Posted By Lorana Price On September 5, 2019

Inside Behavioral Health: Behavioral Health Terms You Should Know Part 1

Behavioral Health Terms and Definitions

In the world of mental and behavioral health services, there are many terms that get used. Sometimes there is confusion around those words and how they are used. While this list is by no means comprehensive, it covers some behavioral health terms that can be confusing to both consumers and providers. In addition, because there are so many terms, we’ll provide several posts for your use. Defining frequently used behavioral health terms helps ensure a common framework for providing care. 

Behavioral Health Definitions

Mental Health

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps us determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. It’s important to note that mental health and mental illness are not the same things. 1

Mental Illness

Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior. These include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. These conditions  affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day. 2

Serious Mental Illness (SMI)

Serious mental illness is a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment. This impairment substantially interferes with or limits major life activities. 3

Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment. This impairment could include health problems or disability. Substance dependency is a more severe condition where one experiences physical withdrawal and has developed a tolerance to achieve the same high. People with substance use disorder often fail to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. 4, 5

Behavior Therapy

Behavior Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves reducing or eliminating behaviors that are destructive, unhealthy or undesirable and learning or increasing more appropriate behaviors. In traditional behavior therapy, maladaptive or abnormal behaviors are believed to be the result of defective learning. For example, people learn to be anxious, compulsive, or inattentive. Behavior therapy is intended to reduce or eliminate undesirable behaviors and increase acceptable behaviors. This is accomplished through the use of behavioral techniques and strategies such as systematic desensitization, modeling, reinforcement, and aversive conditioning. 6


Telemedicine is the process of providing health care from a distance through technology, often using videoconferencing. Telepsychiatry allows providers to deliver services using videoconferencing. Services might include psychiatric evaluations, therapy (individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy), patient education and medication management. 7

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD)

The term IDD covers a broad range of disorders and syndromes, many of which are misunderstood by the general public. An intellectual disability is characterized by limitations in intellectual functioning and difficulties in a variety of everyday social and practical skills. A developmental disability is attributed to a cognitive or physical impairment that results in limitations in areas such as self-care, language, and mobility. 8

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment combines behavioral therapy and FDA-approved medications to treat substance use disorders. The intention is to provide a “whole-patient” approach to treating substance use disorders. Methadone, Naltrexone and Buprenorphine are the drugs commonly used to treat opioid use disorder. 9

Collaborative Care

Collaborative care is an evidence-based approach to managing mental health conditions. It is implemented across a clinic or provider organization. The collaborative care model was originally developed to manage common mental disorders in primary care settings. However, increasingly, it’s applied to more complex conditions, including serious mental illnesses. New billing codes have made it possible to bill for collaborative care services through Medicare and many private insurers. 10



About Lorana Price

Lorana Price is a Marketing Executive at Patagonia Health. Her background includes work with regulated document management software, home healthcare software and global medical device commercialization. She applies her skills at Patagonia Health by developing content related to important Public and Behavioral Health news and updates.