How to become an Approved Mental Health Professional: The Interview
The Masked AMHP gives his tips for prospective Approved Mental Health Professionals preparing for their formal interview.
AMHP courses are almost invariably only open to employees of local authorities or mental health trusts. Even before having an interview, a candidate has to fulfil certain requirements.
As an example, the local authority who approved me stipulates that, as well as having at least 2 years’ post qualification experience, your line manager has to be prepared to allow you to undertake the training, with the commitment of time that that involves. All courses require a period of full time training, which will take you away from your day job for several months.
There is an expectation that you should have a sound knowledge of Care Act legislation, as well as safeguarding and mental capacity issues. Although it is not essential for a prospective AMHP trainee to have experience of working in a mental health setting, there is an expectation that they should shadow experienced AMHP colleagues while undertaking formal assessments under the MHA.
The putative AMHP then needs to make a formal application, and has to provide a written record of their continuing professional development (CPD) over the last 2 years, especially linked to mental health, with a reflective commentary, as well as providing a reflective analysis of their experience of shadowing a MHA assessment.
Social workers from any field are eligible to train as AMHPs. Clearly, working in a mental health team is relevant, but social workers working with older people and people with learning disabilities will also be in a position of working with people with mental disorder.
Although few children’s services social workers train as AMHPs, or are allowed to train by their line managers, these social workers are always welcome, as the Code of Practice advises that AMHPs with experience of working with children and families are ideally required when undertaking MHA assessments of young people under the age of 18.
Having overcome these initial hurdles, the prospective AMHP has to have a formal interview.
I have to confess that I have never had to undertake one of these interviews myself. This is because when I started to practice (back in 1981, as a Mental Welfare Officer under the Mental Health Act 1959), the requirements for acting as a MWO were somewhat less stringent.
I asked members of the Masked AMHP Facebook group what they would recommend guiding order to prepare for the interview. Here are a few of these hints and tips:
- Look at the guiding principles in the code of practice.
- Have some knowledge of current research into mental health and the AMHP role.
- You will have extensive awareness already of the importance of narrative practice, partnership working and contingency planning - just expand on these and look at what it means to interview a service user in a suitable manner - whereby you will aim to reduce a service users anxieties to help inform the assessment and facilitate communication.
- Demonstrate that you are aware of the importance of the role and its importance for adherence to the Human Rights Act.
- Show that you have a basic awareness of the role and that your values are compatible with the role.
- Stress the importance of informal admission as an example of striving for the least restrictive option.
- They won't expect you to have a detailed knowledge of the law or indeed the Code of Practice, but it is good to have a basic understanding and awareness of the role.
- If your basic belief is that you would never section anybody, then you are probably not suited to managing the conflicts inherent in the role.
- You must be aware of and ready for the time and effort commitments involved in the training, as the course will cost your employers several thousand pounds per candidate.
- Give examples of anti-oppressive practice in your current role.
- Awareness of and willingness to work in situations of risk.
- Demonstrate your commitment to learning.
- Try and just be yourself, as that demonstrates what you can bring to the role.
- Above all, don’t be put off by the often challenging requirements of the role. The training will provide you with skills that can be used in any area of human interaction, and practicing as an AMHP should be seen as a unique opportunity and privilege.
The Masked AMHP is an Approved Mental Health Professional and Practice Consultant working for a local authority AMHP Service in England.
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