WHAM! Using Whole Health Action Management to Address Mental Health and Substance Use Concerns

Over 60 years ago, Dr. Brock Chisholm, a psychiatrist and the first Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) said “Without mental health there can be no true physical health.” It’s now universally accepted that mental health and physical health are related and both must be included in any comprehensive personal recovery plan for mental illness or addiction. This combined focus on physical and mental health has been referred to as integrated care, holistic health, and whole health, among other terms.

A great example of an integrated health approach to more effectively manage mental health and substance use issues is WHAM, or Whole Health Action Management, developed by the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions. According to the authors, WHAM is a science-based health plan, created by peers for peers, to teach individuals how to set and achieve whole health goals via weekly action plans and 8-week support groups. A 2-day, in-person training teaches interested persons how to lead and facilitate a WHAM program.

In addition, WHAM provides education about the basic health screenings for prevention and it encourages shared decision-making with health professionals. WHAM is based on long-term disease self-management programs such as HARP (Health and Recovery Peer Program) and research-based approaches like the Relaxation Response.

The overall goals of the WHAM approach are to:

1) Write an achievable whole health goal and weekly action plans

2) Participate in peer support groups to create new health behaviors

3) Elicit the relaxation response to manage stress

4) Engage in cognitive skills to avoid negative thinking

5) Know basic whole health screenings and how to prepare for them

6) Complete a shared-decision-making form for more engaging meetings with doctors

10 Health and Resiliency Factors

The WHAM training model includes 10 health and resiliency factors. As each person develops their own whole health goals and plans, they will look at their current patterns, interests, and strengths in each of these 10 factors:

  1. Stress Management
  2. Healthy Eating
  3. Physical Activity
  4. Restful Sleep
  5. Service to Others
  6. Support Network
  7. Optimism Based on Positive Expectations
  8. Cognitive Skills to Avoid Negative Thinking
  9. Spiritual Beliefs and Practices
  10. A Sense of Meaning and Purpose

Outline and Format of WHAM

The WHAM materials are organized as follows:

Session 1: Welcome and Overview – This session includes an introduction to the program, a discussion of the 10 health and resiliency factors, an overview of the person-centered planning process and “5 keys to success.”

Session 2: The Science of Stress – This session describes the stress response, the relaxation response, and stress management techniques.

Session 3: Improving Your Health – This session covers the importance of and strategies for healthy eating, physical activity, and restful sleep.

Session 4: The Power of Human Connections – This session discusses the benefits of providing service to others and developing a strong support network.

Session 5: The Importance of Attitude – This session introduces the value of optimism based on positive expectations and how to use cognitive skills to avoid negative thinking.

Session 6: Connecting With That Which Is More Than Self – This session discusses spiritual beliefs and practices and the importance of finding a sense of meaning and purpose in one’s life.

Session 7: Health Risk, Screening, and Shared Decision-Making – This session covers common health risks, recommended health screenings, how to have effective shared decision-making about health issues with health care providers, and useful health screening resources.

Session 8: Key to Success 1 – This session describes the first of the 5 keys to success, which is setting a person-centered goal. Also included is a review and prioritization of the 10 health and resiliency factors, and applying six “IMPACT Criteria” to maximize the likelihood of achieving the personal goal.

Session 9: Keys to Success 2 & 3 – This session covers the second and third keys to success: having a weekly action plan and a daily/weekly personal log.

Session 10: Keys to Success 4 & 5 – This final session covers the last two keys to success: one-to-one peer support and a peer support group.

Typically, about 6 hours (usually three 2-hour meetings) are required to present the material from the 10 sessions described above. Then, participants will meet once a week for 8 weeks in a peer support group to discuss their progress toward developing and implementing their personal whole health goals and plans.

Learn More About WHAM

WHAM is an innovative program that’s definitely worth a look. The WHAM materials are divided into a participant guide and an implementation manual for group facilitators. If you want to start a WHAM program, you would first need to identify facilitators who would meet and review the provider manual and plan the program for your local area. Here are the links to each of the reference manuals:

Whole Health Action Management (WHAM) Peer Support Training Participant Guide, SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions, April, 2012.

WHAM Implementation Manual for Peer Providers, SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions, 2014.

Here’s a question: How could you or someone you care about benefit from the WHAM approach? Please leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!

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