What is Behavioral Medicine and Behavioral Healthcare?

A writer asks, “I’ve heard that you are very successful helping people to lose weight with ‘Behavioral Medicine’. I also know of a counseling center that calls itself ‘Behavioral Healthcare’. What do these terms mean?”

(The author is the psychotherapist who lost 140 lbs. when he discovered Therapeutic Psychogenics,  and he’s kept it off for over 25 years. He has written about it in his groundbreaking weight loss self-help book, The Anderson Method and has helped thousands to lose weight permanently with this approach. More about it at the end of the article.)

When I refer to my practice of behavioral medicine, I am referring mainly to my work in helping people establish the behavior that will treat or “cure” their disorders related to being overweight. Many diseases are caused or worsened by being overweight. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, disability, cancer, inflammatory disorders, depression, obesity itself - the list is endless of the life-threatening diseases that are caused by excess weight and conversely improved and even cured by weight loss. I’ve helped thousands to finally solve their “impossible” weight problem, successfully lose great amounts of weight and maintain a healthy weight. I do it with my brand of Behavioral Medicine I call Therapeutic Psychogenics.

We know that  an obesegenic lifestyle is the primary cause of the problem, eating more calories than we use and storing them as fat. Conversely, we know how to lose weight, regardless of the cause of the gain.  Eat fewer calories than we use and we lose weight. Eat in balance and we don’t regain. The thermodynamics is irrefutable. Simple, right? No.

While the thermodynamics of weight control are easily understood, the dynamics of human behavior are anything but.  While some people think that everyone should just be able to make up their mind to master their habits, desires and feelings, most of us know that it’s not that easy. The forces at work that shape our behavior, the drives, the neurochemistry, the conditioning and habit formation are not often within our conscious control, even when we understand them. Self control, especially when you are talking about compelling and addictive behaviors, is not just a matter of “wanting it Badly enough” or “will power”.

That’s where I and my brand of behavioral therapy comes in. Understanding more about ourselves and the psychological technique for self-mastery are things that can be learned and developed. We treat the whole person, body, mind and spirit. The components of my eclectic formula of therapy have many names in the profession – Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Behavior Therapy, Cybernetic Self-Management  Technique, psychoeducation, nutrition education – together I call it Therapeutic Psychogenics. Many names but the goal is one: to create a permanent change in our automatic habitual behavior so that the way we habitually think, feel and act makes us lose the excess weight and keep it off. It’s kind of like “reprogramming”. It’s certainly not just “will power”.  Learning and developing the psychological “power tools” is what empowers us to change the behavior, not will alone. When we can change the behavior, the body will change.

However, Behavioral Medicine encompasses more than what I’ve just described.  Here’s the textbook definition: Behavioral Medicine is the interdisciplinary field concerned with the development and integration of behavioral, psychosocial, and biomedical science, knowledge and techniques relevant to the understanding of health and illness, and the application of this knowledge and these techniques to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.

The psyche and body are one. They are not separate. Our physical condition affects our spirit, mood and mental state. Drugs and our hormonal and neurochemical state affects or mood, thinking , feelings and behavior (appetite too). Our behavior influences our neurochemistry and hormones and creates physical conditions and many states of mind and spirit. Behavioral Medicine recognizes this and integrates these dimensions for purposes of understanding and treatment. Professionals from the medical and mental health fields attend to the whole person and fashion treatment protocols that call for intervention in all spheres. This is Behavioral Medicine.

Behavioral Health is a term used in a more limited scope to address all the behavior we engage in that affects our health. It is not so much used to describe complex psychological conditions like addictions and eating disorders. For instance, our use of automobiles and hand washing procedure would be included as issues addressed in Behavioral health. 

Behavioral Healthcare, seen as a part of Behavioral Medicine, most often describes mental health and psychiatric care specifically, including counseling for a variety of reasons.

I hope I have not been too clinical in trying to give an accurate and complete answer to this very good question. People hear these terms and rarely know what they mean. Most of us don’t want the jargon. I know my clients don’t care what it’s called. That it helps them to solve their weight problem is all they care about.

Behavioral Medicine saved my life when I discovered Therapeutic Psychogenics as a result of my work in addictions counseling and behavioral science. I lost 140 lbs using this method, after 25 years of failure with diets and exercise schemes and I’ve kept it off for 25 years. I’ve been helping others since, teaching other therapists too, and I’ve also got a book about it. If you’ve had a terrible time trying to lose weight, Behavioral Medicine has the best solution. Got to www.TheAndersonMethod.com to get more information about my work, my growing network of therapists, and my book describing the method.

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