Behavioral health care encompasses mental health care, focusing on the complex interplay of behaviors and lifestyles, and the wellness of a patient’s mind, body and spirit. The average person is shaped by external and internal influences and so it makes sense that, as the world changes, so too does the field of behavioral health care. In recent years, psychologists have noticed a number of emerging trends that are expected to become increasingly relevant to their patients. For students earning their Doctorate of Philosophy in General Psychology it is imperative to stay on top of these trends in order to provide the best care possible.
The Trend Toward Digital Therapy
The internet can connect anyone to any information in the blink of an eye. For better or worse, it allows patients to research their symptoms before going to a primary care doctor. It even allows patients to access their own medical records via patient portals, which is definitely a positive pathway to better patient engagement. Now, one of the more recent trends is the increasing accessibility of cognitive behavioral therapy from any location that offers an internet connection. Online hubs connect patients to counselors without geographical limitations. This can benefit patients by allowing them to access specialists who might not have a physical office nearby and it may encourage people to seek counseling when they otherwise would be reluctant; however, it remains to be seen if online therapy can mimic the genuine, interpersonal relationship that develops between therapist and patient during in-office visits.
The Trend Toward Technology Fatigue
Ironically, even as more patients are accessing behavioral health care online, more psychologists are seeing patients who have technology-induced behavioral health disorders, including anxiety, depressive symptoms and chronic stress. Constantly being “plugged in,” especially on social media platforms, is thought to contribute to poor attention span, impatience (and sometimes, road rage), poor social development, online harassment and a distorted perception of reality. This is certainly not to say that technology is bad, or even that social media is inherently disadvantageous, but the trend does point to a need for psychologists to assess the role of technology in their patients’ lives, and to help them develop strategies to mindfully control the extent to which they are plugged in.
The Trend Toward Diminishing Social Stigma
The earliest known hospital that cared for both mental health disorders and general diseases has been dated to 872 in Cairo, Egypt. By the Middle Ages, it had become common practice to whisk mental health patients away to isolated towers and monasteries. The trend was clearly to take these “mad” patients out of society. In the U.S. in 1848, advocate Dorothea Dix had the revolutionary idea of giving the mentally ill proper treatment. Fast forward to today, and the idea of behavioral health care has become closely intertwined with general medicine. The social stigma of mental illness still exists, but it is likely reaching the end of its lifespan. In recent years, more people have been accepting of the idea that mental health directly influences physical health, and vice versa, and that seeking behavioral health counseling is just one more important way of taking care of oneself.
Grand Canyon University invites future doctoral candidates to apply for one of our Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology degree programs. These degrees are available with specialization in cognition and instruction, industrial and organizational psychology, performance psychology, and the integration of technology, learning and psychology.