The experiences of lay health workers trained in task-shifting psychological interventions

The experiences of lay health workers trained in task-shifting psychological interventions


Full title: The experiences of lay health workers trained in task-shifting psychological interventions: a qualitative systematic review

Authors: Ujala Shahmalak, Amy Blakemore, Mohammad W. Waheed & Waquas Waheed 

Summary: This is the first review of lay health workers experiences of receiving training to deliver low-intensity psychological interventions. The findings of this review provide support for the feasibility of training non-professionals to deliver psychological interventions as well as highlighting a number of areas that have not been adequately addressed in the published literature, such as how to successfully train and support non-professionals in delivering psychological interventions.




The prevalence of common mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety, is high and the demand for psychological interventions and talking therapies is increasing. In order to meet this need, it is necessary to explore alternative methods to deliver talking therapies. Training lay health workers (LHWs) to deliver psychological interventions might be one possible solution to address current gaps in service provision. A number of studies have successfully used this approach to deliver psychological interventions in order to meet the demand for mental health care. Despite increased interest in this area, the evidence has not been synthesised or systematically reviewed.


Electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBBASE, PsycINFO and CINHAL) were systematically searched to specifically capture studies on task-shifting psychological interventions for common mental disorders. Data were extracted on the experiences of the lay-workers on training and therapy delivery. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Themes and subthemes of LHWs views on receiving training, barriers and facilitators to therapy delivery, factors required to become a successful therapist and the impact of training and therapy delivery on the therapists are described.


10 studies were eligible for inclusion. Key messages were: LHWs were satisfied with training but wanted more robust supervision; not enough time was given to training on understanding mental health problems; LHWs grew in confidence and this impacted on their personal relationships with others.


This is the first review to explore LHWs experiences in training and therapy delivery by synthesising existing qualitative research. A number of key messages derived out of this review can help in further improving the quality of the training programmes and highlighting the benefits that are available for the LHW in delivering psychological interventions.



Research summaries and systematic reviews
Task sharing
Primary care