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The Whole Health Story: Understanding behavioral health care

June 07, 2022

UniCare talks with industry experts to pull the curtain back on health plans
A conversation with Alex Forster, Vice President of Clinical Management at Carelon.

The term “behavioral health” reflects how our thinking has changed over the years.

Physical health and mental health used to be separate, distinct concepts – they were either/or. You either got physical health treatment or you got mental health treatment.

Over the years, we’ve come to understand that healthcare is most effective when you integrate care. An integrated approach looks at the impact of behavior on both mind and body. That’s how the concept of “behavioral health” arose.

For a long time, there has been a stigma about getting care for mental health conditions. But when you stop thinking of mental health as something different from physical health, there’s no longer room for that stigma. It’s all just healthcare.

Behavioral health aims to help the whole health of the member. If possible, we’ll work with a member to help them look at and better understand their behavior. Behavioral healthcare includes prevention, intervention, and treatment services, along with recovery support services – services that help address both their physical and mental health – their whole being – instead of just a symptom.

For example, think about somebody who wants treatment options for obesity. To say, “go on this diet, that should help” simply isn’t enough. The issue is much more complex. You have to look at where the obesity stems from. You have to consider what else that person will need to do, besides dieting, to make lifestyle changes and stand a reasonable chance of success.

Then, as they improve their physical well-being, they are also improving their mental health well-being. And vice versa.

That’s how we can best understand behavioral health care today: as part of one’s whole health.

This article is part of a blog series from UniCare, “The Whole Health Story,” where we talk with various members of our team and leading health industry experts to dive into the inner workings of health plans, explain what whole health means, and much more.