Original Research

A Curriculum for Training Medical Faculty to Teach Mental Health Care—and Their Responses to the Learning



From Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.


  • Objective: We previously reported that training medical faculty to teach mental health care to residents was effective. We here describe the faculty’s training curriculum and their responses to learning and teaching mental health care, a unique focus in the educational literature.
  • Design: Qualitative researchers assessed the experiences of medical faculty trainees in learning and teaching mental health care.
  • Setting: Internal medicine residency training program at Michigan State University.
  • Participants: One early career medicine faculty learner and another faculty learner at mid-career, 4 faculty trainers, and 2 qualitative researchers.
  • Measurements: Typed qualitative research reports were evaluated by the authors from 4 time periods: (1) following didactic and interviewing training; (2) following training in a mental health clinic; (3) following training to teach residents mental health care; and (4) 8 months after training.
  • Results: Faculty expressed anxiety and low confidence at each of 3 levels of training, but progressively developed confidence and satisfaction during training at each level. They rated didactic experiences as least valuable, seeing these experiences as lacking practical application. Experiential training in interviewing and mental health care were positively viewed, as was the benefit from mentoring. Teaching mental health skills to residents was initially difficult, but faculty became comfortable with experience, which solidified the faculty’s confidence in their own skills.
  • Conclusion: A new curriculum for training medical faculty to teach mental health care was demonstrated to be acceptable to the faculty, based on findings from multiple focus groups.

Keywords: psychiatry; primary care mental health; medical education; curriculum; formative evaluation.

We previously trained general medicine faculty intensively in 3 evidence-based models essential for mental health care.1-4 They, in turn, trained medical residents in the models over all 3 years of residency training.5 The results of this quasi-experimental trial demonstrated highly significant learning by residents on all 3 models.6 To address the mental health care crisis caused by the severe shortage of psychiatrists in the United States,7-14 we propose this train-the-trainer intervention as a model for widescale training of medical faculty in mental health care, thus enabling them to then train their own residents and students indefinitely.6

This brief report details the faculty training curriculum in mental health care and its teaching, along with the responses of medical faculty to the training; no similar training experiences have been reported in the medical or psychiatric literature. While the residency training curriculum has been published,5 the faculty training curriculum has not. Additionally, faculty responses to the training are important because they can provide key information about what did and did not work. Even though demonstrated to be effective for teaching mental health care to residents,6 the training must also be acceptable to its new teachers.15


Design, Setting, and Participants

This descriptive study was conducted by 2 experienced qualitative researchers in the setting of a 5-year quantitative study of residents’ learning of mental health care.5,6 They interviewed 2 general medicine faculty undergoing training in mental health care on 4 occasions: 3 times during training and once following training. Learners were taught by 4 faculty trainers (2 general medicine, 2 psychiatry). The setting was the internal medicine residency program at Michigan State University. The project was approved by the local Institutional Review Board.

Faculty Training Intervention

The 2 training faculty evaluated in this study were taught in a predominantly experiential way.5 Learning objectives were behaviorally defined (see Table 1, which also presents the teaching methods). Teaching occurred in 3 segments over 15 months, with a 10% weekly commitment to training supported by a research grant.

Learning Objectives and Instructional Methods


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