Advocate and applicant, therapist and bureaucrat: the stress of the AMHP

Janine Hudson explains the rationale behind the National AMHP Survey 2012

Janine Hudson, approved mental health professional and MSc student in mental health social work at Kings College London, explains the rationale behind the National AMHP survey 2012

The Mental Health Act 2007 replaced approved social worker (ASW) with the approved mental health professional (AMHP) in the hope that opening the role to nurses, occupational therapists and psychologists would increase the numbers able to perform statutory duties and thus reduce stress and burnout among mental health social workers.

Three years on, however, my observations of social work AMHPs indicate that stress continues to have an impact. I am currently leading the National AMHP Survey 2012 – a survey that aims to measure and compare experiences of stress and burnout between social work and non-social work AMHPs.

As an AMHP I understand that undertaking Mental Health Act assessments is a complex activity that demands the AMHP assume a variety of conflicting roles. We are often the advocate as well as the applicant, the therapist as well as the bureaucrat. Despite the demands I find the role incredibly satisfying. Nevertheless, the often charged nature of these interventions means that it is also associated with high levels of stress.

The importance of the current national AMHP research stems from the opportunity it offers professionals to inform their practice and choose the interventions that offer the best chance of improving the circumstances of those with whom they work.

However, I think it is equally as important to research what impacts on a professional’s ability to practice conscienciously and judiciously. Particularly when we consider that a depersonalised approach indicative of burnout describes a set of callous and insensitive behaviours displayed by a worker toward a client.

There is no firm hypothesis underpinning the study, and there are reasons for and against a positive finding of stress in non-social work AMHPs. Adding the statutory role to the duties of nurses, occupational therapists and psychologists could increase experiences of stress and burnout already found in these professional groups.

In undertaking the research I hope to establish whether levels of stress are increasing by contrasting the findings with a comparative earlier study. I aim to discover what, if any, differences in stress there are between social work and non-social work AMHPs, and what we might learn from each other to improve these experiences. Lastly, I hope the findings will inform policy and practice decisions about how statutory services are administered and managed in a climate that demands we all do more with fewer resources.

More information 

Take the National AMHP Survey 2012

Community Care Inform has a range of invaluable expert-written guides to stress, including:

Managing stress – a manager’s guide

Guide to compassion fatigue and secondary trauma in human services

Guide to working with emotion: A practice educator perspective

Guide to effective supervision: What is it and how can supervisors ensure they provide it?

Not an Inform user?

Visit or call Kim Poupart on 0208 652 4848 to find out more about Inform

Click here to return to Mental Health Social Work and Stress: Practice Guide

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