Find meanings for health and medical terms.


Accessible Services: Services that are easily available to those who need them. In other words, affordable, located nearby, open at convenient hours and that can be used by persons with disabilities.

Acute: When a condition starts quickly, is intense and does not usually last long. 

Addiction: A treatable dependence on a chemical substance or lifestyle, such as alcohol, nicotine, gambling or drugs. An ongoing physical, mental or emotional need is created that significantly affects relationships, work, school or other life roles. It may be difficult to stop, despite the person wanting to quit.
Adherence: When the person and her provider stick to the plan they created together, including aspects such as steps they decide to take toward the person’s personal goals, medication and maintaining appointments. It is important to communicate when the individual wants to make a change in the plan.

Advance Directive: A legally binding document that allows individuals to control how their medical decisions are to be made in the future, if they become unable to make them for themselves. It is best to prepare such a statement while healthy.

Advocacy: Expressing oneself clearly and calmly in order to get their needs or the needs of others met. Knowing and assertively communicating rights.

Alcoholism: Addiction to alcohol. The DSM-5 relabeled it as alcohol use disorder.

Appropriate services: Designed to meet the specific needs of each individual child and family. For example, one family may need day treatment, while another may need home-based services. Appropriate services for one child and family may not be appropriate for another. Appropriate services usually are provided in the child's community.

Anxiety Disorders: Treatable conditions of consistent fear and worry that interfere with individuals’ personal and work lives.

Assessment: The formal process of gathering information about a person, usually by interviews and past records, in order to form a person-centered treatment plan. For a child, this might also include a professional review of child and family needs including a review of physical and mental health, intelligence, school performance, family situation and behavior in the community.

Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A treatable childhood disorder that may continue into adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior and hyperactivity (a very high level of activity that interferes with concentration or relationships).

Behavior Modification and Therapy: A treatment approach that focuses on reducing or taking away negative habits or behaviors through reinforcements and rewards.

Behavioral Health Care: Continuum of services for individuals at risk of, or with, mental, addictive or other behavioral health disorders.

Beneficiary: A person certified as eligible for health care services. A beneficiary may be a dependent or a subscriber or a member.

Bipolar Disorder: Sometimes called manic depression in the past, bipolar disorder is a treatable condition with strong shifts in mood, energy and functioning. Moods can alternate between highs of extreme energy or irritability (mania) and lows of deep depression.

Caregiver: A person who has special training to help people with mental health problems. Examples include social workers, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and mentors.

Case Management: This mental health service connects an individual with various services such as medical, child welfare and employment that he may need to live independently.

Case Manager: An individual who organizes and coordinates services and supports with individuals who have mental health challenges and their families.

Child protective services: Designed to safeguard the child when abuse, neglect, or abandonment is suspected, or when there is no family to take care of the child. Examples of help delivered in the home include financial assistance, vocational training, homemaker services and day care. If in-home supports are insufficient, the child may be removed from the home on a temporary or permanent basis. Ideally, the goal is to keep the child with the family whenever possible.

Chronic: A situation or illness that lasts for a long time. The term chronic should be used only to describe conditions, not to label individuals. Persons with long histories of mental illnesses often recover, even after many years of disability. 

Claim: A request by an individual (or her provider) to that individual's insurance company to pay for services obtained from a health care professional.

Clinician: A health care professional who observes and treats individuals.

Cognitive: Activities of the mind including thinking, understanding, memory and reasoning.

Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): A research-based approach to therapy that is generally short-term and focused on addressing and changing specific thoughts and behavior.

Co-morbidity: A primary disease or disorder accompanied by 1 or more additional diseases or disorders. For example, if a person has heart disease along with diabetes and depression.

Co-occurring Disorders: The term used when a person experiences 2 or more health conditions at the same time, for instance substance use disorder and a mental illness.

Confidentiality: Protecting privacy by not sharing the protected health information of a person with others, except in specific instances by law usually involving the signed agreement of the individual participating in services.

Consumer: A person who uses goods and services, for example mental health services. Consumers have options, make informed decisions in their own care and influence the way services are provided.

Continuum of Care: A term that implies an orderly progression through services that a child or adult moves through without gaps, also referred to as comprehensive or wraparound services. The orderly progression is based on the individual’s treatment needs rather than a standard order which everyone must follow.

Counseling: Treatment by a licensed clinician to help individuals make positive changes in their feelings, thoughts and actions. Persons may meet with the counselor individually or with family depending on needs.

Counselor: A person who is licensed to provide counseling and mental health services to individuals, couples, families and groups.

