied health professionals, not only to practice long term but to remain safe, ethical, reflective, and current in your practice. Maybe consider engaging with a mentor or coach. Brush up on reflective practice tools or templates. Make sure you have a professional supervision agreement in place. Seek and practice resilience strategies, have a read at


  1. Be prepared to assess for and manage risk of self harm and suicide

In 2018, 767 Qld residents died from intentional self harm, more than 3 times the rate of the 2018 Qld road toll.

Knowing how to assess for, manage and discuss risk of self harm and suicide in your workplace is an essential skill and practice to develop and maintain. Visit Beyond Blue for some excellent tools on assessing self harm, encourage use of the Beyond Now app to develop and use safety plans, and implement safe workplace strategies. Visit for resources on a mentally health workplace. Refer to stats at,


  1. Consider reviewing the presentation through a sensory modulation frame of reference

Sensory modulation (SM) is:

Sensory modulation is considered a twofold process. It originates in the central nervous system as the neurological ability to regulate and process sensory stimuli; this subsequently offers the individual an opportunity to respond behaviourally to the stimulus.

(Taylor and Francis – Online)

What can sensory modulation offer your clients or staff? Is there opportunity to modify the task, the environment or the person, to better facilitate symptom management , de escalation, or concentration? Because SM can directly effect the autonomic nervous system (the fight or flight system) it is possible to quickly alter stress and arousal levels. Read more on the work of Winnie Dunn, Tina Champagne and Pam Meredith, or access training with the team at


  1. Consider the impact of trauma

A must see TED talk on the profound effect of adverse childhood events, and the impact into adulthood. Working in collaboration with, and employing skilled allied health providers, who can support and manage the growing demand in all age groups. Learn more about Trauma Informed Care and Practice through a variety of education providers.



Julie Carlile Occupational Therapist

Guest blog by:

Julie Carlile

Occupational Therapist at Positive Action OT



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10 top tips – Mental health and allied health practice