Mental Health Jargon: A Glossary
Home/  Blog/ Mental Health Jargon: A Glossary

Mental Health Jargon: A Glossary


Mental health jargon and Medical Jargon can be difficult to understand. We understand that without proper information, you cannot fully understand what is going on.

Below is a list of Abbreviations, and then a Glossary of terms, to help explain some of the jargon in a way that is not so jargony.



Abbreviations Explained

Below is a list of common terms in the medical field. Some of these may be used in a Mental Health case as well. Good luck, as this is a long list.

A&E – Accident and Emergency
ACF – Acute Care Forum
AHP – Allied Healthcare Professional
AMHP – Approved Mental Health Practitioner
AOA – Adult and Older Adult (Services)
AoG – Assembly of Governors
AOT – Assertive Outreach Team
ASD – Autistic Spectrum Disorder
ASW – Approved Social Worker
BoD – Board of Directors
CAMHS – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
CAT – Change Agent Team
CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CDW – Community Development Worker
CEO – Chief Executive Officer
CHAI – Commission for Healthcare Audit Inspection
CMHT – Community Mental Health Team
CNST – Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trust
CPA – Care Programme Approach
CPN – Community Psychiatric Nurse
CRHT – Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment
CSCI – Commission for Social Care Inspection
CQC – Care Quality Commission
CQUIN – Commissioning for Quality and Innovation
DAAT – Drug and Alcohol Action Team
DDA – Disability Discrimination Act
DNA – Did Not Attend
DoH – Department of Health
DSPD – Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder
DTC – Day Treatment Centre
ECT – Electro Convulsive Therapy
ED – Executive Directors
EDS – Eating Disorder Service
EIS – Early Intervention Service
FT – Foundation Trust
FTN – Foundation Trust Network
GP – General Practitioner
HAZ – Health Action Zone
HCJ – Health and Criminal Justice
HDRU – High Dependency Rehabilitation Unit
HNA – Health Needs Assessment
HR – Human Resources
IAPT – Improving Access to Psychological Therapies
IC – Infection Control
ICN – Integrated Care Network
ICP – Integrated Care Pathway
IOP- Intensive Outpatient
IP – In-patient
LA – Local Authority
LD – Learning Disabilities
LINks – Local Involvement Networks
MCA – Mental Capacity Act
MDT – Multi-Disciplinary Team
MHA – Mental Health Act
NED – Non-Executive Director
OBD – Occupied Bed Days
OP – Out-patient
OT – Occupational Therapist/Therapy
PALS – Patient Advice and Liaison Service
PCT – Primary Care Trust
PCLT – Primary Care Liaison Team
PCS – Professional Clinical Services
PICU – Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit
PPI – Patient and Public Involvement
PSW – Professional Social Worker
RMN – Registered Mental Nurse
RN – Registered Nurse
SaLT – Speech and Language Therapy
SAP – Single Assessment Process
SHA – Strategic Health Authority

Mental Health Jargon Explained


Some of the language used in mental health can be confusing to anyone who isn’t a trained mental health professional. In the glossary below you can find explanations of various terms used in mental health. Below the glossary is an ‘Abbreviations Explained’ section where you can find explanations of some of the abbreviations mental health professionals use.




Accident and Emergency (A&E)
A walk-in center at hospitals for when urgent or immediate treatment is necessary.

An acute illness is one that develops suddenly. Acute conditions may or may not be severe and they usually last for a short amount of time.

Admission beds
Hospital beds that are available for people in a crisis, when care cannot be provided in their own home.

An advocate is someone who helps to support a service user or carer through their contact with health services.

Allied Health Professionals (AHPs)
A range of health professionals that includes physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, art therapists, and speech and language therapists.

Anti-psychotic medication
Medication used to treat psychosis. There are several different types of anti-psychotic medication.

Assertive outreach
Assertive outreach refers to a way of delivering treatment. An Assertive Outreach Team actively take their service to people instead of people coming to the team. Care and support may be offered in the service user’s home or in some other community setting. Care and support is offered at times suited to the service user rather than times suited to the team’s convenience.

When someone is unwell, health care professionals meet with the person to talk to them and find out more about their symptoms so they can make a diagnosis and plan treatments. This is called an assessment. Family members should be involved in assessments, unless the person who is unwell says he or she does not want that.

Caldicott guardian
The person within a Trust who has responsibility for policies on safeguarding the confidentiality of patient information.

Care pathways
This is the route someone who is unwell follows through health services. The path starts when someone first contacts health services – through their GP or an accident and emergency department, for example. The path continues through diagnosis, treatment, and care.

Care plan
Mental health professionals draw up a care plan with someone when they first start offering them support, after they have assessed what someone’s needs are and what is the best package of help they can offer. People should be given a copy of their care plan and it should be reviewed regularly. Service users, and their families and carers, can be involved in the discussion of what the right care plan is.

Care Program Approach (CPA)
A way of assessing the health and social care needs of people with mental health problems, and coming up with a care plan that ensures people get the full help and support they need.

A friend or relative who voluntarily looks after someone who is ill, disabled, vulnerable, or frail. Carers can provide care part-time or full-time.