Credential: An official document that verifies an individual’s qualifications, or education, experience and ability to do his work.

Crisis: A short period of time when a person may need immediate help or others to make decisions on her behalf due to the severity of a mental health condition at the time. Having an Advance Directive can empower a person during a crisis.  

Crisis Hot Line: A number a person can call to receive urgent mental health assistance if he is experiencing a mental health crisis. Persons may wish to call their local crisis hot line or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Crisis Plan: A plan created by an individual when she is well that describes what kinds of support she wants and does not want to have during a mental health crisis. This plan allows individuals to maintain control over their lives even when everything feels out of control. This plan may be made into a legal document if it meets the criteria for an Advance Directive.

Day Treatment: Day treatment includes special education, counseling, parent training, vocational training, skill building, crisis intervention and recreational therapy. It lasts at least four hours a day. Day treatment programs work in conjunction with mental health, recreation and education organizations, and may even be provided by them.

Delusion: A false belief a person holds to despite evidence to the contrary. There are many different types of delusions, for example believing that one is being singled out for harm or that one is far greater or more powerful than one is. Persons can recover from delusions.

Depression: A treatable condition with symptoms including persistent sadness, loss of enjoyment and feelings of hopelessness.

Diagnosis: A medical determination of the nature of an illness arrived at through individual history, symptoms and examination. A diagnosis is one part of a person’s life. It is not his identity.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM): A guidebook used by mental health professionals to make and classify a diagnosis of a mental illness. The DSM has been revised multiple times. At the time of this writing, the most recent edition is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

Discharge plan: A plan developed with the involvement of the person served before they leave a treatment facility or program. It outlines what services will be needed and establishes how and where those services will be provided.

Diversion Program: A program designed to target problem youth and direct them away from the justice system and into a treatment center or program.

Drug Interaction: Effects of two or more drugs taken together that result in a change of the usual effects of either drug taken alone.

Dual Diagnosis: Having two or more significant health conditions that need treatment.

Dysthymia: A treatable condition that is a less severe, but ongoing (for at least two years) form of depression. See Depression and Recovery.

Early Intervention: Process used to recognize warning signs for mental health problems and to take early action against factors that put individuals at risk.

Eating Disorder: A treatable condition related to a person’s eating practices.

Education: Learning as much as a person can about health, wellness, symptoms and treatment in order to be equipped to make good decisions.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): A treatment involving passing a certain level of electrical current through one or more sides of the brain for the purpose of treating illnesses such as severe depression. As with other forms of treatment, it is a good idea to become informed about the potential risks and benefits of ECT. Individuals considering ECT may talk to persons who have had positive and negative experiences with ECT before making a decision to have ECT or not. A person may choose to express his preference for or against having ECT using a legal document known as an Advance Directive. 

Emergency and crisis services: A group of services that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help during a mental health emergency. Examples include telephone crisis hotlines, suicide hotlines, crisis counseling, crisis residential treatment services, crisis outreach teams and crisis respite care.

Employee Assistance Plan (EAP): Resources provided by employers either as part of, or separate from, employer-sponsored health plans. EAPs typically provide preventive care measures, various health care screenings, and/or wellness activities (Center for Mental Health Services, 2000).

Enrollee: A person eligible for services from a managed care plan. Also called a member.

Evidence-based Practices: Approaches to mental health care that scientific studies have consistently shown to be effective. 

Family Consumer Specialist: A position within the Child and Adolescent Services of the Division of Mental Health. Family Consumer Specialists provide an interface between families and policymakers to advance principles of Family Driven Care. 

Family Counseling: A mental health service in which one or more mental health professionals establishes a relationship with a person and his or her family members. The goal is to improve family relationships in order to help both the individual in treatment and their family.

Family-driven Care: Families have a primary decision making role in the care of their own children as well as the policies and procedures governing care for all children in their community. 

Fee for Service: A mental health system where services are specifically defined, matched to individual needs, and are reimbursed once a mental health center has provided them to an individual.

Group Home: A house where people sharing similar challenges live together. Group homes offer different levels of support for people with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities or addictions. Support may include training in daily living skills, managing one’s own money, living in the community and taking medication independently. The goal is to live in the most natural supportive setting possible and work toward greater independence.

Group Counseling and Therapy: Treatment led in a group by a state-licensed professional counselor to help persons with mental health challenges make positive changes in their feelings, thoughts and actions. 

Guardian: A person appointed by the court to be responsible for the care of a child or an adult and to make decisions in the best interest of the individual.

