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What is Behavioral Health Optimization?

August 21, 2019

What makes a clinician successful? Our success is largely a function of seizing the opportunity to apply our skills where they count the most.

As a US Air Force clinical social worker for 7+ years—in North Dakota, South Korea, Hawaii, and now Nebraska—I’ve taken every assignment as an opportunity to grow as a leader and an officer and as a practitioner, mentor, and colleague. For me, that meant working in substance abuse treatment, mental health therapy, and child welfare; today it means working as a behavioral medicine faculty member in a combined military-civilian family medicine residency program who also oversees the Behavioral Health Optimization Program (BHOP).

How does BHOP work? After a one-month behavioral-medicine rotation, family-medicine physician residents are introduced to BHOP, in which Internal Behavioral Health Consultants (IBHCs)—specially trained clinical social workers or psychologists work in primary care clinics. An IBHC consults with Primary Care Managers (PCMs) and performs brief, focused assessments and interventions to assist patients in making changes to improve their behavioral health.1 More intensive services are also available and an IBHC can bridge care until the patient can establish care.

Clinical social workers tend to forget how much impact we have on the lives of others. As I put on my uniform every day, I think of the men and women who went before me, and of the oath I took to serve this nation by helping all Air Force personnel young and old, and children, families, and retirees. It inspires me to do my best to apply my clinical skills in training family-medicine residents in BHOP, teaching them how to refer patients, and introducing them to the importance of integrated behavioral healthcare services in primary care.

What drives you as a clinical social worker? Can you cite some examples professional satisfaction and of clinical successes and lives on which you’ve had a positive impact?

Charu Stokes-Williams, PhD, BCD, LICSW is a Major in the United States Air Force. She currently serves as faculty in the combined military-civilian family medicine residency program at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

1PCGB and Specialty Behavioral Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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Charu Stokes-Williams, PhD, BCD

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