by Elizabeth Bowen, Ph.D.
A big part of being a social worker is critical thinking, including reflecting on the language we use to describe the people and issues with which social workers work.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the term “behavioral health.” This term has grated on me for a while. The first problem I have is that I’m never sure exactly what it’s referring to.
Often behavioral health is used as a catch-all term for substance use and mental health-related issues.
Sometimes it seems to also encompass weight management, nutrition, and other efforts to promote a “healthy lifestyle.” Then there are conditions that are clearly linked to behaviors—sexually transmitted infections, for example—but that rarely seem to be included under the behavioral health umbrella.