Mental Health Work; Specialisation


The curriculum for the “Interdisciplinary Specialisation in Mental Health Work” at Telemark University College aims at realising the national curriculum and regulations for the specialisation programme in Mental Health Work of 12th January 2005. The curriculum is based on the following documents:

  • Norwegian Universities’ Act no. 15, 1st April 2005
  • White Paper No. 27 (2000-2001) on reforming the quality of higher education: Do your duty – Demand your rights.
  • White Paper no. 25 “Coping, Opportunities and Meaning”; Future health care challenges. Other relevant government white papers: “Escalation Plan for Mental Health”, “Openness and Wholeness”.
  • Telemark University College’s Examination Regulations adopted by the board 15th December 2005.
  • Regulations for Suitability Assessment pursuant to the Norwegian Universities’ Act, § 4, 30th February 2006.
  • Telemark University College’s Quality Assurance Handbook adopted by the board 28th August 2006.
  • Telemark University College’s Strategic Plan (2005-2009) set by the board 24th February 2005.
  • Curriculum for specialisation programme in Mental Health Work adopted by the faculty board June 2002.

The study programme curriculum is to be understood as the student’s contract with the teaching facility, and includes a basic description of how this contract should be executed. In addition, the curriculum will serve as a working and guidance tool for distributing information about the department’s professional pedagogical activities.

No part of the programme allows for the individual assessment of external candidates.

The curriculum for the specialisation programme in Mental Health Work at the Telemark University College has been approved by the dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Work Studies, February 28th, 2007. The revised curriculum will come into force from autumn 2007.

This interdisciplinary specialisation programme in mental health work is based on the foundation programmes in the health and social sciences. Each student will build on the knowledge and experience from his/her foundation study programmes, and through specialisation, acquire new understanding, skills and attitudes. The programme qualifies health and social workers to work with individuals who suffer from mental problems and illnesses in the national, regional and municipal health and social services.

The goals of specialised study programmes in general, according to White Paper no. 40 (1987-88) the National Health Plan, are:

  • to ensure that each student will acquire knowledge
  • to provide health and social workers with knowledge in accordance with new needs and objectives.

In this specialisation programme, students will develop comprehensive professional skills which will integrate theoretical insights, personal skills and professional job-related skills. These three objectives will be achieved through various scientific approaches and the study of a number of sciences. This will enable students to define problems, reflect and develop their analytical and critical skills in relation both to external sources of information and within the fields where they will train as health workers.

The national curriculum, Specialisation Programme in Mental Health Work, establishes requirements for the development of skills within the spheres of relations, action and cooperation. In this study programme, these three spheres will be related to ethically, legally and professionally acceptable practices. With respect to the specialisation study programme, skills within the aforementioned fields will be reflected in the study programme’s description in relation to both the objectives and topics described in the national curriculum.

Interdisciplinary versus multidisciplinary teamwork

The challenge for the social and health services in the future will be to develop the range of services so that they will provide satisfactory and comprehensive solutions. To achieve this goal, we must coordinate the services offered on various administrative levels, and coordinate cooperation between personnel within and between these levels.

According to the national curriculum, the main aim of interdisciplinary specialisation is to provide increased skills to a wider range of professional groups in the field of mental health work, thereby stimulating cooperation and coordination. Interdisciplinary teamwork may be defined as integrating several fields of expertise to form a new specialisation. This is in contrast to multidisciplinary teamwork, which consists of cooperation, and the delegation of responsibilities to independent and isolated professional specialisations.

In the curriculum, the concepts of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teamwork are interpreted on two levels: a conceptual, theoretical level and a practical, practicing level. On the conceptual, theoretical level, the concepts of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teamwork will be clarified and approached using methods such as group work and through debates stressing theoretical approaches. On the practical, practising level, interdisciplinary teamwork will be interpreted as the ability to apply elements of several professional specialisations, and integrate them in a way which will be therapeutic/interventive with respect to various patients, clients and user-groups. Multidisciplinary teamwork will be defined as an opportunity for several professionals to use their specialties in a therapeutic/interventive collaboration with respect to the various target groups. Students will be expected to demonstrate their own professional skills, which will then be drawn upon in the interdisciplinary collaboration.

