The Importance of Collaboration Between Healthcare Professionals and Counselors

The Importance of Collaboration Between Healthcare Professionals and Counselors

The last decade has proved that the collaboration between medical services and mental health practitioners improves patient outcomes, reduces mental health related stigma and saves money. Collaborative care is based on sharing one’s perspective and not necessarily finding common ground. Although the collaboration between a nurse and a counselor may look different than between a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist, the idea behind it is the same. It is about bringing each person’s experience, outlook, knowledge and abilities to the table. Rejecting collaboration goes against the person’s treatment since it is essential, not optional.

What is collaborative care?

Collaborative care is a type of integrated psychiatric and primary care delivered by a team that may consist of a clinician, a social worker, a mental health counselor and a behavioral health therapist. The team works together to provide patient-focused treatment, ensuring comprehensive care is given to patients.

Patients may enroll in this care to address a variety of issues, from anxiety to substance abuse or depression, to stress management and other mental disorders. The team can also provide resources and medication recommendations and use patient-reported outcome measures to guide decision making.

That’s why current online mental health counseling masters programs, like the one offered by American International College, ensure that mental health counselors understand the importance of collaborative care. The programs are designed to equip mental health practitioners with the skills and understanding necessary to effectively collaborate with other healthcare professionals in a multidisciplinary approach to patient care.

A report by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine (APM) — Dissemination of Integrated Care Within Adult Primary Care Settings: The Collaborative Care Model — shows how effective collaboration is. It looks into the components of the Collaborative Care Model with examples, shows what those who have already adopted the model have learned, and provides guidance on how to broaden its application. This way it ensures the holistic health needs of individuals suffering from mental health issues are met.

When providing assistance to those in need, mental health clinicians, such as therapists, therapeutic case managers, psychologists, counselors and psychiatrists, should strive to collaborate in order to reach the patient’s objectives and facilitate their progress toward pre-determined treatment goals.

Philosopher Hans-George Gadamer argued: “constant examination of our preconceptions is necessary in order to update our comprehension”. This attitude of modesty is vital for effective psychological and medical care.

How collaborative care works

As time has passed, five essential elements of the Collaborative Care Model have been identified by experts in the field:

1.     Providing patient-centered care

Collaboration between primary caregivers and mental health providers is facilitated by shared care plans that take into account patient objectives. Patients find the prospect of obtaining physical and mental health services at a familiar facility reassuring, and it helps to avoid unnecessary assessments. Enhancing patient participation usually leads to a more satisfying healthcare experience and better patient outcomes.

2.     Care with a focus on the entire group

The care team oversees a certain number of patients monitored through a registry in order to make sure that no one is neglected. Practices monitor those who are not getting any better and mental health professionals offer caseload-oriented advice and support, not just one-off guidance.

3.     Measure the success of a treatment plan

For each individual, the plan of care outlines their desired goals and expected medical results which are tracked with research-based instruments. If the patient is not progressing as anticipated, the therapy is altered until the desired clinical outcomes are met.

4.     Healthcare based on evidence

For patients, treatments with scientifically proven results for their particular condition are available. The Collaborative Care Model (CoCM) is one of the few integrated care models with a substantial body of evidence to demonstrate its efficacy.

5.     Care accountability

Healthcare providers are paid based on the quality of care and results, not just the number of people they handle. This increases the accountability of the team.

Normally, mental health clinicians have about 15 minutes to recognize if a case presented falls into the categories of ‘consultation’ or ‘update’.

Conduct any form of collaborative care in the following manner:

Briefly narrate the story

The introduction of a person in clinical staffing should provide an understanding of the services administered. This should include dialogue about engagement, home and social dynamics, past experiences, psychological background, academic, vocational and behavioral performance, and recent events that may be pertinent to any issues.

Describe the concerns in detail

Be explicit and clear about any current concerns. Utilize statements such as, “I am worried because ——.” Make specific observations, such as, “I have observed ——.” Ask questions like, “What do you think is the cause of ——?” Find a balance between curiosity and understanding the circumstance. If you are unable to bring clarification and direction to the consultation, your time will be wasted.


It is your responsibility to conclude the discussion about a person by providing particular feedback. Attempt to summarize the recommendations and be clear on who and what is related to any follow-up stemming from the staffing.

What to keep in mind as a mental health professional

All those who provide clinical services must take care to be aware of the potential risks that could arise from their practice. It is essential to take all the necessary precautions to ensure that patients are diagnosed, treated and monitored in the correct and safe manner.

Everyone has their shortcomings and is prone to settling into a rut of established behavior. It can be easy for counselors, psychiatrists and the like to become sidetracked by the details of a person’s life. There is a clear distinction between a person’s personality and their fate, diagnosis and destiny. All mental health professionals should focus on inspiring hope and encouraging strength, instead of dwelling on the past and conducting lengthy examinations.

The goal of mental health treatment should always be to address the overall needs of the individual. A helpful way to achieve this is to ensure there is an open dialogue between the patient and counselor, as well as adherence to the patient’s treatment plan. This can help to reduce the risk of a crisis, as well as any unneeded visits to the emergency room or hospital.

The most successful treatment can only happen when mental health providers are connected in a collaborative network. To provide the best care, therapists, counselors, psychologists, case managers, psychiatrists and other clinicians must work together and share responsibility in meeting the needs of the patient and achieving the laid-out treatment objectives.