The Top 5 Best Doctor of Behavioral Health (DBH) Degrees

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Updated: February 23, 2024, Reading time: 20 minutes

doctor of behavioral health

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Often referred to as DBH, the Doctor of Behavioral Health program is designed for medical practitioners who want to understand how one’s health behavior affects their overall well-being.

Graduates of this advanced program are trained to deliver whole-person healthcare to diverse communities. They are expected to employ evidence-based practice and utilize the power of informatics to improve the quality of healthcare being provided to different populations.

Problems addressed by behavioral health professionals include depression, hypertension, anxiety, HIV, addiction, substance abuse, and more. While their jobs might be similar to the work of psychiatrists and psychologists, they often charge relatively lower fees, which allows patients to achieve medical cost savings.

Not only do DBH professionals devise solutions for mental health issues. They also tackle how these issues can affect one’s physical health. This means integrated behavioral health interventions are part and parcel of their responsibilities.

Earning a Doctor of Behavioral Health is a good step toward boosting one’s credentials, allowing graduates to become behavioral health consultants, health educators, healthcare consultants, behavioral health providers, and clinical managers, among others. It is a good foundation that helps prepare behavioral health providers for a meaningful and impactful career.

Quick audio summary:


Healthcare professionals who want to pursue a doctorate in behavioral health will find that many colleges and universities offer terminal degrees online. This means they can juggle their career along with their pursuit of higher education. Most online behavioral health programs offer the same curriculum as their traditional counterparts. Plus, they are often taught by the same experienced faculty. The only difference is that the online program is delivered through the power of the internet and video conferencing tools, making it a good choice for working professionals.


Some DBH programs are delivered in hybrid formats, meaning there is a good blend of distance learning and on-campus classes. To get admitted into the program, one will often be required to hold a master’s degree from a regionally accredited university.

We help you choose the best Online Doctor of Behavioral Health program! We evaluated the country’s top-rated universities offering DBH online and came up with the best five with these factors in mind:

Want to learn more about our ranking methods? Check our Methodology for details.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

The Best Doctor of Behavioral Health Degree Online

Freed-Hardeman University

Doctor of Behavioral Health

Freed-Hardeman University is one of the few universities in the country that offer an online Doctor of Behavioral Health program. This doctoral degree equips students with advanced clinical and executive leadership skills that will give them ample preparation to make a transformative impact on the healthcare system and become valuable healthcare providers. Students are taught how to provide advanced integrated care valuable to both clients and agencies.

Open to practitioners with master’s degrees, licenses, and experience in the field, this online program is designed to accommodate part-time and full-time students. Students can complete the coursework online or attend on-campus classes in Henderson, Memphis, or Dickson.

The courses include Suffering and the Human Condition, Basis of Human Behavior, Advanced Research Methods, Advanced Clinical Psychology, Behavioral Healthcare Executive Leaders, and Evidence-Based Treatment Clinical Practice, among many others. 

In lieu of dissertation courses, a capstone research project needs to be completed, ensuring that students will have a broader range of research topics compared to most Ph.D. programs. This also gives them an opportunity to customize their learning and pave a path that applies to their job as helping professionals.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University
Doctor of Behavioral Health

Students who want a more successful career in the field of modern healthcare may want to consider earning a Doctor of Behavioral Health program from Arizona State University.

Featuring a clinical concentration, this program is designed for clinicians with a master’s degree who want to gain advanced learning opportunities not only in behavioral interventions but also in medical literacy and entrepreneurship. They will be equipped with the training and insights necessary for a rewarding career in the modern primary care environment.

The clinical concentration offers specialized coursework with an emphasis on evidence-based behavioral interventions. On top of the coursework, this 84-credit doctoral program also requires licensed students to complete a 400-hour internship in practical and primary healthcare settings.

The curriculum is tailored to those who want to pursue organizational leadership roles in the integrated healthcare field, touching on medical literacy and entrepreneurship.

Both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities are available to graduate students in this program. This means that they will be able to customize their own schedule according to their goals and needs while collaborating with their classmates and instructors in real-time.

The clinical concentration features core courses such as population-based health management, behavioral health entrepreneurship, models of integrated primary care, brief interventions in primary care, and pharmacology for the behavioral healthcare provider, among others.

Alternatively, students can earn a Doctor of Behavioral Health with a Management concentration. This program is also 100% online and geared towards those who want to take on administrative roles.

Walden University

Doctor of Psychology in Behavioral Health Leadership

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Walden University offers an online Doctor of Psychology in Behavioral Health Leadership program that is on a non-licensure track.

