“Behavioral” versus “mental” health

In the last post I talked about shorter term versus longer term therapy. The short term version is about fixing particular problems in coping as opposed to the longer term “inner voyage” kind of therapy. Perhaps considerations like this are why the term “mental health” has been replaced by “behavioral health” in certain circles.  If you’re able to act in a healthy way, who’s to deny that’s health?  Only you know what’s going on inside your own head– and if the various theories of the unconscious are correct, you  might not even know that. In fact, there are fascinating brain research results that can demonstrate the existence of processes that aren’t conscious.  But that shouldn’t be a big surprise any more. On the other hand, if I do everything I need to, I can see it, you can see it– everyone knows I did the right thing. (We will step around the quagmire of “what’s the right t hing?” for now) What I’m thinking is that there are two main criteria for wellness– If I can 1) do what needs to be done and 2) I feel OK about it, then hey, everything’s OK, right? I’m not talking about unalloyed happiness or permanent, full-on positive emotions. I feel a sense of completion, maybe even satisfaction when the kitchen’s clean (for the next 15 seconds), but I don’t stake my happiness on it. Lots of life is just about getting stuff done.  A therapeutic relationship is unique in many ways, including that it’s usually quite intimate– and it’s meant to end. When the client/patient is all better, we’re good to go. In that way, it’s a lot easier to get a consensus about how I know it’s time to move on. And I can agree with my therapist about it. We set up some good operational goals together, and when we achieve them, we’re done.  There’s a lot to be said for viewing things from the behavioral perspective. Sure, I can rate my depression or anxiety on a scale from 1 to 10, but that’s subjective. On the other hand, if I got up by 7 a.m., walked for 30 minutes, have done this 5 out of the last seven days, and two months ago I only did it two days out of five,  no one can argue. AND no one can take it away from me. It may not be the whole story, but it’s a good story.


About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
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One Response to “Behavioral” versus “mental” health

  1. It is all about recovery from what ever one calls ones problem. Best wishes on your blog.

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