Challenging behavior
Behavior that puts the safety of the person or other people at risk, or that has a significant impact on the person’s or other people’s quality of life.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
CAMHS provide individual and family work helping children and young people under the age of 18 who experience emotional difficulties or mental health problems

Chronic condition
A condition that develops slowly and/or lasts a long time.

Someone who uses health services. Some people use the terms patient or service user instead.

Clinical governance
A system of steps and procedures through which organizations are accountable for improving quality and safeguarding high standards to ensure that patients receive the highest possible quality of care

A health professional who is directly involved in the care and treatment of people. Examples include nurses, doctors, and therapists.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
This is a way of helping people to cope with stress and emotional difficulties by encouraging them to make the connections between how we think, how we feel, and how we behave.

The process by which commissioners decide which services to purchase for the local community and which provider to purchase them from. Most mental health services are commissioned by Primary Care Trusts.

Community care
Care and support provided outside of a hospital.

A mental health crisis is a sudden and intense period of severe mental distress.

Depot injections
Long acting medication often used where people are unable or unwilling to take tablets regularly.

Dual diagnosis
When two or more problems or disorders affect a person at the same time.

Early intervention service
A service for people experiencing their first episode of psychosis. Research suggests that early detection and treatment will significantly increase recovery.

Forensic services
Services that provide support to offenders with mental health problems.

Functional mental health problems
A term for any mental illness in which there is no evidence of organic disturbance (as there is with dementia) even though physical performance is impaired.

General practitioner (GP)
GPs are family doctors who provide general health services to a local community. They are usually based in a GP surgery or practice and are often the first place people go with a health concern.

Taking into consideration as much about a person as possible in the treatment of an illness – this includes their physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and social needs.

Independent sector
Voluntary, charitable, and private care providers.

Inpatient services
Services where the service user is accommodated on a ward and receives treatment there from specialist health professionals.

Integrated Services
Health and social care professionals (such as social workers) working together in one team to provide a comprehensive range of support.

An ‘intervention’ describes any treatment or support that is given to someone who is unwell. An intervention could be medication, a talking therapy, or an hour spent with a volunteer.

Low secure mental health services
Intensive rehabilitation services for offenders who have mental health problems.

Mental health
Someone’s ability to manage and cope with the stress and challenges of life, and to manage any diagnosed mental health problems as part of leading their normal everyday life.

Mental health trust
A mental health trust provides treatment, care and advice to people who have mental health problems. The services may be provided from a hospital or in the community.

Multi-disciplinary team
A team made up of a range of both health and social care workers combining their skills to help people.

Older Adults
Adults aged over 65.

Organic illness
Illness affecting memory and other functions that is often associated with old age. Dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease, is an organic mental illness.

Out-patient Services
Services provided to someone who comes to a hospital for treatment, consultation, and advice but who does not require a stay in the hospital.

Overview and scrutiny committee
A County Council committee that is responsible for looking at the details and implications of decisions about changes to health services, and the processes used to reach these decisions.

Someone who uses health services. Some people use the terms service user or client instead.

Specialist health professionals who make, dispense, and sell medicines.

Primary care
Health services that are the first point of contact for people with health concerns. Examples include GP surgeries, pharmacies, the local dentists, and opticians.

Primary Care Trust (PCT)
Primary Care Trusts are responsible for planning and securing health services in their local area.

Psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU)
A locked ward in a hospital where some people detained under the Mental Health Act may stay. They stay in the unit because they have been assessed as being at risk to themselves or others on an open acute inpatient care ward.

Psycho-educational groups
Group work, using psychological therapy techniques, that address mental and emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and severe stress.

A mental state in which someone may show confused thinking, think that people are watching them, and see, feel, or hear things that other people cannot.

A program of therapy that aims to restore someone’s independence and confidence and reduce disability.

Residential and nursing homes
Residential and nursing homes provide round the clock care for vulnerable adults and older adults who can no longer be supported in their own homes. Homes may be run by local councils or independent organizations.

Respite care
An opportunity for a carer to have a break.

Secondary Mental Health Services
Specialist mental health services usually provided by a Mental Health Trust. Services include support and treatment in the community as well as in hospitals.

When someone is sectioned it means they are compulsorily admitted to hospital.

Service user
This is someone who uses health services. Some people use the terms patient or client instead.

Social care
Social care describes services and support that help people live their lives as fully as possible, whereas health care focuses on treating an illness. Both types of care are offered as a combined package of support to people with mental health problems.

Social inclusion
Ensuring that vulnerable or disadvantaged groups are able to access all of the activities and benefits available to anyone living in the community.

Anybody who has an interest in an organisation, its activities, and its achievements.

Society’s negative attitude to people, often caused by lack of understanding. Stigma can be a problem for people who experience mental ill health.

Supplementary prescribing
A partnership between a doctor, a service user, and a nurse or Allied Health Professional (AHP). Under the partnership the nurse or AHP can make adjustments to someone’s medication based on an agreed care plan.

Photo by Olia Gozha on Unsplash



Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. We publish quality material for your own education. Our publications are researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.



Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.