Myth-busting: Advanced practice in mental health

Myth-busting: Advanced practice in mental health Updated June 2022


This resource aims to address some of the common myths surrounding advanced practice in mental health. This will help to improve understanding of the level of practice and the roles within it, alongside the education delivery and benefits to patients and mental health services.

Myth 1: All advanced practitioners are non-medical prescribers.

No. Being a prescribing practitioner is only one of the ways that some professional groups extend their skills and advance their practice, but certainly not in all cases. If you’re in a role where this is appropriate, then that’s one way of increasing your clinical skills and knowledge. However, other core professions without legal prescribing rights, and even some that have them already have identified many other ways in which to enhance their knowledge, skills, and expertise to a recognised advanced level.

Myth 2: Some of the advanced clinical practice general pathways would not be relevant for the mental health pathway.

It is important to look at the module content in MSc Advanced Clinical Practice courses as they differ. When selecting the ‘right’ course, it must deliver the content within the Advanced Practice Mental Health Capabilities and Curriculum Framework. 

All mental health practitioners need physical and mental health knowledge and skills to be an advanced practitioner. Some mental health practitioners have previously found the depth of physical health skills was too much on the generic advanced practice training programmes for their area of practice. 

New mental health advanced practice training programmes are now available which offer a balance of content to meet the capabilities outlined in both the Multi-professional framework for advanced clinical practice in Englandand Advanced Practice Mental Health Capabilities and Curriculum Framework.  

Myth 3: Advanced practitioners in mental health are substitute psychiatrists.

No. Advanced practitioners in mental health do not take the place of psychiatrists. They provide different roles, utilising their added value, knowledge, and skills from their origin professions alongside master’s level learning (or equivalent) in advanced practice.

Myth 4: Only registered nurses can be advanced practitioners.

No. The Advanced Practice Mental Health Capabilities and Curriculum Frameworkis multi-professional. A wide range of registered and experienced professionals, including Allied Health Professionals and Pharmacists can consider the routes to being an advanced practitioner and are actively encouraged to apply for programme places. You can contact your regional advancing practice faculty to explore the available routes.

Myth 5: All advanced practitioners in mental health do the same role (one size fits all).

No. There are many ways in which an advanced practitioner in mental health can be employed. advanced practice is a level of practice rather than a specific role.  Advanced practitioners can work in a variety of settings and specialties in mental health so long as they have the capabilities to practice in that area. They can also be pivotal in supporting the development of services into new and emerging areas of practice.

Myth 6: Advanced practitioners in mental health can work anywhere if they have completed a generic advanced clinical practice course.

No. All registered health professionals should work within the boundaries of their capabilities and within a clearly defined scope of practice. Attendance at the courses is only part of the training route to become an advanced practitioner in mental health.  

The learning experience is enriched by on-the-job training, supervision, and support so each advanced practitioner in mental health will have a unique set of skills to apply in addition to their generic knowledge. This should be considered when applying for posts as you must continue to adhere to your own professional code of conduct and work within your capabilities.

Myth 7: All advanced practice courses are too physical health orientated for mental health practitioners. 

Not all. Increased physical health knowledge and skills are a requirement for a mental health advanced practitioner in order to effectively meet the needs of our populations. There are now advanced practice courses aligned with the national Advanced Practice Mental Health Capabilities and Curriculum Framework.

For further information on the courses available in your area, please contact your regional Faculties for Advancing Practice. When selecting the course that is right for you it is important to consider the specific requirements for your role and the specific content of individual courses. 

If you are already on a generic advanced practice course the mental health content will be strengthened with work-based supervision to ensure relevance to a mental health practitioner. 

Myth 8: Advanced practitioners can only be supervised by a consultant psychiatrist. 

No. A trainee advanced practitioner in mental health should be supervised by someone appropriately trained to understand their professional base and be able to undertake a learning needs analysis with them and have the required knowledge and skills to supervise at an advanced practice level. Supervisors have undertaken appropriate training as recommended in the national supervision guideline document. 

Currently most advanced practitioners are supervised by a consultant grade doctor, particularly during training. However, this is not essential so long as there is an appropriate structure surrounding the post that provides sufficient supervision and governance arrangements. Further information can be found in the Workplace Supervision for Advanced Clinical Practice document.

Myth 9: Advanced practitioners were created to address psychiatrist shortages.

No. These roles have been created as there is a need for staff to develop and utilise their knowledge and skills more broadly to benefit patient care and to be able to grow the advanced and consultant practice workforce. In some places, advanced practitioners have been recruited to lessen the gap left by doctor shortages.  

However, they are not a direct replacement, and the role of advanced practitioners has not been created to directly address psychiatrist shortages. The roles are complimentary and therefore systems will likely operate more optimally with advanced practitioners within them.

Myth 10: Advanced practitioner in mental health no longer belong to their original profession 

No. All advanced practitioners in mental health retain their original professional identity, as part of regulatory requirements. Being an advanced practitioner in mental health means that you bring an advanced level of expertise from your own professional practice with an additional layer of knowledge and skills to the benefit of the multi professional team.

Myth-busting: Advanced practice in mental health

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