Mental health work

Mental health is a principal and comprehensive concept of the study programme. The concept is carefully selected, with the intention of complementing professional medical psychiatry with a humanistically oriented ideology. The curriculum is thereby anchored within a humanistic approach to humanity and science, and the study programme’s content and teaching and learning methods will clearly reflect this approach. Knowledge of mental health work will be emphasised throughout the programme, on both the individual and systemic levels.

Living standards have changed considerably during the last 40 years. Approaches to mental health in a modern and globalised society are dependent on a cultural analytical perspective in order to view the patient in a larger context. Altered living conditions and circumstances affect the development of the individual’s identity which in turn may affect his/her mental health. Modern society’s developments, living conditions and cultural perspectives will be essential in knowledge dissemination.

Mental health work includes work with, and services to, people of all ages with mental disabilities and less-serious illnesses, conditions and problems. The goals of the mental health programme and services are to promote independence, personal initiative and the ability to master one’s own life, and/or to preserve an existing level of functional competence and help an individual to experience a sense of well being (see Storting White Paper no. 25: “Openness and Wholeness”). The health worker must treat with respect the patients’/users’ active participation in the planning of their own programmes of treatment. The needs of the users shall dictate which services are offered. During the study programme, the viewpoints of users will be discussed in detail.

Mental health work involves differentiated approaches for people with illnesses/problems of varying severity and embraces prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and training. It also involves people of all age groups, including children/adolescents, adults and the elderly. The family and close relations of patients must be included in this work.

Through the study programme, students will acquire insight into the mental health services, the organisation of these services and the laws which regulate them. One of the greatest challenges to the social and health services in the future will be to develop a spectrum of adequate and comprehensive health services. To achieve this goal, we must coordinate the services supplied by the various administrative levels, and arrange cooperation between personnel within and between these levels.

Mental health work should, to the highest possible degree, be offered on an open and voluntary basis. Mental health work, however, implicitly acknowledges two outer limits, voluntary and compulsory treatment. This places heavy demands on the health-worker’s capacity for ethical/critical reflection. Storting White Paper no. 25 applies central concepts and values which will form the basis for mental health work; these include, availability, professionalism, justifiability, responsibility, openness and comprehensiveness. The health worker is expected to protect and assist the patients and their families by respecting and adopting these concepts and values in his/her professional work.

Target Group and Admission Requirements

The target group is health and social workers who wish to work with, and develop their skills in relation to, people with various forms of mental illnesses. To gain admission to the study programme students must have a 3-year degree in health and social studies, and at least 1 year of relevant professional practice after having obtained their degree. Applicants who have completed a 2-year programme in health and social studies in accordance with prior national curricula may also be admitted.

Aim of the Programme

The national curriculum for mental health work emphasises interdisciplinary cooperation and understanding which is necessary in order to manage the complex problems and challenges the health and social services sector is faced with regarding mental health care in the future.

The aim of the programme is to qualify health and social workers for work with mental health care in the special health services and in the municipal health and social services sector. This involves providing students with basic knowledge of biological, social, cultural and intellectual aspects of an individual’s mental health. The programme therefore emphasises an understanding of mental illness as a relational phenomenon that involves all these aspects. In this manner the focus of this study programme differs from psychiatric health care which traditionally has been closely linked to the discipline of medicine, and to the treatment and care which has been practised in institutions and private care settings.

Mental health work is not primarily concerned with illness and suffering, but rather to provide care and extend help to people who struggle with various degrees of mental problems. This involves cooperating with users, relatives, the local community, as well as one’s own professional group and other professions. This involves collecting, systemising, analysing and mediating knowledge and insight to interested parties.

