How PMHNP Program Directors Facilitate Psychotherapeutic Skill Acquisition

J Am Psychiatr Nurses Assoc. 2022 Aug 3;10783903221091980. doi: 10.1177/10783903221091980. Online ahead of print.


Background: The use of psychotherapy has a long history within psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) practice. Underutilization of psychotherapy in practice has potentially led to a reduced emphasis in the PMHNP curriculum. To date, no national survey has solely evaluated how PMHNP programs ensure psychotherapy skill acquisition.

Aims: Survey the PMHNP programs within the United States on how psychotherapy skill acquisition is achieved, including (a) psychotherapeutic curricular content; (b) psychotherapy related clinical practicum hours, including simulation and preceptor-delivered hours; and (c) student interest in psychotherapy skills.

Method: Three rounds of e-mail invitations were sent to all PMHNP programs within the United States. Descriptive statistics and reflective thematic analysis were used to examine survey content.

Results: There were 39 (27%) respondents, representing the U.S. regions equally. The most common forms of psychotherapy taught were cognitive-behavioral and motivational interviewing. The content was most often delivered through a hybrid program (65.8%). Psychotherapy clinical hours most often used in psychology and social work were varied (0-720, SD 132.9) and were usually (63.89%) separate from other clinical hours. Qualitative responses focused on increased emphasis on the use of psychotherapy within PMHNP programs and the need to develop competency checklists for psychotherapy skill acquisition to use with simulation.

Conclusion: This survey reported on both similarities and differences in how PMHNP programs ensure student competency in the skill acquisition of psychotherapy. While this article focuses on what skills are needed in psychotherapy education, direction on how programs deliver this content to their students to ensure this skill will be retained in practice is a critical next step.

Keywords: PMHNP role; graduate education; psychotherapy; survey.