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Guide to support glossary

Here we explain some terms you may come across when seeking mental health support.

Advocate

Someone who will represent you and speak on your behalf.

If you are in inpatient care, you will be entitled to an Independent mental health advocate. An advocate can help advise you on your rights and help you to communicate your needs to your care team.

Art therapy

See Creative therapy.

Bank/agency staff

When units need more staff support, they hire temporary agency staff or ‘bank staff’. This means you will not always see the same faces on your ward. You are likely to see more bank staff during holiday periods like Easter and Christmas.

Care plan

This document is created to outline why you are in hospital and what treatment will be provided to help you get better.

You may have more than one care plan, outlining different support needs and interventions that will be put in place to support you.

Your care plan should be shared with you and you should be notified about any changes made to it.

Chemist

Pharmacist. A health professional working in a community pharmacy or hospital who is trained to give advice about medicines.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) team

A team of people with different jobs who have specialist training and experience of working with children and young people who have mental health difficulties. The team would include psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists, counsellors, family therapists, arts therapists, primary mental health worker and outreach workers.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of talking therapy used to help patients understand how they think about things and change any unhelpful behaviours. A course of CBT normally lasts between 12 and 20 sessions.

For more information, see our page on counselling and therapy.

Community psychiatric nurse (CPN)

A nurse that works outside of hospital, visiting patients at home, in outpatient clinics or in GP surgeries. They provide practical support with a number of things, including medication.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality means that somebody won’t tell anybody else what you tell them. Doctors, therapists and counsellors keep what you tell them confidential. However, they may have to tell somebody else to make sure you get the help you need, or if they are worried you are at risk of hurting yourself or somebody else. They will always try to tell you before talking to somebody else about what you have told them.

Consultant

See Psychiatrist.

Counsellor

Someone who has been trained to support people with their mental health by helping them to think and talk about their feelings and experiences in a safe space. For more information on counselling, have a look at our counselling and therapy page.

Creative therapy

Creative therapies like art, music or drama therapy can be used to help people express difficult feelings. These types of therapy are often done in groups.

For more information, see our page on counselling and therapy.

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)

DBT is a type of talking therapy designed to help people understand their feelings and change unhelpful behaviour. It also helps people learn to accept themselves. DBT is normally done for around six months. It also often involves working with groups.

DBT is most often recommended for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), but it can be helpful for anybody who feels emotions very intensely.

For more information, see our page on counselling and therapy.

Drama therapy

See Creative therapy.

Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIIP)

A service which works with people after their first experience of psychosis. Services usually work with people aged 14-35 and provide a range of support and treatments that may include medication.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

A medical test which records the electrical activity of the heart. You might have an ECG if you are having chest pains or an abnormal heart rate. It is a painless procedure that can be carried out by your GP or at a hospital.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

A medical test which records the electrical activity of the brain. It can be used to diagnose and manage a range of conditions including epilepsy and insomnia as well as brain injuries. An EEG is painless, takes 30-45 minutes and rarely causes any side effects.

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is used to help people process distressing memories and reduce their emotional impact. It is a relatively new form of therapy, which was originally used to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but is now widely used in treating other difficulties like anxiety, OCD and depression. A course of EMDR can be very brief (one or two sessions) or much longer (ten sessions or more) depending on the needs of the individual.

Family therapy

In family therapy, a therapist works with people in close relationships with each other, explores their views and helps to understand the problems they are having. It helps family members communicate better with each other. It can help families to change, develop and resolve conflict.

Family therapy may be offered if the whole family is in difficulty. This may be because one member of the family has a serious problem that’s affecting the rest of the family.

General Practitioner (GP)

Is the co-ordinator of your healthcare. Assesses and treats all sorts of common health problems and can refer you on to other services for specialist support. They can also offer advice about what local support is available to you.

Health visitor

Specialised nurse who works in the community, usually focusing on the health and care of young children (under the age of five) and their parents or primary carers.

Healthcare assistant

Supports nurses in the day-to-day running of an inpatient unit. A healthcare assistant will often support patients with their day-to-day routine and may help to facilitate groups on the unit.

Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS)

Free to use and not linked to the NHS. Deals with complaints about NHS treatment.

Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

IPT focuses on helping people address problems in their relationships with important people in their life. It is normally suggested for people struggling with depression who have already tried other types of treatment. A course of IPT normally lasts between 12 and 16 sessions.

For more information, see our page on counselling and therapy.

