Ideal and real treatment planning processes for people with serious mental illness in public mental health care.

Emily B.H. Treichler, Eric A. Evans, William D. Spaulding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Treatment planning processes are a fundamental component of evidence-based practice in mental health for people with serious mental illness (SMI), who often present with complex concerns and require an interdisciplinary treatment team. It is unclear how well treatment planning practices in usual care settings for SMI adhere to best practices guidelines. In this study, we used qualitative methods to increase understanding of typical treatment planning practices. Twelve mental health providers completed a participatory dialogue focused on discussing perceptions of ideal and real treatment planning processes. Content analysis of the transcription from the dialogue was used to identify major themes and subthemes. Analysis revealed 6 primary themes with 23 subthemes. Providers described the ideal treatment planning process as dynamic and collaborative, including thorough assessment and inclusion of all stakeholders including the consumer, providers, and family members. Real treatment planning was described as directed by institutional and regulatory needs, resulting in treatment plans that were not personalized and not communicated to frontline staff or the consumer. These results indicate that providers have a strong understanding of evidence-based principles of treatment decision-making. However, actual treatment planning processes rarely live up to those principles. Providers identified several obstacles to enacting best practices. Although many obstacles were system-level, providers themselves also contributed to the gap between ideal and real treatment planning. Additional training and education may help to close this gap. Consumer self-advocacy is also important, given that providers often see themselves as lacking agency to make changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-103
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Services
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • person-centered care
  • provider perspectives
  • public mental health care
  • serious mental illness
  • treatment planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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