Being a Health Leadership Leadership, this psychology program goes beyond psychological concepts related to Behavioral Health and teaches students business and management skills, instruction and training approaches, program evaluation, and other cross-disciplinary knowledge.

Students in Walden University’s Doctor of Psychology degree program have the option of pursuing a further specialization and enhancing their expertise in six areas.

The program specialization areas are completed after taking an additional three courses and include the following areas:

Inclusive of the foundation course, core courses, research, and optional specialization courses, the program has around 78 credits, excluding the Doctoral Capstone Writing Course. The Capstone writing course is worth five credits per term and can be completed in a minimum of four continuous terms.

Nevertheless, students have up to eight years to complete the program unless they petition for an extension.

Grand Canyon University

Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership – Emphasis on Behavioral Health (EdD)

Grand Canyon University of Phoenix Arizona offers a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership, a qualitative-oriented degree program with an emphasis in Behavioral Health.

While this is an EdD degree program and not a Doctor of Psychology degree, it has the benefit of introducing students to clinical intervention methods while also delivering an intensive exploration of leadership styles and principles, as well as concepts on supervision.

This EdD degree program is mainly centered on the concept of Organizational Leadership, which is a good introduction to concepts in Behavioral Health. Under the program, students will learn a blend of business principles and practices, on top of expanding their understanding of clinical interventions.

The program includes courses on behavioral health management, behavioral health entrepreneurship, as well as strategic planning and change. The curriculum focuses on a number of key topic areas, which include the following:

The program has a total of 60 credit hours and is offered through online and evening classes. It is a program that is designed specifically for those seeking to take leadership roles in a behavioral health organization.

A lot of the coursework is delivered online; however, students in the program are required to attend 2 or 3 five-day residencies as part of their dissertation process.

While this degree has an emphasis on qualitative research, Grand Canyon University offers an equivalent and parallel Quantitative Program, which is focused on developing skills and expertise in sampling plan formulation and data collection.

Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Studies

Doctor of Behavioral Health

A private institution based in Tempe, Arizona, the Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Sciences is by far one of the youngest universities in the country, having been established in 2015. 

As an institution with a highly specialized focus, they are one of only a small handful of universities that grant the Doctor of Behavioral Health (DBH) degree and one of even fewer to offer an online option to working professionals with its 100% online doctoral degree program.

Perhaps the most notable and unique feature of CGI’s Doctor of Behavioral Health program is that it is anchored on the Biodyne Model, a patient-centered, whole-person approach to behavioral health that was developed by CGI’s founder, Dr. Nicholas Cummings, Ph.D., Sc.D.

Likewise, the Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Studies is a pioneering institution that focuses exclusively on the growing field of integrated healthcare.

With respect to the Cummings Graduate Institute’s core thrusts, their Doctor of Behavioral Health program is aimed at equipping integrated care professionals to competently and effectively deliver whole-person and patient-centered care to a wide array of diverse populations and specialty medical settings and to work towards improving access to quality healthcare for all.

Students in the program are likewise prepared to utilize informatics in their delivery of primary care, use quality improvement approaches, employ evidence-based practice, and work seamlessly with other professionals as part of an interdisciplinary team.

The DBH program has 60 credit hours in total and has a minimum of 22 courses. Each course in Spring and Fall terms lasts around 12 weeks, and the program is delivered 100% online, without residency or internship requirements.

The program takes an average of three years to complete, but to accommodate the pre-existing work arrangements of professionals who may want to enroll, a part-time enrollment option is also available.

The Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Studies prides itself on offering the country’s most affordable Doctor of Behavioral Health program, with a cost of around $400 per credit hour.

Likewise, CGI offers scholarship opportunities and is approved to accept VA Education Benefits for eligible veterans and their beneficiaries.

Careers in Behavioral Health

In a way, behavioral health is both specialized in that it is a branch of healthcare and broad in that it takes a big-picture view of an entire person and their context in coming up with solutions to address their mental health concerns.

Similarly, students in DBH degree programs come from a variety of professional backgrounds but are mainly from the healthcare sector, such as nurses, psychologists, counselors, therapists, or social workers.

Professionals with a degree in behavioral health can take on a number of careers, primarily within the healthcare industry in patient-care positions and fields, which include the following:

Behavioral Health Director

With opportunities to work in various healthcare settings, behavioral health directors hold predominantly administrative and behavioral health leadership positions but still manage to have huge impacts on the population they serve.