The overall aims of the study programme is that students will develop knowledge and skills in the following areas:

  • Interpersonal and teamwork skills.
  • Action and preparedness skills in order to provide mentally unbalanced people with necessary help and care.
  • Basic interdisciplinary knowledge which involves insight into other professional areas and their working methods.
  • Written and oral communication skills which satisfy formal professional requirements.
  • Respect and tolerance for various explanation models for mental disorders, and explanation models which the patient and their relatives use, including knowledge of mental disorders/illnesses.
  • Critical, professional and ethically founded reflection about one’s own and other’s mental health work as well as the services offered to users by the health and social services.

Curriculum and structure

Overview of courses
Code Course title Credits O/V *) Credits pr. semester
  S1(A) S2(V) S3(A) S4(V)
982HEMN1 Mental Health Work 30.00 O 15      
982HEMN2 An Interdisciplinary, Psychosocial
Approach to Mental Health Care
30.00 O   15    
Total: 15 15 15 15
*) O - Mandatory course, V - Optional course

The post-Bachelor programme comprises 60 ECTS. The study programme consists of two major course units of 30 ECTS each. Major course unit 1 consists of common foundation studies and major course unit 2 involves interdisciplinary specialisation in psychosocial work. Students who successfully complete major course unit 1 will also be qualified to study another specialisation unit than the one offered by Telemark University College, and may apply for transfer to another university college which offers the specialisation unit in question. In addition to the interdisciplinary specialisation in psychosocial work offered at Telemark University College, there is also the option of specific specialisation within nursing, social work and physiotherapy. The study programme is a part time course of studies of 2 years duration, and comprises 20 hours of study per week. The teaching is organised into 4-5 one-week workshops per semester; in addition to these organised activities, students are expected to organise their own periods of study.

During the last semester, students in groups will complete a final project; the teaching at the university college will during this period be related to the project and methods instruction.

Major course unit code: 982HEMN1
Major course unit 1: Mental Health Work - 30 ECTS

1st year of study

Course units



Grade for major course unit 1

Course unit 1: An Analytical, and Scientific Approach to Mental Health Work


Programme requirement 1A, B, C and 2


Course unit 2:

A Practical and Relational Approach to Mental Work Health


Programme requirement 3


Course unit 3:

Available Services and Organisation of Mental Health Care


Programme requirement 4

(major course unit 1)

60 %

Course code: 982HEMN2
Major course unit 2: An Interdisciplinary, Psychosocial Approach to Mental Health Care - 30 ECTS

2nd year of study

Course units



Grade for major course unit 2

Course unit 4. Development and Practise of Professional and Personal Skills (Clinical studies, including clinical practice).


Programme requirement 5 og 6A, B and C


Course unit 5: Theoretical Foundation and Professional Development in Psychosocial Work.


Programme requirement 7 and 8


The number of ECTS credits of each course unit indicates the weighting with regard to the amount of study time required for each course unit.

Teaching and Learning Methods

Professional mental health care involves knowledge, professional insight, analytical skills, and practical relational ability and skills. The study programme emphasises the fact that knowledge and the acquirement of knowledge are complex phenomena.

One source of knowledge is the descriptive knowledge which has evolved within the professional field, and which is accessible in the form of textbooks and scientific publications. Another source of knowledge is the practical, relational and experience-based learning. This involves acquirement of knowledge that occurs and develops in the meeting between contemplative, sympathetic and active individuals. This is often termed silent knowledge, which may not immediately be expressed in words, but which comes to expression through habituated action and way of being. Another source of knowledge which may be mentioned is analytical and scientifically founded development of knowledge. This is a source of knowledge which places emphasis on the following three elements:

1. Examination and analysis of established knowledge within the field

2. Application of established knowledge within the field in the context of unreported experiences and observations

3. Possible establishment of new knowledge and understanding within the field

The special characteristic of this source of knowledge is that it demands certain requirements with regard to objectiveness, clarity and ability to communicate in written form.

In order to be able use the sources of knowledge which have been described the university college will employ various forms of teaching and learning methods. At the same time it is expected that students become responsible for their own learning, and for the learning which is made accessible through study groups. Students are also expected to meet prepared at the university college’s various arrangements, and participate actively in the teaching and learning activities.

