To kick off Mental Health Awareness Month, Dr. Adrienne Heinz hosted a special edition webinar on the history (and future) of mental health care in the United States. Dr. Heinz is a licensed clinical and research psychologist at Big Health, and also directs the Substance and Anxiety Intervention Laboratory at the US Department of Veterans Affairs and Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Heinz’s work focuses on improving treatment access and outcomes for anxiety, addiction, and trauma using innovative technology solutions.  

Read the highlights from each section of the webinar below, or click to watch the full presentation and Q&A.

A brief history of mental health care in the United States

  • Dr. Heinz walked through the major historical events between 1850 and 2018 that have shaped modern mental health care today. She discussed common treatment techniques of the early 20th century, why the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) was originally created, and how the funding cuts of the Reagan Administration contributed to a national rise in homelessness and incarceration of the mentally ill.

Development of modern treatment approaches

  • This section reviewed the major contributions to the field of psychology since Freud, with an emphasis on the cognitive revolution of the 1970s (also known as the second wave of modern therapy). Dr. Heinz highlighted a landmark study from 2006 that aggregated data from 16 other meta-analyses, essentially proving that CBT is the most empirically scrutinized treatment for mental health conditions and possess the strongest evidence-base. Finally, Dr. Heinz covered current treatment trends including psychedelic drugs, resilience training, and social-emotional learning.

How to evaluate the evidence-base of mental health programs

  • Dr. Heinz shared the widely-accepted definition of “evidence-based” treatment from Diane Chambless, and provided a visual to help clarify where certain types of evidence fall on the spectrum of rigor. In this section, Dr. Heinz also offered three key questions that employers can use to more accurately evaluate the evidence base behind a wide range of mental health offerings.

The future of mental health care

  • The webinar concluded with a lively discussion on the challenges we still face today, and how national and international organizations have committed to tackling them. Central to this topic is the ubiquitous nature of web and smartphone technology, including new approaches to the treatment of mental health conditions. Dr. Heinz also shared insights into the chronic stress crisis in the U.S., especially as it pertains to minority groups and youth.  

Curious about the Q&A? Listen to the recording:

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