If you are new to the field of psychology, marriage and family therapy or social work, you may have questions about some of the terms that are used to describe your practicum or field placement setting. Your program may use one of the terms above or a different term to describe the type of services provided to clients.
Psychotherapy involves a relationship between a client, which could be an individual or a family, and a therapist in a private, confidential setting for a specified time, traditionally 50 minutes once a week. In psychotherapy, the therapist and client identify goals for their work together, usually related to reduction of symptoms and improvement in areas of the client’s life, which may include homework or practice outside of the session. The therapist may coordinate with other health and social service providers, but the communication is primarily between the therapist and client. There are legal regulations restricting the provision of psychotherapy to individuals who meet certain education and experience qualifications.
Case management covers a broader range of activities in which the case manager may accompany the client to appointments, contact agencies and providers to advocate for the client, arrange and facilitate the client having access to housing or other resources, and/or serve as a mentor or coach. The length and frequency of sessions is based on the client’s needs and may vary from several hours multiple times per week to less than an hour once a month. The goals are often similar to goals of psychotherapy but the client and case manager may work on other practical goals with the case manager providing direct assistance. Case managers may be paraprofessionals, clinicians in training or licensed mental health professionals.
A mental health or behavioral health program usually provides different types or levels of service to clients. Psychotherapy and case management are often included along with assessment and evaluation, inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment, medication management, and/or psychoeducation and support groups. Services may be coordinated within a treatment team of providers with different areas of specialty and expertise. The term behavioral health has been used increasingly during the last 20 years as programs and government departments began to combine mental health services with substance abuse services. The fact that these conditions overlap in a large proportion of individuals led to the rise of integrated services provided under the label “behavioral health.”
I hope this brief summary clarifies some of your questions. Please email me with comments, suggestions or further questions.