Education and Behavioral Healthcare Have A Lot In Common

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We often see comparisons made between behavioral healthcare and primary healthcare. It occurred to me, the education industry also bears a lot of commonality to behavioral healthcare.

Some of the comparisons are pretty obvious. For example, psycho-education is more education than therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is highly educative, which may say something about its appeal and high use. Clinically, we know there is a significant overlap between intellectual disabilities and behavioral health problems. Financially, the funding streams for education and behavioral healthcare are mainly government based, but there is a robust private sector available to both.

Both fields are experiencing significant increases in accountability. The costs of both are going up and those who pay the bills are demanding to know what they’re getting for their money. Consequently, both are experiencing increased demands for measurable outcomes. For educators, this takes the form of standardized testing and fairly inflexible curricula. Behavioral healthcare practitioners have seen a rise in requirements for Evidence-Based Treatments (EBTs) and other attempts to measure the outcomes of the clinical process. Proponents of these efforts to quantify activities believe increased accountability can only come through measurement. Dissenters argue the work they do cannot be quantified and measurement may be detrimental to the process and outcome.

Both sectors are experiencing challenges from disruptive technologies. Homeschooling was once considered a fringe activity largely reserved for those who wanted a more religious-based underpinning to their education. Now, about 4% of all children in the United States are homeschooled. Behavioral healthcare (and primary care) are both seeing significant upticks in the number of people who are using online tools to manage their care. From information lookups in WebMD and PsychCentral to self-monitoring tools like FitBits and Depression trackers, people are taking control of their own care.

In countries like the United Kingdom and Australia, Computerized Cognitive Behavioral Therapies (CCBTs) provide online and self-directed care to a much greater extent than is seen in the United States. However, that will increase with the advent of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and Health Homes. Multidisciplinary care is increasing. Technology is having a significant impact. Educators are replacing traditional textbooks with iPads while healthcare consumers are downloading huge numbers of health related apps.

Arguably, the most striking similarity is that teachers and therapists are woefully underpaid for what they do. Note: This isn’t just gratuitous patronization to you the reader…I also happen to believe it.