Service members seek care from their primary care manager (PCM) for a wide range of concerns and conditions. Some problems, such as a sore throat or skin rash, may be readily resolved by the patient and PCM. Many patients, however, seek care for more complex conditions, such as chronic pain, family stressors, tobacco use, or being overweight. When a condition is affected by behaviors, emotions, thoughts, or social factors, health care should address these psychosocial factors in addition to physical factors.
Fortunately, the Military Health System has a system in place to provide comprehensive, whole-person care within primary care clinics. PCMs can include behavioral health consultants (BHCs) in the care of patients with a wide range of conditions and concerns. BHCs are psychologists or social workers who are trained to work on interprofessional primary care teams to help address behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and social/environmental factors that affect health and well-being.
Who might benefit from seeing a BHC in primary care? BHCs assist patients who would like to make changes to better manage their health, whether that is losing weight, eating healthier, exercising more, or cutting back on alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine. Others benefit from meeting with a BHC to help adjust to life changes, such as becoming a new parent, starting a new position, or moving to a new location.
BHCs help patients better adhere to their PCM’s treatment plans, such as taking medications as prescribed or making specific dietary changes. Patients experiencing behavioral health conditions or symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, irritability, or anger may benefit from evidence-based intervention from the BHC. Even individuals with chronic medical conditions, such as chronic pain, hypertension, or diabetes, can work with BHCs to improve symptoms, functioning, and quality of life. If symptoms or functioning don’t improve, the BHC can link the patient with a higher level of care in a specialty behavioral health clinic.
Learn more about primary care behavioral health and the role of BHCs on the Psychological Health Center of Excellence website.
Capt. Dobmeyer is a U.S. Public Health Service psychologist in the Primary Care Behavioral Health branch at the Psychological Health Center of Excellence. She specializes in clinical health psychology and the integration of behavioral health services into primary care clinics within the Department of Defense.
The views expressed in Clinician's Corner blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Psychological Health Center of Excellence or Department of Defense.