Behavioral Care for Medical Conditions
Integrated behavioral care acknowledges the mind’s inextricable connection to the body and fully recognizes that what happens to one profoundly impacts the other. Behavior health consultants can use their unique skills not only to address mental health problems directly, but to effect behavioral changes in people with, or at risk for physical disorders.
Physical Conditions Commonly Addressed By Behavioral Health In Primary Care Settings
Asthma: Studies have shown that stress can trigger and exacerbate asthma attacks. Behavioral consultants can help their clients alleviate the stress by teaching the client relaxation techniques and counseling them on how to reduce or avoid stressors.
Hypertension: Behavioral interventions may include teaching the clients stress and anger management skills and coaching them in lifestyle changes like sodium intake reduction, weight reduction and smoking cessation.
Chronic Pain: Mental health problems may be the cause or, as is often the case, the result of chronic pain. Depression and pain are closely linked. Behavioral intervention may help clients deal with it by using bio-feedback and relaxation training and by working to address negative thoughts associated with the pain.
Coronary Artery Disease: Long-term stress and strong emotions, particularly anger, have frequently been linked in the literature to blood vessel damage and precipitation of heart attacks. Behavioral health consultants can work with the clients not only to address stress levels but to implement lifestyle changes, like increasing exercise, making better dietary choices, alleviating stress and quitting smoking.
Diabetes: Several studies have linked depression to diabetes and though it may not be a causative factor, depression can contribute to the condition by negatively impacting diet, help-seeking and self-maintenance. Thus, targeting depression is an important component of treating the disease. Factors contributing to diabetes, like poor diet and obesity, can also be addressed using behavioral techniques.An informative source for diet and nutrition information is the National Institutes of Health.
There are probably as many smoking cessation programs as there are cigarette brands. Calling 1 800 QUIT NOW can help sort them out. The American Academy of Family Physicians has done some notable work in this area, with published guidelines for Promoting Smoking Cessation in Clinical Practice and Affordable Care Act coding for tobacco screening and cessation counseling.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has developed “A Practical Guide to Working with Health Care Systems on Tobacco Use Treatment” that takes a comprehensive system-wide implementation approach. Two government resources, “Clinical Practice Guideline: Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update” and the website Smokefree.Gov, are among the many available.
Smoking is highly correlated with both mental disorders and substance use. Studies have indicated that up to 85% of persons enrolled in substance use services are smokers. The 2012 National Survey of Sustance Abuse Treatment Services found that nearly half the facilities (46%) offered any conseling or medications to help clients quit tobacco use. About 39% offered counseling, 22% offered nicotine replacement medication and 16% offered non-nicotine related medications.
Other behaviorally modifiable behaviors that contribute to poor health include:
- Alcohol Consumption;
- Drug Abuse;
- Unsafe sex practices;
- Poor nutrition ;
- Sedentary lifestyle;
- Failure to seek medical treatment when needed;
- Poor adherence to medical treatment plan;
- Sleep disorders.