They are responsible for ensuring that the facilities they are administrating are stable and efficient. Often, optimizing budgets and managing staff, along with formulating treatments that empower people, are part of well-managed behavioral healthcare organizations, so behavioral health directors are expected to be good at these tasks.

They are valuable in ensuring that the healthcare financial management side of things is properly handled.

Behavioral Health Care Manager

Tasked with coordinating the group and ensuring that effective communication among team members is practiced, behavioral health care managers also perform care management tasks.

This includes psychotherapy when that is part of the treatment plan. They usually participate in diagnosis and treatment planning, as well as supporting medication management.

Counselor & Family Therapist

Part of the duties of counselors and family therapists is helping people in dealing with their family and other relationship problems. They often encourage clients to discuss their emotions and experiences.

To help clients, cognitive behavioral therapy is often applied with a goal-oriented approach that guides clients in understanding their harmful thoughts and replacing them with positive ones.

Behavioral Health Entrepreneur

Integral to the behavioral health system, behavioral health entrepreneurs play an important role in expanding access and integration. They often coordinate with policymakers and providers to find new ways of solving old problems plaguing the integrated healthcare systems.

Non-Profit Organizations

There are dozens of non-profit organizations nationwide that are focused on various aspects and issues surrounding mental health. These non-profits play a critical role in bringing access to mental health care—specifically behavioral healthcare—to underserved sectors.

They also play a role in promoting awareness and education regarding these various issues and, to an extent, help shape behavioral healthcare policy. Behavioral health professionals can play a role within these organizations as active leaders and as key resource persons.

Independent Consultant/Healthcare consultant

Professionals who have a doctor of behavioral health program can conceivably bring their expertise to a wide range of fields by taking on independent consultant roles.

Various industries and organizations can reach out to them if they need a behavioral health consultant’s expert input and specific services, for example, with regard to strategic planning guidance, crafting of policies, and best practices.

Clinical Manager

As clinical managers, behavioral health experts act as part of larger teams that operate according to a larger overall policy direction and oversee any aspects of these larger policy directions related to behavioral health.

Health Coach

Behavioral health is largely anchored on the specific contexts and realities of individual patients. Health Coaches work within this one-to-one mode of healthcare delivery to help improve not only patients’ health outcomes but also their overall quality of life.

Health Educator/Teaching Roles

Similar to health coaches, health educators, such as Special Education teachers, play a guiding role in educating individuals and groups with regard to living a healthier lifestyle, which would include mental and behavioral health aspects.

Healthcare personnel offer expertise in assessing specific needs and coming up with programs and policies that would best address specific health education needs. Likewise, their role as experts may also extend to program assessment and oversight roles during the implementation stage of such programs.

Skills and Knowledge that Successful Behavioral Health Professionals Often Employ

Professionals in behavioral healthcare settings, like primary care medical homes and other medical settings, need specialized skills to increase their success in the workplace. These are also quite valuable in their pursuit of more advanced knowledge and skills that a Doctor of Behavioral Health program can offer.

Mental Health

Ample knowledge and skills when it comes to mental and behavioral health issues are a must in the field of behavioral health. It is important that one knows how to evaluate cases of mental health issues in order to determine the kind of behavioral intervention and individualized support one should provide, such as effective mental health care.

Patient Care

Often integral to population health management, patient care is provided to patients, often encompassing the diagnosis, recovery, and control of sickness. It is also important in maintaining mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

Behavioral health professionals often collaborate with resident physicians to deliver patient-centered care and treatment to patients.

Crisis Intervention

Behavioral health workers must know how to offer immediate and short-term help to individuals experiencing stressful or traumatic events that cause emotional, mental, and physical distress.

They must employ crisis intervention skills to help their patients return to functioning levels before the crisis and develop new coping skills that are more effective and safe. Integrated behavioral health interventions are also just as important.


Every healthcare professional must know how to empathize with patients, especially during difficult situations. Empathy is often associated with effective therapeutic consultations, helping a behavioral health consultant to provide better healthcare service.

Communication Skills

Most workplaces require a good dose of communication. Knowing how to communicate effectively with fellow healthcare providers will make a behavioral health professional’s work easier.

Good communication skills are also integral when speaking with patients and their families, allowing one to foster positive relationships with team members and patients.


Most behavioral health practices need to be flexible. They often work on a team and may need to pick up a shift or stay late when the need arises. More than dealing with hectic and changing schedules, flexibility is also demonstrated by being adaptable in handling new and changing environments.

