David Mee-Lee, MD Bill Miller, Ph.D. Scott D. Miller, Ph.D.
Jim Prochaska, Ph.D. Don Kuhl, CEO
Whether in the United States or Europe, Asia or Australia, the field of behavioral health is undergoing a period of dramatic change–some would say, “transformation.” At least that’s the verdict of the group bought together by the CEO of The Change Companies, Don Kuhl, who brought together some of the leading figures in behavioral health for two days of discussion and brainstorming last week in Chicago.
Chief on the list of issues to be discussed was bringing “scale” to the provision of mental health and substance abuse services. Let’s face it, the current service provision model is broken: many people in need of help, do not get it. The care that is provided is often limited in scope and does not address the “whole person.” And finally, healthcare costs are soaring–particularly among those with longstanding, chronic problems requiring ongoing care.
In spite of 40 years of research support, behavioral health–that is, psychological interventions–are losing ground to other approaches to change. Consider the following data published by Katherine Nordal: “the percentage of Americans who receive outpatient mental health care…is very similar to the proportion of those receiving such treatment in 1998.”
Let’s see, that’s two decades of no growth! None. Zero. Zip. Nada.
Dr. Nordal continues, “Overall, there has been a decrease in the use of psychotherapy, a decrease in the use of psychotherapy in conjunction with medication and a big increase in the use of medication only.” The question that begs to be answered is why, especially when one considers that psychological intervention (whether face to face, on the phone, in a book or together with peers in a group) has a side effect profile that is the envy of the pharmaceutical industry: no weight gain, no sexual dysfunction, no sleep disturbance or dry mouth.
Many factors are, of course, responsible for the demise of behavioral health (By the way, have you noticed the size of the psychology section of your local bookstore. Its miniscule compared to what it was a decade ago, and the majority of the titles that are available praise neuroscience over human connection, and drugs over talk). Dr. Nordal cites the rise of managed care and gargantuan advertizing budgets of the pharmaceutical industry. Others cite cultural changes including a “short-term fix” mentality and the increasingly frenetic pace of life.
Whatever the cause, the problem is not the lack of effective psychological treatments. Rather, the issue is that more people need to be helped, more quickly and efficiently. “Helping people make behavioral change,” Dr. Jim Prochaska argued, “is at the center of healthcare reform.” Bringing scale to behavioral health, the group agreed, requires a radical revision of the current service delivery model.
In truth, many of the ideas discussed are already underway, including the move toward “integrated care” and ongoing measurement and use of feedback to improve the quality and outcome of treatment. Other ideas discussed included methods for putting the principles of behavior change directly into the hands of the consumer. But there’s more. Stay tuned. The group has big plans. Announcements will soon be made right here on the “Top Performance” blog.