Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Integrating Interprofessional Education and Collaboration Competencies (IPEC) into Mental Health Counselor Education

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Integrating Interprofessional Education and Collaboration Competencies (IPEC) into Mental Health Counselor Education

Article excerpt

In 2009 six health disciplines identified interprofessional education and collaboration competencies (IPEC) to guide cross-discipline clinical and educational practices. This article gives an example of an attempt to integrate IPEC into mental health counselor education through an interprofessional course taught to III students of health sciences and counseling. Implications for mental health counselor educators and final conclusions are discussed.


As the scope of health care is changing, there is a greater call upon health care professionals to collaborate (Casimiro, MacDonald, Thompson, & Stodel, 2009). Research and policy documents have shown that interprofessional collaboration models are not just effective but are also essential for competent, cost-effective, culturally responsive health care (Davidson & Waddell, 2005; Levett-Jones, Gilligan, Lapkin & Hoffman, 2012; McClelland & Kleinke, 2013). While research supports collaborative models for health care delivery, empirical studies involving mental health counselors (MHCs) seem sparse. For reasons unannounced to researchers, and despite support in political arenas, counselor education and other nonmedical training programs have been reluctant to incorporate interprofessional education (IPE). This reluctance to modify traditional health care education and programs has been criticized for not properly preparing students for the changing scope of health care in which they now need to navigate interprofessional relationships in clinical practice (Casimiro, MacDonald, Thompson, & Stodel, 2009; McClelland & Kleinke, 2013). However, momentum has increased for medical health professional training programs to incorporate IPE. Studies show the value of IPE in increasing professional respect and preparedness for clinical interprofessional collaboration (Ateah et ah, 2010). It is hoped that introducing MHCs and counselor educators to the Interprofessional Education and Collaboration Competencies (IPEC), which provide a framework for cross-disciplinary education and curriculum development, will stimulate their interest in pursuing cross-disciplinary IPE relationships with other medical health care disciplines.


There is a current initiative to integrate primary care (e.g., doctors and nurses who serve both as initial points of contact for patients and also as coordinators when specialized services, such as counseling, are needed) and mental health care (Davis et ah, 2013). Integrated care can be cost-effective and more accessible; it has the potential to overcome the stigma related to mental health (Fann, Ell, & Sharpe, 2012). These benefits have led organizations such as The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC), and countless others to create standards, specify competencies, and publish training materials. Specifically, CACREP (2009) has produced standards for graduate programs training clinical MHCs: Standard A.3 of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling core specialty states that an accredited graduate program "understands the roles and functions of clinical mental health counselors in various practice settings and the importance of relationships between counselors and other professionals, including interdisciplinary treatment teams" (p. 29).

The SAMHSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions (CIHS) also promotes interprofessionalism and offers trainings and resources for mental health providers engaged in integrative care with primary care providers (Hoge, Morris, Laraia, Pomerantz, & Farley, 2014). SAMHSA has defined competencies tailored specifically for mental health providers who work in integrative care. Another well-known national initiative to integrate primary care and mental health was conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA; Dundon, Dollar, Schohn, & Lantinga, 2011). …

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