Mental Health Act Commissioner (MHAC)

Visit and privately interview patients in hospital or mental health nursing homes. They have limited powers to investigate a complaint and appoint panels to give second opinions on treatment. See the Care Quality Commission for more information.

Multi-disciplinary team (MDT) reviews

The multi-disciplinary team is a team of different professionals involved in your care. This may include your consultant, key worker, healthcare assistants, unit doctors, therapists, social workers and anyone else involved in your care.

Music therapy

See Creative therapy.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

Provides national guidance and advice to improve health and social care. This includes guidance on treatments for both physical and mental health conditions, including medication and talking therapy.

Nurse (registered mental health nurse or RMN)

Trained to care for and support people with their medical or mental health needs by monitoring how they are doing, giving them their medication and helping them to take care of their basic needs. They mostly work in hospitals, but sometimes see patients at home or in other settings. They may also prescribe medicine.

In an inpatient care unit, they are involved in the general day-to-day running of the unit as well as delivering clinical and therapeutic support in the form of giving you your medication and making sure your basic healthcare needs are met.

Observations

While an inpatient unit, staff will need to check on you on a regular basis to make sure you are ok. How often they check on you will depend on a number of different things like how well you are and your assessed ‘risk level’. Staff will do their best to make these checks discreet and respect your privacy as much as possible. Sometimes observation will mean that you are not allowed to be alone, even when using the bathroom.

Tip: Talk to the person observing you. “I found it made it more comfortable for me to talk to the person observing me. It made it less awkward.” – Tom.

Occupational therapist

Helps people who have been unwell or had problems to build the confidence and skills to lead a normal life.

In an inpatient unit, occupational therapists are generally responsible for creating and implementing the timetable for the unit, which might include therapy groups, exercise groups and educational time. They may also do individual work with you to look at what support would be most helpful for you, either individually or in a group.

Paediatrician

A doctor who specialises in children's health.

Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS)

PALS help NHS users and their carers resolve issues with their care and treatment. Can refer to the Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS) if the problem is not solved.

Pharmacist

Chemist. A healthcare professional who is an expert on medicines and focuses on safe and effective medication use. They can work in a high-street pharmacy or in a hospital.

Prescription

An instruction written by a medical practitioner (usually a doctor) that authorises a patient to be issued with a medicine or treatment. Prescriptions are then taken to a pharmacy to get the medicines dispensed.

Psychiatrist

A doctor that specialises in mental health.

Your psychiatrist (referred to as your ‘Consultant’) will hold responsibility for your overall care. They will work with you to decide which treatments will help you, including medication, talking therapy and assessments.

You may be seen by a psychiatrist at Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or Adult Mental Health Services (AMHS).

Psychologist

A professional who helps you understand the way you behave, feel and think about things. Includes clinical psychologists and educational psychologists.

Psychotherapist

A trained professional that oversees your talking therapy, providing more in-depth treatment than a counsellor. Psychotherapists aim to help you explore and understand why you feel the way you do, what’s behind the way you act towards other people and why some things happen to you. They usually aim to bring about helpful change by doing this.

For more information, see our page on counselling and therapy.

Risk assessment

In inpatient care, this is an assessment carried out by staff to assess what your risk level is. This will usually involve asking you a number of questions to assess how you are currently feeling. It will usually take into account any previous risk you have shown. This may be used to assess things such as your observation level and suitability for leave.

Self-help/support group

Group where you meet up with people in a similar situation to you. They help you realise you are not alone and you can end up feeling better by being able to support someone else.

Social worker

Not a medical professional, but helps and supports people facing different problems.

For example, some social workers help you if you are at risk of abuse or if you are in care, while others are trained in mental health and can offer counselling. Psychiatric social workers are specialists who work with people during crises or over a long period of time.

In an inpatient unit, social workers help facilitate and plan your discharge from the unit, and help you with things that might make going home easier for you.

Special educational needs coordinator (SENCO)

Organises help in school for children with special educational needs such as learning difficulties.

Speech and language therapist

Helps develop skills in communication. Other therapists include occupational therapists, art therapists, drama therapists, education therapists and music therapists.

Therapist

See Psychotherapist.

Unit/Psychiatric unit/Clinic/Inpatient ward/Adolescent unit

These are all terms which you might hear to describe the hospital you are staying in.

Youth offending worker

Works individually with young offenders to assess and find suitable programmes to help them and prevent future offending.

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