One must learn to abandon routine and adapt easily as one takes on more demanding roles in behavioral health settings.  

Time Management

In healthcare fields, situations are commonly time-sensitive. Professionals working in the industry must take on their tasks with a sense of urgency. This requires them to manage their time effectively and efficiently.

It would be quite helpful if they learned how to prioritize and triage important matters needing their attention. Knowing to put the most pressing issue first will help them manage their tasks and maximize their time.


It may not seem much, but being confident in what they do can empower most healthcare professionals, and those working in the behavioral health field are no exception. Behavioral health professionals who embody confidence are esteemed by patients and are often given high evaluation scores after the treatment process.

Plus, they often make crucial decisions, so confidence in deciding what needs to be done and how to advance the behavioral health system in the right direction is a valuable skill. They will be able to make a huge difference in organizational leadership roles with this important skill.

Stress Management

Many healthcare professionals work under extreme pressure. Handling their responsibilities and assuming leadership roles can contribute to stress, which puts them at high risk of burnout. They need to employ proper stress-management techniques to avoid it and make their professional practice more manageable.

Positive Attitude

Since they are advancing optimum health, healthcare professionals can make use of their positive attitude to inspire patients and keep them motivated throughout treatment plans.

Their positive outlook can also help in making sure they maintain their mental health even with the overwhelming responsibilities.

Why is a Doctor of Behavioral Health degree worth it?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a Doctor of Behavioral Health degree worth it?

Licensed and master’s level professionals in the healthcare industry will find Doctor of Behavioral Health valuable to the advancement of their careers, especially if they are aiming to assume leadership roles and make a huge impact in modern healthcare delivery.

This degree program offers substantial training in all aspects of human behavior, from observation to understanding. They may find opportunities to conduct research, whether on a small or large scale, and publish their findings about the wonders of human behavior and how it affects one’s overall health.

Depending on their concentration or learning track, a DBH may lead one to hold key roles in the healthcare field or proceed to teach in universities. They will find plenty of career opportunities in various settings, from mental health treatment to product engineering. Earning this online degree will enhance their credentials and boost their compensation.

What can one expect from a Doctor of Behavioral Health program?

Often presented as an alternative to the more research-oriented Ph.D. program, the Doctor of Behavioral Health degree is a more clinical and evidence-based practice.

Its curriculum is broader, allowing a wider range of topics. Designed to shape healthcare professionals who wish to practice in a variety of healthcare settings, this program helps prepare students for lucrative careers as behavioral health consultants or other types of behavioral health experts.

Graduates of this program are expected to apply the knowledge and skills they gained to deliver evidence-based screening, assessment, and behavioral interventions needed in primary care settings.

They are also taught how to design cost-effective health approaches for diverse populations, which are integral to the treatment of chronic and morbid conditions.

Are there available financial aid options for DBH students?

There are universities that offer financial aid in various forms to the doctor of behavioral health students. Some do away with out-of-state tuition as a form of financial aid, especially when it comes to online Doctor of Behavioral Health programs.

Students may take advantage of financial aid benefits afforded to them, including scholarships, grants, and veteran benefits. Scholarships and grants may require them to ensure that they achieve academic excellence in their pursuit of advanced education.

They can also check with their chosen higher learning institution if there are loan programs available. If they are employed, they may find out whether their employer offers educational assistance that may be admissible in the university of their choice.

Does a career in Behavioral Health require one to pass a licensure exam?

Currently no. As of this writing, the title of Doctor of Behavioral Health is a non-licensure position, and there are no existing licensure exams for it in the country as of yet.

The profession, however, still continues to evolve, and more importantly, some states may have laws and regulations that govern the use of the title of “Doctor” in professional practice.

What are the usual requirements for admission into a DBH Program?

This degree, like any other doctoral program, is focused on delivering advanced practice skills when it comes to healthcare delivery and conducting original research. Most programs are also designed for a specific sector of healthcare professionals.

Specifics vary by university, but at the very least, it is often preferred that applicants have a master’s degree from a number of fields that are directly related to healthcare and psychology, such as counseling, family therapy, occupational health, nursing, anthropology, sociology, psychology, or social work.

Aside from this, the usual minimum grade point average (GPA) cutoffs common to other doctorate degree programs also apply.

What is the duration of completing an online DBH program?

Online DBH degree programs currently available in the country have around 60 to 80 credit hours and may take around 2 to 3 years to complete. Some programs also have a certain number of hours or days of required internships, and students on part-time enrollment can expect to take longer to finish than full-time students.

Key Takeaways

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