10 Patient Engagement Best Practices for Behavioral Health

Patient Engagement

May 1, 2023
Mental Health support group sitting in a circle
Patient Engagement Best practices - 10 points that are outlined in blog

The most critical component of delivering effective behavioral health care? Patient engagement. In order to promote patient engagement and self-management, the treatment must be a collaborative effort between the patient and the care provider. In this blog post, we’re going to dive into 10 best practices for patient engagement in behavioral health.


1. Build a Therapeutic Alliance

Doctor and patient talking - be present and listen actively, build a trusting relationship

One of the most important aspects is building a therapeutic alliance with the patient as establishing a strong, trusting relationship is essential. This helps to create an environment where they feel comfortable discussing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Providers should try to be understanding and impartial when listening to patients. They should also strive to create an open dialogue which helps patients feel comfortable and valued, so patients in turn, can feel confident asking questions and sharing their concerns. Some methods to try when building a therapeutic alliance is to be present and attentive during appointments, to listen actively to their concerns and use plain language instead of medical jargon. Explaining things in simple terms encourages questions and ensures they feel understood and respected. We’ll touch on this more below.

2. Use Patient Centered Language

As mentioned previously, the language used by care providers can have a significant impact on patient engagement. Patient centered language emphasizes the patient instead of the illness; this approach can easily foster a collaborative and empowering treatment atmosphere.

For example, instead of referring to them as "depressed," a provider might say "a person experiencing depression." This shift in language can help them feel more in control of their illness and more engaged in their treatment; little details can make a big difference in the overall experience.

3. Provide Education and Resources

Person on a call - empower them to take an active role in their care - provide information and resources

Engagement also involves providing patients with the information and resources they need to manage their mental health effectively. This might include educational materials related to their condition and treatment options.

Additionally, they should have access to support groups and other resources in the community. If patients are encouraged to ask questions about their treatment plan, they can feel empowered to take an active role in their care. Encouraging questions and seeking clarity can help them become involved with their own healthcare decisions and this is done through consistently providing education & resources.

4. Collaborate on Treatment Plans

Doctor talking to patient holding a tablet - create strategies to manage symptoms - collaborate on treatment plans

Patient engagement in behavioral health requires collaboration; the goal is to create a treatment plan that is tailored to their needs and preferences. Providers should collaborate to set realistic goals. They should also create strategies to manage symptoms. Additionally, patients should be involved in making decisions about treatment options.

Patients can benefit from a collaborative approach which allows them to feel more invested in their treatment plan and the likelihood of them following through with the care plan.

5. Use Technology to Enhance Engagement

Person typing on a smartphone - text onscreen says "facilitate remote connections between providers and patient - embrace technology"

With the recent buzz of AI tools, technology can be a powerful tool for enhancing patient engagement in behavioral health. Telehealth and other digital tools can facilitate remote connections between providers and patients.

These technologies and tools can help bridge the gap between in-person visits and provide patients with more flexibility and convenience. Additionally, digital platforms can make it easier for providers to track patient progress and provide timely feedback.

Technology can be used to increase patient engagement which helps patients to feel more in control and motivated to follow their treatment plan. Additionally, online support is available to patients who need extra help. Support groups, apps and other digital resources can be accessed online. This is an alternative to traditional therapy sessions.

6. Emphasize the Importance of Self-Care

Another important aspect is emphasizing the importance of self-care. Providers should encourage patients to engage in activities that promote mental wellness, such as exercise, mindfulness, and social connection. This can help to reinforce positive mental health habits. Encouragement is key to facilitate this.

Keep in mind that it’s also important to discuss the importance of proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and stress management as part of their engagement strategies. Providers can support their patients by establishing an open dialogue. This encourages them to be more active in their care and empowers them to manage their own mental health. Additionally, it helps them improve their overall well-being.

7. Address Stigma and Barriers to Treatment

Stigma and other barriers to treatment can prevent patients from seeking the care they need. Providers should take steps to improve mental health care. Creating a safe and supportive treatment environment and providing mental health education to them can help alleviate the stigma.

Finally, providers should advocate for policies and resources that make mental health care accessible.

8. Foster a Sense of Community

Behavioral health care can feel isolating which is why fostering a sense of community among patients can help to improve engagement. Creating a supportive environment can help patients feel connected, supported and in turn, more engaged.

Providers can facilitate support groups or peer mentoring programs, which can provide patients with a sense of belonging and social connection. Creating a welcoming treatment environment that encourages patients to connect with one another can also be beneficial.


9. Monitor Patient Progress

Monitoring patient progress is an essential part of engagement in behavioral health. Providers should regularly assess their symptoms and treatment outcomes, and adjust treatment plans as needed.

An ongoing evaluation can give patients a sense of personalized care. It can also show that their needs are being responded to which can increase their engagement with their treatment. In addition, providers should take the time to listen to patients' experiences and feedback.

This helps create an atmosphere of trust and respect, which can encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings honestly. Providers can use surveys or other feedback tools to gain insight into their satisfaction which ensures that their treatment plans are appropriate and effective.

10. Provide Feedback and Reinforcement

Finally, providing feedback and reinforcement can be an effective way to enhance patient engagement in behavioral health.

Providers should recognize patients' progress and successes. This recognition can motivate them to keep striving towards their treatment goals. Feedback should be specific, timely, and focused on the patient's strengths and achievements. Providers should also provide timely and accurate feedback to help patients understand their progress and identify areas for improvement.

Additionally, providers should be encouraging and supportive of the patient's efforts, as this can help to build their motivation and confidence. They should ensure that the feedback is tailored to the patient's individual needs, including their treatment goals and individual strengths.

Patient engagement is critical for effective behavioral health care. From fostering a sense of community to embracing technology, providers have the power to improve the lives of patients with behavioral health conditions and can help them to achieve their treatment goals. 

The Author
Ben Henson

A lifelong communicator, this Tennessee native got his start in broadcast news before branching out into public media, corporate, communications, digital advertising, and integrated marketing. Prior to joining QliqSOFT as the company's first marketing team member, Ben shared his talents with organizations that include the University of Alabama, iHeartMedia, and The Kroger Company.

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