Reflective mental health practice today

Course overview

This is a ten-week short course for mental health nurses, that provides a valuable opportunity to develop skills and understanding in processing the complex relationships, dynamics and dilemmas faced in daily work within mental health services, focussing on interactions with patients, families and colleagues. The course enables nurses to develop a greater capacity for thinking under pressure, with an increased awareness of the internal and external pressures to ‘act’.

Therapeutic relationships are at the heart of mental health nursing and require nurses to be emotionally available, containing and reflective. Feelings of distress, aggression, loss and anxiety are commonly expressed and experienced by service users and can impact upon nurses’ capacity to think and to respond in an attuned way. The training provides protected time, a theoretical framework and a reflective space through which to explore, learn and share with others, promoting an increased interest in work and an awareness of the value and significance of mental health nursing in practice.

The course provides protected time for learning and encourages nurses to develop their interest in their work and to develop a greater reflective capacity. It provides nurses with a psychodynamic framework for understanding the dynamics and experiences of working with mental health patients, within the organisational context.

This theoretical framework provides an essential platform for thinking about and understanding:

  • A model of the development of the mind and relationships
  • Patients’ distress and disturbed states of mind such as psychosis, depression, suicidality and eating disorders
  • Communication at all levels (conscious and unconscious) with patients, their families and other professionals

And generates the capacity to:

  • Notice and understand the impact of work experiences on individuals and teams
  • Develop greater capacity to reflect on one’s own experiences and use this insight within therapeutic relationships
  • Develop emotional resilience to better tolerate and process intense emotional experiences in clinical work, enabling better containment for patients’ own intense emotional experiences.

In summary, the applied theoretical model supports nurses in remaining engaged in therapeutic relationships with patients, providing quality care and maintaining professional boundaries whilst resisting the pressure to react or withdraw.

The course has been developed as a response to the need for training of front line mental health nursing staff that is cost effective, less time-consuming for staff and can be delivered locally to teams and services. It is intended to be delivered to a group from the same healthcare/community setting - we have found that providing the course to colleagues from the same service who attend together enables continuity of ideas and discussion after the course has ended.

It is relevant to those working within inpatient and community settings, it is also adaptable to specialist areas of care (such as forensic, personality disorder etc). The course is aimed at all bands of nurses, from team leaders to nursing assistants and is also relevant and available to colleagues from other disciplines such as occupational therapists, social workers and medics.

100% of recent participants felt that the course was highly relevant to their current work practice and enabling them to do their job better.

“I went back into work feeling refreshed and as though being on the course gave me an opportunity to use my mind, rather than react/work on auto pilot.”

“I wish this part could have been longer as it is incredibly useful and relevant to my work”

“I am more able to stop and think before acting.”

“I most enjoyed the space afforded to explore and address potentially difficult situations in a reflective manner”

“I have a better understanding of my patients because I understand where they are coming from”

“The course allowed me to think about the challenges faced between the teams, the organisation and view things less negatively in consideration of the different pressures we all face”

It is a 10 week course, comprising of four hours of training per week, plus additional time required for weekly reading and preparation for one case presentation.

Course facilitators are themselves mental health nurses with extensive clinical, training and supervisory experience. They are also psychotherapists and will bring their experience and working knowledge of applied psychoanalytic concepts

The course will be formed of 3 separate but linked sessions each week:

  • Theory and application - A taught seminar focusing on topics such as the development of the mind, stages of life and development, mental ill health including depression, psychosis and selfharm
  • Papers and presentation -Students read an identified paper (often relating to applied work with patients) in preparation for the study afternoon each week. One member of the group will present a summary of the paper and a reflection on its relevance to their work and experience.
  • Work discussion group - Each member of the group will have the opportunity to present a case, interaction or incident from their work for a group discussion. The work discussion groups support nurses in completing the NMC revalidation requirements for reflective practice.

Attendance at all sessions is required. A certificate of attendance will be given to those who have attended 70% or more of the sessions.

Standard 10-week model:

£6600 per course, for a maximum of 10 participants.

The standard model of the 10-week course is outlined here, but flexibility and customisation are key features of our course delivery. We want to work with you to establish the specific requirements and needs of your team/service and to tailor this model so that it works for you. 

The course can be delivered onsite, locally to you or online, and at times mutually convenient for you and the course facilitators.

Included in your course fee, you will receive online membership of the Tavistock’s internationally-renowned library for the duration of your course.Our friendly and knowledgeable library team will help to support you through your specialist CPD course, whatever your level of professional or academic experience. You will have access to an extensive range of eBooks, online journals, all the relevant key databases and our specialist audio-visual collection, plus reference access to all our print books. Our Information Skills Trainer has made lots of material available on Moodle to help you navigate our comprehensive electronic collections. PCs and photocopiers are also available for your use (charges apply for printing and copying).Library staff curate various online resources, such as Audio/Video Playlists, and regularly share helpful news and research on Twitter and Facebook. Find out more on the Library website:

For further information and to discuss your requirements, please contact us at

Certificate of attendance
Course length:
10 weeks
Admission status:
Course lead:
Claire Shaw

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