Half life: The time it takes for half of a drug, once absorbed into the bloodstream, to be eliminated from the body.

Hallucination: Most often hearing a sound, for example voices or seeing an image that no one else hears or sees. Less often, persons may experience hallucinations related to the senses of touch, smell or taste. It is possible to reduce, eliminate or limit stress related to hallucinations, or hallucinations themselves, with effective treatment and self-help techniques.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): A law that guards the confidentiality of your protected, personal health information.

Holistic: An approach to health care that recognizes that persons are whole beings—spirit, mind and body—and that their health in one area affects their health in other areas.

Hypomania: A symptom of bipolar disorder that is an episode of increased energy that can last for hours to days but is not intense enough to be categorized as mania. 

Independent Living Services: Support for a young person living on his own; including therapeutic group homes, supervised apartment living and job placement.

Individual Placement with Supports (IPS): A model of supported employment emphasizing competitive employment and personal choice where supports are given soon after a person expresses a desire to work. It also includes benefits planning, which can help individuals to manage their Social Security benefits effectively when going back to work.

Integrated Care: Integrated care involves the combined treatment of all areas of health care. This includes physical health, mental health, and substance use disorder. This is a better way of helping people who have many health care needs.

Intermediate Care Facility (ICF): A place, such as a nursing home, that provides long-term and 24-hour care and supervision for its residents.

Intake: Individuals who receive services from agencies first must complete an intake. It includes as much information as possible about the individuals, from their names, ages and addresses, to persons to contact, medications and diagnoses, family and personal background. Information provided by individuals served helps agencies or treatment centers provide the best care they can. 

Intervention: Action taken to influence the behavior of another person, often to prevent a crisis or to keep things from getting worse.

Least Restrictive Environment: The right to receive care in the most natural, supportive setting appropriate to an individual’s mental health needs. For a child in special education, the student who has a disability should have the opportunity to be educated with non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible. They should have access to the general education curriculum, extracurricular activities, or any other program that non-disabled peers would be able to access. The student should be provided with supplementary aids and services necessary to achieve educational goals if placed in a setting with non-disabled peers. Generally, the less opportunity a student has to interact and learn with non-disabled peers, the more that the setting is considered to be restricted.

Local Mental Health Authority: Local organizational entity (usually with some statutory authority) that centrally maintains administrative, clinical and fiscal authority for a geographically specific and organized system of health care.

Managed Care: An approach to controlling costs in the health care system, often involving a primary care physician who treats the individual and refers them to specialized medical care, surgery or physical therapy as needed.  

Mania: A phase of bipolar disorder that may take the form of either an extremely happy mood or an irritable, angry mood. During a manic phase, there may be increased physical and mental energy, lack of sleep, racing thoughts or rapid speech. Sometimes persons experiencing mania have large plans or ideas and take risks that are unusual for them.

Measured Outcome: The process of measuring the impact of an intervention, including mental health care.  Outcome measurement may be used to guide planning for further care, including changes in treatment plans. Clinicians, parents and youth measure the effectiveness of care and monitor progress using the Ohio Scales and Columbia Impairment Scales. The clinician will complete the Ohio Scale, the parent will complete the Columbia Impairment Scale – Parent Version, and youth, age 10 and older will complete the Columbia Impairment Scale – Youth Version on a quarterly basis. Data from this system will be available for review by parents immediately.

Medicaid: The public system of paying for health services for persons who have little or no income. This includes some mental health services.

Medical Necessity: Care provided to an individual that fits her health care needs and the current standards of medical practice.   

Medical Records: Information including reports made and test results on an individual’s health status over time. The individual has the right to access his medical records and these records are protected by confidentiality laws.

Medicare: A health insurance program provided by the federal government for persons aged 65 or older or disabled. It has three parts: Part A (hospital insurance), Part B (supplementary insurance) and Part D (prescription drug coverage).

Medication: Drugs prescribed by a doctor, including psychiatric medications.

MediGap: MediGap plans are supplements to Medicare insurance. MediGap plans vary from state to state; standardized MediGap plans also may be known as Medicare Select plans (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2002).

Member: Used synonymously with the terms enrollee and insured. A member is any individual or dependent who is enrolled in and covered by a managed health care plan.

Mental Health: Health and wellness that is related to the mind and emotions. Part of one’s overall health. 

Mental Health Center: A facility that provides individuals with services to support their recovery from a mental illness.

Mental Illness: A treatable condition of the mind and emotions that may affect the way an individual thinks, feels or behaves. Mental illnesses are treatable. All persons can recover; live, work, learn and participate fully in their communities.

