Adult Mental Health, Mental Illness and the Approach to Care in Community Settings

Advanced Concepts: Medications, Therapies and Special Populations 

Advanced knowledge of mental health and the treatment of mental disorders is germane to the provision of high-quality primary health care in the community setting. Athabasca University’s Faculty of Health Disciplines offers two non-credit courses to enhance this knowledge.

These courses are designed to be taken according to individual learning need or sequentially:

  1. Foundational Concepts: Health Promotion, Illness Prevention and Diagnoses
  2. Advanced Concepts: Medications, Therapies and Special Populations


Advanced Concepts: Medications, Therapies and Special Populations builds on the Foundational Concepts course. It will enable you develop your knowledge and approach to the treatment of common mental disorders.

In this online course, pharmacotherapeutics are discussed within the context of neurobiology. Drug selection is based on rationale prescribing principles defined by the World Health Organization, and on current recommendations. Switching, monitoring and discontinuing psychoactive medications are discussed, as is evaluating medication efficacy, duration of treatment and dealing with common side effects. Common psychotherapies are reviewed in theory but are not taught in this course.

This course was developed primarily for nurse practitioners who want to pursue a deeper understanding of how to care for clients with mental health issues. This course may also be of interest and utility to anyone with some basic or formal health care education, including registered nurses, psychiatric nurses, social workers, psychologists and pharmacists. Note that this course does not include care of persons with mental health concerns in an acute care setting.

Cost and registration

The cost of this course is C$200 + GST (non-refundable).

Register online by completing and submitting the Professional Development Registration Form. You will need a valid credit card in order to register.

Time commitment

Advanced Concepts: Medications, Therapies and Special Populations can be started at any time. You have 6 months to complete the course once you register.

It is estimated that you will be able to complete the course in approximately 45 hours.

Course goals

Advanced Concepts: Medications, Therapies and Special Populations builds on basic foundational knowledge of neurodevelopment, physiology, pharmacology, and some familiarity with the approach to care of the adult in the primary care or community setting.

Learning outcomes

This is a non-credit course. Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • understand the approach to prescribing for mental disorders;
  • safely manage and monitor selected classes of psychotherapeutic agents;
  • describe and recommend evidence-based psychotherapies commonly used in the community setting;
  • collaborate with other mental health professionals to optimize care;
  • have a deeper understanding of pregnancy-related mental disorders, ADD in adults, and mental health issues in settings like prisons or the military; and
  • identify mental health emergencies and respond appropriately.

Course structure

Foundational Concepts: Health Promotion, Illness Prevention and Diagnoses is offered entirely online. Learning is self-paced and accomplished through self-study. Topics are covered sequentially so learning builds continuously and integrates previous content.

The course is divided into units. Learning activities, video footage, audio recordings and reflective exercises are offered at various intervals enhance the self-study process. Each unit contains several short quizzes designed to reinforce critical knowledge. You may take the quizzes as many times as you wish.

Certificate of Completion is awarded when you have completed all of the quizzes and learning activities.

When you have finished the course, you are invited to complete the course evaluation, which will inform future revisions.

Course materials

All learning materials can be accessed through the online course. These include:

  • a study guide; and
  • links to articles, references and websites.

There are no required textbooks for this course. Recommended, but not supplied, is The Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (2013). American Psychiatric Association. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Technical requirements

To successfully complete this course, you must have ready access to a computer with reliable Internet access.

If you have questions, please email