What is outpatient mental health treatment and is it the right choice for me?
Mental health or behavioral health is a general term that includes mental health, addiction, and dual diagnosis. People seek mental health treatment in order to feel relief from emotional upset and to improve their daily functioning in their family, social relationships and at work or school. Mental health treatment is effective in reducing depression, anxiety, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), borderline personality disorder, or any of several other personality disorders.
Many individuals with addictions who become “sick and tired of being sick and tired” find recovery from drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, spending, food and other addictions when they receive mental health treatment.
Mental Health Treatment Options
Behavioral health includes many treatment options. Each treatment option is referred to as a “level of care.” The behavioral health level of care that a patient receives depends on his/her condition as well as the seriousness of the individual’s symptoms. However, we can categorize treatment options into two main types:
1- Inpatient hospital (for emergencies that require 24 hrs care)
2- Outpatient mental health services (for illnesses that do not require you to stay overnight in a hospital or treatment center). The outpatient level of care includes several treatment options that depend on the seriousness of the individual’s symptoms. Here are some factors to consider when determining which treatment option is right for you:
a- How much disruption in your life have the symptoms caused?
b- How long have you been experiencing the symptoms?
c- Have you had behavioral health treatment in the past and has it been helpful?
d- Do you the resources such as time, social support, financial to devote to a specific level of care? This may include taking time away from family and friends, work or school.
What treatment options are included in the outpatient level of care?
There are three outpatient options that range from the “most restrictive to least restrictive”. These 3 options are:
1) Partial Hospitalization: The Partial Hospital level of care is highly structured and includes daily group therapy sessions, activities, individual therapy, medication management, family therapy. A partial hospital program often provides 6 hours per day of services and usually requires the patient’s full-time attendance. Only residential treatment or inpatient hospital levels of care are more restrictive. Patients may live at home but usually do not work or attend school while in the partial hospital program.
2) Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): The IOP level of care typically provides 3 hrs of group therapy per day for 3 or 5 days/evenings per week. Individual therapy is also provided. Medication management is available as needed. Patients who participate in an IOP usually live in the community and many continue to attend school or work.
3) Traditional Outpatient: Usually simply called “outpatient”, the Outpatient level of care is the least disruptive to a patient’s daily schedule. Outpatient usually consists of one or two psychotherapy sessions per week and medication management as needed.
Participation in the more restrictive levels of care such as a partial hospital or intensive outpatient program often requires approval from your health insurance company and may require significant time away from home or work. Traditional outpatient is the least disruptive to your schedule and is the most convenient level of care.
Is Outpatient the right level of care for me?
For most people seeking help with a behavioral health illness, including addictions, the outpatient level of care is appropriate. While each person’s situation is unique, the outpatient level of care is usually the first behavioral health treatment. It is important to note that your health insurance company may have specific “medical necessity” guidelines that will help determine which level of care your condition requires.
What are some indications that the outpatient level of care may not be the right choice for me?
Outpatient mental health treatment is the right choice for most people who are seeking recovery from an addiction and/or mental health illness. However, certain situations require a more highly structured treatment than available in an Outpatient level of care. Take a look at the following four examples as situations that require more restrictive treatment:
1. You are currently having thoughts of hurting yourself and you have a plan to hurt yourself and you intend on using this plan. If this is true for you, then call 911 or go to the closest hospital/emergency room.
2. You are currently having thoughts of hurting another person(s) and you have a plan to hurt that person(s) and you intend on using this plan. If this is true for you, then call 911 or go to the closest hospital/emergency room
3. You are currently hearing voices or seeing things that others are not hearing or seeing. If this describes you, then call 911 or go to the closest hospital/emergency room.
4. You need detox or are currently experiencing painful withdrawal from alcohol or drugs. If this is true for you, then call 911 or go to the closest emergency room/hospital.
If none of these describe your current situation, then Outpatient may be the right choice for you.
Why Harbor Psychiatry and Mental Health?
Among the many behavioral health providers available in Orange County, Harbor Psychiatry and Mental Health is a leader in integrative behavioral healthcare. This means that the Harbor Psychiatry and Mental Health psychiatrists, addictionologists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and psychologists are on the same team and located in the same office. This is more convenient for our patients and ensures close coordination between medication management and psychotherapy. Since all of our providers share the same medical records there is no need for our patients to worry about coordinating their medical records between their psychologist and their psychiatrist. Our psychologists and psychiatric team meet regularly to review patient progress. You can rest assured that your psychiatrist and psychologist communicate regularly about your treatment progress.
Harbor Psychiatry and Mental Health provides the full range of Outpatient services including medication management, psychotherapy, psychological testing, and genetic testing. Our providers include specialists in geriatric psychiatry and geriatric psychology, child psychology, addictions, eating disorders, trauma and abuse. Sub-specialty areas include medication management and psychotherapy for bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, treatment-resistant depression, and PTSD. All of our therapists are highly experienced doctoral-level psychologists who provide trauma-informed individual therapy, family therapy, and couples therapy.