Mental health work experience (a brief review & example)


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Page last updated: 15/10/2022

Mental health work experience

In this brief review, we will address the issue of mental health work experience, some specialized areas of psychology and an example of the type of analysis that should be done in the field of mental health. 

Mental health work experience

Mental health work experience refers to everything that people who have studied mental health professionals can do to acquire the skills and abilities needed to perform satisfactorily in their fields of action. 

When it comes to entering the field of health care, mental health work experience can be a significant advantage and a requirement for getting started. Given the relevance of the phenomenon, one is working with, it is very important that the person is adequately prepared for the work to be done. 

As a mental health professional, or someone who is taking part in mental health practice should take care of certain rules when handling people with mental issues. However, Tips like these can only be learnt when one gains experince in this feild.

Below are some of the ways in which experience can be gained in the field of mental health. Mental health work experience can be developed in:

Mental health work experience: placements 

In mental health work experience, the focus is on acquiring the skills necessary for proper performance, so the opportunity to perform one or more placements is quite adequate. It is a unique experience to learn some specific aspects of an area that we have not yet approached sufficiently. 

This type of mental health work experience can consist of one or several sessions where you learn to make a diagnosis, from the hand of the mental health professional. It can also be one or several sessions where you learn some intervention techniques that might be relevant to a particular area

In short, in this mental health work experience, the person has a safe and relatively protected space where he or she can learn by being involved in a real context. 

Mental health work experience (a brief review & example)

Mental health work experience: paid job (it could be part or full-time)

In these cases, it is a matter of being involved in a context with a high flow of work, and these spaces are especially useful when they offer some kind of previous or continuous training, where the person has the possibility of receiving specific knowledge and/or skills to perform adequately in a task. 

These experiences are especially valuable. For example, it may be an outpatient mental health care service, where the person is constantly receiving outpatients, in order to make a diagnosis and propose a treatment option. In this way, everything related to these two routes of intervention in mental health would be learned. 

On the other hand, in these services, it is common for different professionals from different areas to work together, so this type of experience would be particularly enriching. 

Finally, there would be the opportunity to be face to face with the patients, who arrive with their real cases, of suffering and high problems, where the skills and knowledge of the professional are put into play since the level and quality of the help that can eventually be provided is determined by them. 

Another alternative: mental health work experience in a supported internship

This option is also of high quality, as it usually offers the combination of supervised practice and masterclasses or academic discussions where the skills being developed can be strengthened. 

In these spaces, the person has contact with real-life problems, those that afflict patients, in addition to receiving scientific and qualified knowledge about the best way to proceed in different cases where mental health is compromised. 

People who carry out internships like this should make the most of them and try to learn as much as possible since this will give them an advantage when it comes to performing at a professional level. In selecting candidates, for example, institutions and companies value those who have some previous training or experience. 


When we talk about mental health work experience, we mean all kinds of opportunities to develop a skill, so the volunteer experience would also be a very good option. Through it, people could face some real-life issues, usually of a vulnerable person or community that benefits from all the help they can get. 

An example of mental health work experience

When dealing with the subject of mental health work experience, it is very valuable to find specific examples that help illustrate what you are trying to understand. The following is an analysis by a psychologist who is making the diagnosis of a patient with schizophrenia. 

This analysis corresponds to the professional’s attempt to understand the contextual, social, and environmental elements that surround the patient, and that in some way influence the maintenance of the symptoms of the illness. We will use a fictitious name to talk about the patient:

An analysis of basic life elements: 

With regard to personal care, in the periods of the clinical phase (1989 and 1997) it is presented as a sign of neglect of personal presentation and poor nutrition, in the same way in these periods of crisis it is when it attempts against his physical integrity. In history, good personal appearance, good nutrition, and good sleep are highlighted in the periods when the patient is stable.

The occupational functioning of this patient is severely affected, the lack of concentration and motivation force him to stop working. Although he retained his reasoning and memory, his performance was not sufficiently functional.

This patient’s social behavior is problematic because he has severe difficulties in establishing interpersonal relationships. In his childhood, he was very shy, but his social relationships decrease drastically when he starts to be afraid of seeing faces and, consequently, relating to others is very difficult for him because this fear became so generalized that he fears people because he believes they will do something bad to him, and he is even hesitant to say hello. 

