Behavioral Health Treatments and Services

Behavioral health treatments and services help people with common mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

Behavioral health treatments are ways of helping people with mental illnesses or substance use disorders. For example, counseling and more specialized psychotherapies seek to change behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and how people see and understand situations. Medications for mental and substance use disorders provide significant relief for many people and help manage symptoms to the point where people can use other strategies to pursue recovery.

For many people, the most effective behavioral health approach involves a combination of counseling and medication. Early treatment is best. A trained professional should do a full evaluation to make the diagnosis. No single treatment works best. Treatments must address each person’s needs and symptoms.

SAMHSA is working to build a behavioral health system that enables Americans to find effective treatments and services in their communities for mental and/or substance use disorders. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, a range of health plans are being required to cover essential benefits including mental health and substance abuse treatments. The Affordable Care Act extends the impact of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) so that many health plans must offer coverage for mental health or substance use disorders with at least an equal level of benefits as the plans offer for the treatment of physical health problems.

SAMHSA also seeks to support the most effective treatment methods possible through its programs, this includes support of evidence-based programs and treatments. Evidence-based programs are programs that have been shown to have positive outcomes through high quality research. In addition to working with grantees to identify and implement appropriate programs, SAMHSA has developed the Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center.

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Last Updated: 01/15/2019