What Does Collaborative Practice Mean Within Mental Health Care?: A Qualitative Study Exploring Understandings and Proposing a Definition.

Gabrielle Margaret Jones, Toni Delany


Background: Despite frequent appearances in service documents, the concept of
collaborative practice is ill defined in mental health practice. The purposes of this pilot study were to gain insight into professionals’ conceptual and practical understandings of collaborative mental health practice (CMHP), to use these insights to develop a proposed definition, and to inform the development of a collaborative practice assessment tool.

Methods and findings: This pilot study involved semi-structured interviews with four mental health professionals who have knowledge of a service model that endorses collaborative practice as a service principle. Thematic analysis of interview data revealed the importance of contextualized collaborative practice, a shared belief in the importance of equalized communication with clients, and concerns about the impacts of structural disincentives on collaborative practice. Using Habermas’ theory of communicative action, the findings were applied to develop a proposed definition of CMHP. The main limitations of the study relate to small sample size; however, efforts have been expended to ensure rich data were collected from all participants.

Conclusion: These findings illustrate the importance of context-sensitive team formation and shared philosophical understandings regarding collaborative practice, which both provide a foundation for CMHP to improve client outcomes. Further research is required to build upon the proposed definition of CMHP, as well as the assessment tool that is suggested within the article.


Qualitative, Collaborative practice, mental health

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22230/jripe.2014v3n3a154