Besides, with the disease, he has acquired the tendency to insult people, which makes it difficult for them to want to relate to him.

Other contextual level elements:


Before each crisis, Pedro would lock himself in his house, isolating himself from his social environment. Moreover, the fact that he insults other people and attacks their property is very harmful to the image he gives to others about himself, which can cause rejection and/or isolation.

Family and primary support group 

The patient is single and has no children. He has both parents and a brother who is deceased, as well as a living brother with mental illness. His father was of strong character and this affected him: “Dad was like a person who had a strong character, you would say a certain thing and he would refute it to you, it made me angry. In addition, “when he arrived after 9 pm his father would tell him that if he wanted to go in he had to let himself be hit by 12 straps”. 

The brother who suffered from schizophrenia sometimes behaved aggressively. The patient was greatly affected by the death of his mother: “my homely mother, who was very dear to me, suffered a lot with her death”, which, added to the absence, contributed to the discomfort in terms of family atmosphere and company. 

The fact of losing his mother also influenced some of his delusions, among them that of Mary, whom he relates to the role of his mother who goes for him. There is not much information about the accompaniment that the patient had, although it is mentioned that at some point he had the support of an uncle and that he visited a cousin, “he took care of me very well and I felt like a king”. 

Sometimes he attended the consultation alone, which suggests that he managed to identify those prodromal periods and went after external help. 

Family history of mental illness (genetic factors)

One sibling died from a congenital mental deficiency, characterized by nervous system disturbance, intellectual deficits and affective disturbances, which is called oligophrenia. In addition, the other sibling suffers from schizophrenia. This has great weight when it comes to evaluating the genetic background that could influence the appearance of the patient’s pathology. 

Housing and economic conditions 

The fact that the parents have died is also a factor that influenced the economic and housing situation of the patient and probably of the sibling. (June 6 – 89) “We were immersed in absolute poverty, I sold my father’s books to be able to afford red wine, cigarettes and to be able to bring food into the house”. 

The patient states that he worked until 1988, so his financial solvency must have been seriously compromised. There are no other data related to this issue, so it is not possible to know in what conditions the patient was living during the last registered years of his illness, which could have been intervened during the course of it. 

Unemployment: Among other characteristics, in schizophrenia “clarity of consciousness and intellectual capacity are generally preserved, although cognitive deficits may occur over time”. For the patient, the desire to perform satisfactorily in a job was not alien, he wanted to improve himself in order to work and obtain an income: “I want to relieve myself in order to work and progress”. 

He was not completely absorbed and had periods of increased functioning. Isolation, coupled with the inability to perform any work, are factors that do not contribute to the patient’s well-being. 

Summary of the example

As can be seen in the previous example, there are many elements that should be the focus of analysis in work with mental health, since most of the time there are different focuses that should be intervened. 


Mental health work experience refers to all those spaces where prospective mental health professionals have the opportunity to develop knowledge, skills, and techniques that allow them to face the problems they encounter, in the best possible way. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about mental health work experience

Does NHS do work experience?

Having some work experience in the NHS is a great way to gain knowledge and ideas about your health career. 

Do work experience students get paid?

It is common for students who stay for long periods of time in an institution that provides services, to decide to pay a certain amount of money. However, during the stage of academic training, it is not an obligation for them to pay you.

What age is work experience?

You can get work experience if you are over 14 years old and have signed permission from your parents or caregivers, where they authorize it. On the other hand, students up to 21 years old can have work experience. 

Is unpaid work experience legal?

Under certain specific conditions, this type of unpaid work, such as a boarding school or a residence, may be considered work experience. 

At what age can you do work experience in the UK?

16-21 is the most common age for initial work experience as it is the age that coincides with university studies or higher. 

  1. Peer Support in Mental Health (Foundations of Mental Health Practice)
  2. Models of Mental Health (Foundations of Mental Health Practice)
  3. Mental Health Law in England and Wales: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals (Mental Health in Practice Series)


  1. Finding work experience in the NHS. A guide for teachers and advisors
  2. Placements, training, work experience
  3. Volunteering and participating at Mind