Task Shifting

What is Task Shifting?

  • Task Shifting is when mental health therapy is delivered by lay individuals with no prior mental health training and often without any advanced degree.
  • Tasks done by a licensed mental health provider are shifted to an unlicensed provider.
  • Task Shifting has a solid research base developed in low resource environments, mostly in Africa and Asia, where there are literally only a handful of mental health providers in some countries.
  • Researchers have found that non-licensed persons can be taught, using an apprenticeship model, to successfully deliver evidence-based trauma treatment, allowing lay individuals within the community to become, in effect, the therapist.
  • Typically used with manualized, structured interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapies.

Parallels Exist in the Medical Field in the United States

  • Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners provide a large percentage of primary care physical health services
  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) or Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) nurses are commonly used in the US to provide survivor-sensitive medical examinations in cases of sexual assault and abuse
  • However, all of these providers are highly trained.

Future Potential for Mental Health Services?

  • Not currently in use in the US for mental health therapy
    • Licensing and legal concerns need to be addressed first, and a training system would need to be set up.
  • May be an option in the future for low resource communities in the US where tele-mental health is not an option due to technology issues, such as lack of high speed internet.