“Behavioral Healthcare” – What The Heck Does That Mean?

“Behavioral healthcare” is becoming a commonly used term in the realm of healthcare.  But what is behavioral healthcare, really?  I discovered that the answer depends on when the question was asked. 

“Behavioral health” in the 70’s and 80’s referred primarily to behaviors that prevented illness and promoted health.  Like the things your mom taught you – eat your carrots and drink your orange juice and you will have better eye sight and get fewer colds.  Ok, maybe those were more wives’ tales than evidence-based science, but you get the idea.

Over the years “behavioral health” grew to include behaviors that help people manage illnesses – like making lifestyle changes to deal with diabetes, for example.

Currently, “Behavioral Healthcare” is often used to describe services that address both mental health and chemical dependency.  As there is growing conversation and activity around integrated health care, terms like mental health and behavioral health are used interchangeably.

An article in Psychology Today by Elana Premack Sandler describes the term this way: “It’s a way of being inclusive.  Behavioral health includes not only ways of promoting well-being by preventing or intervening in mental illness such as depression or anxiety, but also aims at preventing or intervening in substance use or other addictions.”

Ok then, for our purposes at Comprehensive today, when we say “behavioral healthcare” we are talking about an integration of services for mental health AND substance use. 

The goal is, and always will be, helping people function so they can lead healthier, fuller lives.