Communication and mental health in general practice: physicians' self-perceived learning needs and self-efficacy

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Background: General practitioners (GPs) often see patients presenting with mental health problems, but their training regarding mental health treatment varies. GPs' communication skills are of particular importance in these consultations, and communication skills training of GPs has been found to improve patients' mental health. To tailor a communication skills training by basing it on GPs' learning needs and self-efficacy, thereby maximising learning, we conducted a questionnaire study.

Objective: To measure GPs' self-perceived needs regarding communication with and treatment of mental health patients.

Methods: GPs in training for specialist general practice were given a questionnaire on communication and mental health in general practice. The questionnaire measured prevalence, referring practices, self-efficacy and self-perceived learning need regarding mental health treatment and communication skills, as well as interest in attending training.

Results: A majority of GPs in our sample was interested in training on communication skills and mental health treatment. However, they reported moderate learning needs and high confidence on the different measures. GPs reported highest learning needs regarding specific communication skills and treatment of the most common mental health problems. At the same time, they reported highest self-efficacy in treating the same disorders. They also reported high confidence in communication skills.

Conclusion: Despite being confident, GPs in this sample recognise the need for specific skills in consultations with patients with mental health problems, but may underestimate the importance of general communication skills. These results are informative when designing training for GPs in communication and mental health.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: PhD Student 2: Lecturer 3: Professor, Department of Behavioural Sciences, University of Oslo, Norway

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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