Mental Illness/Substance Use: A phrase commonly used to refer to experiencing mental illness and substance use together. Currently, co-occurring is the preferred term, but dual diagnosis is also used.

Mixed State: When symptoms of mania and depression occur at the same time in bipolar disorder. During a mixed state depressed mood accompanies mania. 

Natural Supports: Mutual relationships and sources of assistance in the community outside the mental health system including friends, family, pets, religious organizations, schools and co-workers, for example.  

Night Terrors: In children, episodes in which a sleeping child becomes agitated, thrashes around physically, and may cry out. Attempts to wake or calm the child may increase the agitation.

Nervous Breakdown: An inaccurate and outdated term used in the past to describe anyone whose mental illness had reached a crisis stage, with the individual being placed in a hospital or institution for treatment.

Nurse Practitioner: Registered nurses whose additional education and training allows them to provide primary care services that formerly could be provided only by medical doctors.

Over the Counter: Medications available in a store without a prescription.

Outcomes: Results of treatment. Effective treatment results in positive outcomes such as reducing symptoms, living, working, learning and participating fully in the community.

Panic Attack: A panic attack is a treatable sudden episode of intense fear that develops for no apparent reason and that triggers severe physical reactions. Panic attacks can be very frightening. Panic attack symptoms often peak within 10 minutes and last about half an hour. Treatments such as medications, psychotherapy and relaxation techniques are effective and help to prevent or control panic attacks.

Parent Training: Programs that assist parents in learning to better manage a child's behavior in the home or at school.

Peer Support: When persons in recovery use their own experiences overcoming a mental health challenge to help others facing similar challenges.

Peer Counseling: A way for persons in recovery to support each other by listening. Before starting, the pair may agree on how much time is available and they divide it equally for speaking. When the first person is speaking, the other listens with undivided attention and without interruption. The roles then are reversed. This is a listening exercise, not meant for giving advice.

Personality Disorder: A treatable condition that has a pattern of interfering with a person’s understanding and approach to themselves, others or life circumstances. 

Plan of Care: A unique treatment plan designed for each child and family, based on individual strengths and needs, developed by the provider with input from the family and child. 

Policies: The written rules or guidelines an organization follows to do its business.

Postpartum Depression: A common and treatable episode of depression that some mothers experience within 1 month after delivery. It is fairly common and treatable, with 10 percent to 15 percent of women experiencing it after giving birth. 

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support: An approach to making safe and effective learning environments in schools. This approach uses data and teamwork to decide on approaches to teaching and discipline. 

Provider: A health center or health professional, which provides treatment.

Psychiatrist: A medical doctor who specializes in mental health care, including diagnosis and medication treatment. Child psychiatrists specialize in treating children and youth.

Psychologist: A mental health professional who provides services including counseling, therapy, psychological evaluation, testing and case coordination. Psychologists have doctorate degrees in psychology and are licensed by the state. Child psychologists specialize in treating children and youth.

Psychosis: A treatable condition where a person may experience a loss of contact with reality, hold to false beliefs despite all evidence to the contrary, or perceive things that are not there. 

Psychotherapy: Meeting with a licensed counselor, therapist or psychologist to help individuals cope with feelings and symptoms and change behavior patterns. Therapy works toward solutions. Most psychotherapy is short-term and is focused on present feelings. It can be part of a treatment plan to recover from mental illnesses and is also called talk therapy.

Psychotropic Medication: A medication that is prescribed by a doctor to reduce symptoms such as seeing or hearing things that are not there or having troubling or distorted thinking, also called psychiatric or psychotherapeutic medications. Medications often help people achieve recovery from mental illnesses. 

Rapid Cycling: A treatable condition in adult bipolar disorder, when four or more episodes of mood disturbance occur within one year. 

Reasonable Accommodation: A way to remove barriers for persons with disabilities so that they can work effectively. This is an agreement based on the individual’s medical needs and his employer’s resources. 

Recovery: Refers to the process in which persons are able to live, work, learn and participate fully in their communities. For some individuals, recovery is the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life despite a disability. For others, recovery implies the reduction or complete remission of symptoms. Science has shown that having hope plays an integral role in an individual's recovery. Science also shows that hope plays an integral role in an individual’s ability to recover.

Recovery Support: The practice of using one’s personal recovery experiences to support the recoveries of others.

Recovery Support Specialist: Individuals who use their personal recoveries from mental illness, or combined mental illness and substance use,disorder to support the recoveries of others and help improve the human service system.

