Growing Your Competency in Dealing with Mental Health Issues

Dr. David J. Koehn Psychologist Fort Myers, Florida

Dr. David Koehn is a psychologist practicing in Fort Myers, FL. Dr. Koehn specializes in the treatment of mental health problems and helps people to cope with their mental illnesses. As a psychologist, Dr. Koehn evaluates and treats patients through a variety of methods, most typically being psychotherapy or talk therapy.... more

Growing Your Competency in Dealing with Mental Health Issues


Dr. David Koehn


Ever wonder what level of capability may be possible to reach as you learn tactics, strategies, processes, and procedures to build your toolkit in addressing your mental health problems? Is it enough to just know something or develop a skill application? There is greater depth to learn that may be helpful to reach in addressing coping abilities for your mental health problems. 

One taxonomy that has been used extensively in business and education that has applicability in mental health is Bloom’s taxonomy. It provides us an insightful construct.  There are six cognitive dimensions: (1) knowledge, (2) comprehension, (3) application, (4) analysis, (5) synthesis, and (6) evaluation.

Knowledge is defined as remembering previously learned material. This may involve the recall of a wide range of material, from specific facts to complete theories, but all that is required is the bringing to mind of the appropriate information pertaining to address the envisioned mental health problem. Knowledge represents the lowest level of learning outcomes in the cognitive domain. Verbs that reflect knowledge are: arrange, define, duplicate, label, list, memorize, name, order, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce, and state.

Comprehension is defined as the ability to grasp the meaning of material behind the coping strategies being proposed to deal with the mental health issue. This may be shown by translating material from one form to another (words to numbers), by interpreting material (explaining or summarizing), and by estimating future trends (predicting consequences or effects). These learning outcomes go one step beyond the simple remembering of material and represent the lowest level of understanding. Verbs that reflect comprehension are: classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, identify, indicate, locate, recognize, report, restate, review, select, and translate.

Application refers to the ability to use learned material in new and concrete situations like skill development of mental health coping strategies This may include the application of such things as rules, methods, concepts, principles, laws, and theories dealing with mental health problems. Learning outcomes in this area require a higher level of understanding than those under comprehension. Verbs that reflect application are: apply, choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, practice, schedule, sketch, solve, use, and write.

Analysis refers to the ability to break down the mental health material into its component parts so that its organizational structure may be understood. This may include the identification of the parts, analysis of the relationships between parts, and recognition of the organizational principles involved. Learning outcomes here represent a higher intellectual level than comprehension and application because they require an understanding of both the content and the structural form of the material. Verbs that reflect application are: analyze, appraise, calculate, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, and test.

Synthesis refers to the ability to put parts together to form a new whole. This may involve the production of a unique communication (producing effective messaging), a plan of operations (mental health action plan), or a set of abstract relations (scheme for classifying mental health coping strategies). Learning outcomes in this area stress creative behaviors, with major emphasis on the formulation of new patterns or structures. Verbs that reflect synthesis are: arrange, assemble, collect, compose, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, manage, organize, plan, prepare, propose, set up, or write.

Evaluation is concerned with the ability to judge the value of material (the efficacy of the mental health coping strategy) for a given purpose. The judgments are to be based on definite criteria. These may be internal criteria (organization) or external criteria (relevance to the purpose) and the patient may determine the criteria or be given them. Learning outcomes in this area are highest in the cognitive hierarchy because they contain elements of all the other categories, plus conscious value judgments based on clearly defined criteria. Verbs that reflect evaluation are: appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose compare, defend estimate, judge, predict, rate, core, select, support, value, evaluate.

Besides growing greater capability in cognitive coping strategies, we also need to focus our attention on the affective domain. The affect is vital to explore when we talk about mental health capability. Essentially, affect refers to one's ability to react to emotions and feelings. There are five building blocks of affect taxonomy:    

1.0  Receiving/attending - Take interest in, listen, ask, pay attention, choose, notice, accept, acknowledge, follow, tolerate

2.0  Responding - Perform, answer, cooperate, communicate, participate, discuss, practice, assist/help, obey, contribute, present, comply/agree to

3.0  Valuing – Exhibit loyalty, initiate, commit, express attitude, invite, choose, assume responsibility, adopt attitude, seek, prefer

4.0  Organization - Balance, combine, group, classify, relate, organize, arrange

5.0  Internalization - Exemplify, defend, solve, act upon/influence, modify, maintain, support, justify behavior, verify, advocate

Too often patients do not address this critical effect component or stop after skill application in the cognitive domain. Sometimes, they want things spoon-fed to them.  Instant pudding is an expectation. Their expectations fall short growing either taxonomy. A key is we should strive for being able to deploy all levels in either taxonomy to be completely competent. The chances of going backward in addressing mental health issues are minimized the more competent we become in both taxonomies. I hope this treatise provided you some insight into setting goals and objectives in your journey of being more competent in mental health coping strategies.