Mental health conditions are becoming more common in the US. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that over one in five Americans live with a mental health condition. The good news, though, is that as mental health conversations become less stigmatized more people seek out treatment options.
The bad news, however, is that there is still a lot of confusion and misunderstanding when it comes to mental health outpatient therapy. This can be a major roadblock when setting out on the path to emotional well-being.
So what is outpatient therapy? What are its benefits? And, most importantly, how do you know if it’s the right fit for you? Holly Hill Hospital dives into everything you need to know about outpatient therapy.
What Is Outpatient Therapy?
Outpatient therapy refers to any psychotherapeutic treatment option provided by a licensed behavioral health professional that does not require admission to a hospital or residential facility. It is one of the most popular mental health treatment options available and a common resource for people seeking mental health support.
Outpatient treatment typically takes place in a hospital, a mental health facility (such as Holly Hill Hospital), doctor’s office or private practice. Since the arrival of COVID-19, however, virtual options have also become more popular as a safe alternative to those who may not feel comfortable seeking help in-person.
The length of mental health outpatient programs varies on a case-by-case basis. Treatment plans may depend on factors such as the severity of the condition, individual needs and preferences, and professional recommendations. Overall, you may expect to spend at least a few hours each week attending outpatient programs.
Outpatient Programs vs. Inpatient Programs
There are several key differences between outpatient programs and inpatient ones.
Hospitalization: As the name suggests, inpatient therapy programs require long-term (at least overnight) hospitalization, while outpatient programs do not. In an inpatient setting, patients live in a residential facility with others and have around-the-clock access to medical assistance. In an outpatient program, the patient goes to their appointment and returns home once it is over.
Severity of the Condition: Outpatient programs may be better suited for those capable of managing their day-to-day lives without devastating disruptions to their routine. Inpatient programs, on the other hand, are designed for those who struggle to live independently and whose daily lives are either endangered or significantly affected by their condition (examples may include a residential stay because of substance use disorders or a mental health crisis).
Costs: Generally speaking, inpatient programs are more expensive than outpatient ones. This is usually because inpatient programs require a prolonged stay in a hospitalized setting.
A good rule of thumb to remember the difference between the two is this: With an inpatient program you are “in” a medical setting 24/7, while in an outpatient one you are “out” for most of the time.
What Are the Most Common Outpatient Programs?
Overall, there are two types of outpatient treatment:
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) provide structured and intensive care to people struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse conditions that do not require around-the-clock assistance. It enables patients to carry on with their lives while seeking treatment.
Intensive outpatient programs usually occur 2-3 times per week and last at least a few hours. Holly Hill’s intensive outpatient program, for example, occurs three times per week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) from 8:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
IOPs may be used after an inpatient stay as a way to help individuals re-adapt to their lives outside the hospital/facility.
Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), on the other hand, are a more structured type of outpatient therapy. They are ideal for individuals needing higher levels of care, while still not requiring an overnight stay.
Given the nature of these programs, PHPs may last anywhere from 4-8 hours and may occur as frequently as five days a week. Holly Hill’s partial hospitalization program, for example, occurs five times per week (Monday through Friday), from 8:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
PHPs typically act as an “in-between” alternative to inpatient programs.
Overall, there are many similarities and differences between IOPs and PHPs.
Outpatient Therapy Options
Outpatient therapy options depend on various factors, including the types of mental health conditions experienced. They may include:
Evidence-Based Therapy (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy)
Based on your condition, a healthcare professional will help you assess which types of therapy and treatment plans best suit your needs.
What Conditions Does Outpatient Therapy Treat?
Outpatient therapy is a helpful treatment option for the following conditions:
Substance abuse disorders (including rehab and detox)
Mental health disorders (such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, borderline personality disorders, and more)
In addition to this, outpatient therapy treatment may be a good option for those who have experienced a sudden traumatic or stressful event. This may include an accident, a divorce or other difficult interpersonal relationships, and more.
What Are the Benefits Of Outpatient Therapy?
There are several benefits to opting for outpatient therapy. They include:
Continuity: As previously mentioned, mental health outpatient therapy enables you to carry on with your day-to-day life with minimal disruption, thus giving you more control over your life.
Privacy: Compared to an inpatient setting, outpatient treatment may also provide more discretion.
Cost-Efficiency: Although mental health outpatient therapy may still be costly, it is typically a more cost-efficient solution than inpatient therapy. At the same time, however, you may be able to find insurance coverage for both options, thus relieving your financial burden.
Understanding Your Condition: During outpatient therapy, you are likely to address a variety of mental health topics, including the origin of distress, the magnitude of the issue and coping mechanisms This has the potential to help you understand more about your condition, including what steps to take toward healing.
More Options: There is no one-size-fits-all solution to mental health. Outpatient psychiatric treatment gives you many options, including the setting (virtual vs. in-person), treatment type (IOP vs. PHP), and therapy styles (individual vs. group vs. family). You can also choose who you want to see, enabling you to find your perfect mental health professional match.
Is Outpatient Therapy the Right Fit for Me?
Now that you’ve gained a better idea of what mental health outpatient therapy is and what it looks like, you may be wondering if it’s the best option for you or your loved one.
When deciding whether an outpatient program is the right fit for you, Holly Hill Hospital encourages you to consider the following:
Have you recently undergone a traumatic or stressful experience?
Are you able to live independently despite your mental health struggles?
Are you trying to get to the bottom of your condition? Find coping mechanisms?
Do you feel comfortable in a one-on-one environment?
Depending on your answers to these questions, you may want to consider outpatient therapy. You may also evaluate your options with a licensed healthcare professional.
Begin Your Healing Journey Today
At Holly Hill Hospital, we believe that the journey toward healing starts with empowerment. Understanding what outpatient treatment is, its techniques and its strategies, you are now equipped to make informed decisions about your health.
Located in Raleigh, North Carolina, our compassionate team provides a judgment-free path to recovery. Holly Hill’s outpatient programs treat adolescents, adults and seniors.