Refusal of Services: The right a person has to not participate in mental health services. Exceptions may be made in accordance with the law in certain circumstances where an individual poses a danger to herself or others.

Rehabilitation: Regaining abilities lost or limited due to a disability.

Relapse: The return of symptoms that had been reduced or eliminated for a period of time. Relapses are setbacks that may occur on the journey to recovery. They are not the end of the road.

Release of Information: A document, signed by a person receiving services or their legal guardian, which gives a provider permission to share an individual’s confidential information with others. The individual or legal guardian has the right to choose whether to sign or not sign the form. 

Remission: A reversal of a disorder; leaving no symptoms.

Residential Services: Housing options that provide a setting for persons to live in the community and receive mental health treatment.

Residential Treatment Center: Facilities that provide treatment 24 hours a day with continual supervision.

Respite Care: A service that provides a break for parents who have a child with a serious emotional disturbance. Trained parents or counselors take care of the child for a brief period of time to give families relief. Respite may be provided in home or off site.

Resilience: The personal and community qualities that enable persons to rebound from adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or other stresses and to go on with life with a sense of mastery, competence and hope. We now understand from research that resilience is fostered by a positive childhood and includes positive individual traits, such as optimism, good problem-solving skills and treatments. Closely knit communities and neighborhoods are also resilient, providing support for their members.

Schizoaffective Disorder: A treatable mental illness where one experiences both severe mood challenges and symptoms of schizophrenia. 

Schizophrenia: A treatable mental illness where one may experience hearing or seeing things that are not there or have distorted thinking and beliefs that disrupt her life. 
Self tests that help a person to identify warning signs of a mental illness so he can seek treatment early and help to prevent further difficulty. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Depression that appears during late fall and winter, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression usually lifts during spring and summer. It can be effectively treated with light therapy, medication or psychotherapy. 

Self-medicating: The unhealthy practice of using alcohol and/or other drugs in an effort to alleviate stress or pain.

Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED): A treatable mental, behavioral or emotional disorder that disrupts a child or youth’s life. Children and youth can recover and experience resilience. 

Service Authorization: When an outside agency reviews treatment recommended for individuals by their mental health professionals, and confirms that the treatment plan is a good fit for them.

Shared Decision Making: The process of a person and her mental health professional coming together and talking about important decisions so that the experiences, perspectives and expertise of both individuals are taken into account.

Side Effect: Medications sometimes cause unintended effects which can range from minor annoyances to serious problems. It is important for persons to communicate with their doctors about side effects and what they hope to get out of a medication.

Social Worker: A person who provides mental health services including case coordination, counseling and therapy, treatment and discharge planning.

Substance Use Disorder: Excessive drinking or drug use that causes health or social problems. Substance use often leads to addiction (dependence).

Suicide Prevention: One of the most effective ways to prevent suicide is to talk directly about how one is feeling and seek support from caring persons and professionals. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Symptom: A sign of an illness. These signs help mental health professionals work toward identifying an accurate diagnosis. It is possible to live a fulfilling and productive life despite the presence of symptoms. It is also possible to experience reduction or remission of symptoms.

System of Care: A partnership between mental health, education, child welfare, juvenile justice and other agencies that work together to ensure that children with mental, emotional and behavioral problems and their families have access to the services and supports needed for success.

Therapy: Treatment by a clinician to help a person make changes in feelings, thoughts and actions. An individual may meet with the therapist face to face or with his family depending on needs.

Transition: The act of changing from one thing to another in a well planned way. This may include a change in housing, employment, relationships or services, for example. Good planning and support help make change successful.

Trauma: A life event that produces significant pain or emotional injury. It is possible to heal from the effects of trauma.

Treatment plan: An individualized plan to help a person reach their own goals in life and overcome challenges.  Treatment plans work best when they are based on the individual’s goals and involve the person in their creation. A treatment plan can be updated at any time as a person’s goals, health and circumstances change.

Twelve-step Program: An approach originally designed to help persons recover from alcoholism that has been modified to address other addictions, as well as physical and mental disorders. It includes concepts such as anonymity and an admission of powerlessness over addiction and need for strength from a higher power. Twelve Step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, meet regularly, often weekly.

Vocational Rehabilitation: Services provided to help persons with disabilities obtain and keep employment.

Waiver: Official permission to not follow a requirement.

Withdrawal Symptoms: Symptoms and signs that develop within a short period of time after stopping the use of a substance. Withdrawal symptoms depend upon the substance that was being used and vary in severity.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©Carelon Behavioral Health



  • Useful Tools

    Select a tool below

© 2024 Beacon Health Options, Inc.