Behavioral health is a term used to describe and integrative system of addiction treatment services designed to help clients with substance abuse problems and/or psychiatric disorders. In medicine and addiction treatment behavioral health is replacing the more stigmatized term of mental health. While these two terms are similar they are not exactly synonymous. In reality a behavioral health treatment option is one that integrates substance abuse services with traditional mental health services.
Drug or alcohol addiction is a complex matter that involves a lot of unhealthy behaviors. These behaviors are generally learned in the process of becoming addicted and can continue in a person’s life even after they stop abusing drugs or alcohol. These behaviors often affect every area of the user’s life straining relationships and isolating the addict from friends and family. Behavioral health addiction treatment seeks to address these behaviors and their underlying causes. By utilizing a rehab support staff that is trained in different disciplines of care, behavioral health centers offer a comprehensive approach to addiction treatment.
The Connection Between Substance Abuse and Mental Health
It has long been know that substance abuse negatively affects all aspects of individual’s life including their emotions and general psychological state. Continued drug use causes changes to occur that cause an obsession with the substance that leads to dependence. Through this process many individuals overlook basic self-care and let several areas of their lives deteriorate. This compounds and causes problems in their physical health and their emotional state.
Some of the side-effects of addiction include sustained low mood, depression, and anxiety, especially when the user isn’t on the substance. This causes many people to start a cycle which involves using in order to feel better and to artificially improve their mood. However, the effects of drugs and alcohol and the euphoric feelings of intoxication that are associated with their use are unsustainable and the user often feels worse when the drugs wear off than they did before taking them.
For individuals who have underlying mental health issues this practice is known as self-medication. The individual uses drugs to alleviate feelings of anxiety or depression only to experience an increase of these symptoms when the drugs wear off. Now the user has two problems to deal with which are both equally important to address in order for them to be able to maintain long-term abstinence.
In addition to producing mental health symptoms in individuals who did not have them before using, and increasing mental health symptoms in users with preexisting conditions, drug use also serves to gray the area between substance abuse and mental health. It creates a situation where the user may not be sure if they started to feel unhealthy because they used drugs, or that they used drugs because they felt unhealthy.
In an integrative approach to behavioral health treatment professionals from substance abuse backgrounds are able to work together with professionals from a mental health background to better assess an individual’s condition. This assessment will help provide answers to the following questions:
- Does the client have underlying mental health issues they need to address during treatment?
- Is the client experiencing substance induced psychiatric symptoms?
- What is the best course of treatment of immediate and follow-up care?
- What is the best long-term plan to maintain abstinence with the least amount of emotional or psychological issues?
How is Behavioral Health Treatment Different Than Other Types of Treatment?
Drug addiction rehabilitation and treatment is a widely varied field by nature. There are a large number of substances of abuse that people develop dependency to, and their use and effects are varied from individual to individual. As addiction and the understanding of it have changed over the years it has created an environment where treatment programs continue to evolve along with it. Because of this few treatment centers fit exactly into one category of treatment exactly.
In general a behavioral health based treatment program can be different from other treatment centers in a number of ways. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has outlined specific guidelines for treatment centers that cater to individuals with co-occurring disorders. Since behavioral health treatment is specifically equipped to deal with clients with or without co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues they should be in compliance with the following five points:
- Screening, assessment, and referral to determine if an individual has a co-occurring disorder
- Physical and mental health consultation
- A psychiatrist onsite who can prescribe medications
- Medication and medication monitoring where applicable
- Classes designed to educate its clients on mental health issues and interventions
The major difference in behavioral health treatment when compared to say the traditional addiction treatment model would be the amount of and qualifications of their staff. While most treatment centers are staffed primarily with substance abuse specialists and medical professionals, the behavioral health model would include mental health professionals as well.
Behavioral health models integrate employees from substance abuse, medical, and psychological backgrounds to offer a comprehensive system of care. In this way it produces an environment that can facilitate clients with a wide variety of substance abuse and behavioral issues.
How Do I Know if Behavioral Health Treatment is Right for Me?
Due to its integrative approach, a behavioral health model could be right for just about anyone suffering from addiction, including those who have a co-occurring disorder. It’s a non-exclusive environment which in theory should appeal to most individuals who are looking for help with addiction.
One of the drawbacks of this model may in fact be the large public it seeks to serve. One of the most important things that make a drug treatments program effective is how it fits with an addict’s individual needs. Not every treatment program is right for everyone, and it is important to make sure that the treatment you choose will be able to accommodate your needs. Behavioral health treatments centers can be a good option for addicts who think they might have mental health needs, or addicts who aren’t sure. A good treatment center should be able to properly assess the client’s needs and apply an appropriate course of care that will provide them with their best chance of success.