Learning activities

With regard to the descriptive knowledge described above, it is emphasised that students are also expected to access this source of knowledge through the syllabus literature and actively search the relevant specialist literature. Resource lectures will be given on specific topics, and supervision will be provided to assist students when making literature searches.

The practical relational and experience-based learning will be ensured through various teaching and learning methods. The study programme emphasises dialogues and discussions which students will be encouraged to participate in, and in which they will be able to use their own background and experience in interaction with other students and the college’s teachers. Further, students will be organised into interdisciplinary study groups that will focus on activities such as case methods, role-play and practice-oriented supervision. The clinical studies will to a great extent provide opportunities for testing and developing practical relational and experienced-based learning. During this period students will, in cooperation with their field of practice, organise their individual learning plan. This learning plan will highlight the student’s awareness with regard to the field’s relational character, and at the same time provide him/her with interpersonal skills.

At the start of the first semester, students will be placed in interdisciplinary study groups in order to ensure effective follow up throughout the study programme. These will function as permanent study and supervision groups throughout major course unit 1. Early on in the study programme students will be given work assignments and they will be required to give their reflective comments on a given topic. This will provide students with training in written formulation of their thoughts and insights with regard to the studies. At the same times students will be encouraged to compare their own written work with that of other students and to the relevant literature, with the aim of gaining general insights into the individual texts. By using such written working methods students will gradually be introduced to analytically and scientifically founded acquirement of knowledge. As part of this work students will receive supervision and feedback with regard to their own written work. In addition, instruction will be given on the composition of texts, project methods and scientific methods.

The student groups will also be allocated a studies supervisor throughout major course unit 1. The supervisor will encourage students to participate in discussions, argumentation and critical reflection both with regard to subject literature, work assignments, lectures and practical and clinical experiences. These periods will also be marked on the lecture plan and student attendance is required. Students will need to organise their own time outside the teaching plan to complete their work assignments.

The study programme employs ICT as a tool in connection with the teaching, supervision, information, student cooperation and submission of student work. Students are required to have access to a PC and Internet.

This specialisation study programme at Telemark University College has an agreement with Interdisciplinary Education in Psychiatric Care, 1-year Programme at Agder University College. The cooperation between the two colleges is aimed at organising joint teaching. This involves 2-day seminars including an overnight stay. Students are required to pay their own expenses.


The college’s Department of Health Studies has a comprehensive programme for international activities, especially in relation to exchange agreements for students who wish to take part of their studies abroad. Students may use this opportunity when it comes to completing their practical experience placement. Students who wish to take parts of their study abroad must demonstrate acceptable progression in the study programme, and participate in obligatory courses in connection with internationalisation. Students who wish to complete parts of their studies abroad should contact the department’s international coordinator in cooperation with the study programme coordinator in order to clarify the necessary formalities and possibilities.

Theory and Practical Training

The students’ work assignments are varied and are related to mental health work. The practical learning activities consist of supervision in groups, clinical practice and project work. Practical placement studies comprise 15 ECTS.

Supervision groups will be established during the second and third semesters. Professional and personal growth will be focused on in the supervision groups. Supervision will be related to reflection about student’s own practice of their profession and that of other students. A log will be made of the supervision periods and participation in the supervision group is obligatory and represents 15 hours per semester. In connection with the preparation and execution of these periods of supervision teaching will be given on various supervision techniques. In addition, the subject teacher will be present during 5 of these supervision periods and will be able to provide feedback and guidance on the supervision.

The 10-week period of practical training takes place during the 3rd semester and comprises 12 ECTS. Students must choose the institution in which they will carry out their practical training in consultation with one of the university college staff. Students will also be given the opportunity of carrying out "project-practice". Students will be allocated a supervisor at the training institution. This person should possess formal supervision expertise as far as this is possible. The student will also be followed up by a pedagogical supervisor from the university college.

