Behavioral Health vs. Mental Health: How Are They Different?

Traci Williams

A man meditating outdoors

If you’ve done research on mental health, you may have seen references to behavioral health and wondered what it is and how the two are different. Although behavioral and mental health are related, it’s important to understand what makes each one unique and how they influence each other, especially if you are considering a career in this field.

What Is Behavioral Health?

Behavioral health is an umbrella term that refers to the way your behaviors and habits influence the well-being of your mind, body and soul. Your behaviors include your eating and drinking habits, exercise routines and addictive behavior patterns. For example, a behavioral health professional would study the habits and lifestyle that may have contributed to a patient’s obesity.

Behavioral health services are often provided by a team of professionals in various practices, including:

  • Therapists or counselors
  • Physicians
  • Neurologists
  • Social workers

Treatment may include a wide variety of interventions, including group counseling, behavioral therapy and medical treatments.

Connecting Behavioral Health and Mental Health

We now know that behavioral health involves the entire person — the mental, spiritual and physical. Good mental health, meanwhile, is a state in which someone can cope with stress and be a productive member of society. Habits, biology and psychological state all affect and are affected by mental health.

For example, a mental health disorder can lead to a behavioral health disorder, such as seeking to cope with general anxiety by overeating or drinking excessively. Conversely, behavior can influence mental health. Behaviors that undermine stability can negatively affect your mental well-being or magnify an existing mental health disorder.

On the flip side, positive behaviors can reduce the impact of a mental health condition. Along with proper treatment, here are a few positive habits that can improve mental well-being:

  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Socializing with friends and family
  • Creating art

Some mental health issues are not directly caused by behaviors, but rather by genetics or brain chemistry. Examples include many cases of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Exploring a Career in Behavioral Health

As a behavioral health professional, you provide support for patients with a wide variety of needs, focusing on each as a whole person. To enter this field, you first earn a behavioral health degree. Key concepts explored in this degree program include approaches, techniques, current trends, history, research and best practices in behavioral health.

While developing a broad perspective on behavioral health, learners at Grand Canyon University (GCU) study human behavior within a Christian values-oriented environment that emphasizes compassion and ethics.

By pursuing a behavioral health science degree, you can prepare for a career in which you serve others by improving the quality of life for your clients or patients. Courses in the behavioral health program at GCU include:

  • Addiction and Substance Abuse Disorders
  • Counseling Theories
  • Group Dynamics and Processes
  • Human Development
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Family Dynamics
  • Understanding Trauma
  • Ethics of Behavioral Health Science
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Cultural and Social Diversity

In GCU’s behavioral health program, you acquire the education and training to help others live productive, rewarding lives. Graduates are prepared to work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, prevention and intervention programs and other social agencies in the following positions:

  • Behavioral health specialist
  • Community or social service manager
  • Mental health service technician
  • Case manager

Further, this undergraduate program provides students with the training they need to continue their education and earn a master’s degree in such areas as clinical psychology, marriage and family counseling, criminal justice and human sciences. A master’s degree in counseling or a related area is a required stepping stone toward state licensure.

Grand Canyon University’s mission is to provide each of our learners with a high-quality education that helps them develop the skills for career success. For details on the Bachelor of Science program in Behavioral Health Science, please visit the College of Humanities and Social Sciences or click the Request More Information button located on this page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.