In the practical placement studies the student will be assessed in relation to their personal and professional competence in their meeting with people with mental illnesses, their relatives and other cooperative partners. The student’s attitudes and skills will be assessed in relation to personal relations’ and their readiness to take action. The student will formulate his/her own aims and draft a plan for the period of practical training. The plan and aims will be used as a guide throughout the period of practical training, and must be approved by the pedagogical supervisor. An approved plan is one of the conditions that have to be fulfilled before the student may receive a passing mark for the period of practical training. The students must cover their own expenses during clinical studies.

Assessment Methods

The forms of assessment are stipulated in the national curriculum and regulations for specialisation programme in mental health work, the Norwegian Universities’ Act and Telemark University College’s examination regulations.

The assignments/study programme requirements will contribute to subject area specialisation and integration of various subject areas – theory and practice. Throughout the whole of the study programme students will be presented with various assignments/programme requirements that must be completed if students are to receive a passing grade for the study programme. However, the assessment of the various assignments will be given different weighting. More specific details for the individual programme requirements are described in an attachment to the curriculum, which will be handed out at the beginning of the first semester. Programme requirements are assessed as pass/fail, while examinations are assessed according to the following scale.



General, qualitative description of assessment criteria



An excellent performance, clearly outstanding. The candidate demonstrates excellent judgement and a high degree of independent thinking.


Very good

A very good performance, which is above average. Shows independent thinking.



An average performance, which is satisfactory in the most important areas.



Below-average performance, with significant shortcomings.



A performance that meets the minimum criteria, but no more.



A performance that does not meet the minimum academic criteria.

To pass the final examination, the student must attain no less than an E. It is an absolute requirement to receive a passing grade. The criteria for a passing grade must reflect the competence level which corresponds to the academic level of the programme. The requirements for attaining a passing grade should not depend on the student’s ability to complete the programme. The borderline between pass and fail may be set at a higher level than between E and F, where the grade pass/fail is used rather than the letter-grade system.

In order to achieve a passing grade the candidate should exhibit sufficient knowledge and also to some extent be able to apply that knowledge in a professional manner in specific user, client and patient contexts. The candidate should be able to give an account of the main professional, ethical challenges and exhibit the relevant understanding for the subject and its corresponding area of responsibility.

In the case of a fail grade for a work assignment the student will be given two new opportunities within the course of the studies. Work assignments and the practical experience studies must receive passing grades before the student will be permitted to sit the examination.

Student attendance and special rules regarding attendance

All the teaching sessions and organised supervision are regarded as necessary learning activities. The organised learning activities will mainly be supplementary, provide different perspectives, and discuss relevant topics and methods in relation to the syllabus literature. Scientific understanding and experienced-based learning will to a great extent characterise the teaching in relation to the specific topics. It is expected that the fact-based knowledge will to a great extent be acquired by the student independently, so that they will be prepared to participate in reflections and discussions during the course of studies. Obligatory attendance will be required for the following parts of the study programme:

  • Study and supervision groups
  • Exercises in connection with relational skills
  • Clinical studies
  • Project and methods teaching in relation to programme requirements 1,5,7,8
  • Project plan
  • Project examination

Within the above areas it is required that students have 75% attendance.

For clinical studies 90% attendance is required, irrespective of the reasons for absence.

Control of attendance:

With regard to study/supervision groups and communication exercises, attendance will be registered by using standardised attendance lists.

With regard to clinical studies absence will be reported on the assessment form.
Consequences of insufficient attendance:

If the student does not fulfil the attendance requirement in the study group then the student in question must submit for approval a written assignment on a topic which has been discussed in the group. If the attendance requirement has not been met in the supervision group the student will not be given a certificate of supervision which confirms participation in the supervision.

If the student does not fulfil the attendance requirement in the project examination, then he/she will be assessed as “not approved”. The student must then write a new project within the deadline set by the supervisor.

If a student has less than 75% attendance in the clinical studies, then the student must redo this part of the study programme.

If the student has less than 90% attendance, but more than 75%, then the student must compensate the number of days short when this has been agreed on.

The head of the department may under special circumstances dispense with the attendance regulations.

Minor adjustments may occur during the academic year, subject to the decision of the Dean

Publisert av / forfatter Frode Evenstad <>, last modified Jane Asdal - 24/02/2012