What Outpatient Therapy Can Do

Each year in the US, one in five adults experience mental illness. One in six children age 6–17 experience a mental health disorder. Fortunately, there are multiple treatment settings that offer choices appropriate for the circumstances, the disorder involved and each person’s needs.

The most available, and most common, treatment setting is outpatient therapy. Of the 11.6+ million mental health treatment facilities in the US, 77% offer outpatient options. There’s are reasons for this, but first let’s consider each setting, what it provides and who benefits from it.

Of the 11.6+ million mental health treatment facilities in the US, 77% offer outpatient options.

US Department of Health and Human Services

Inpatient and “In Between” Settings

Treatment settings for mental health are often categorized as inpatient or outpatient; there are also a few “in between” settings.

Inpatient treatment is usually dictated by urgent circumstances, or when a higher level of support or longer-term treatment is needed.

  • Inpatient hospitalization is appropriate when a patient is at risk of harming themselves or others, or during acute phases of mental illness when full-time care is required. Patients stay long enough to be stabilized—often several days to two weeks—before being released to continue treatment elsewhere.
  • Residential treatment settings provide longer-term, 24/7 care for patients who have severe symptoms or can’t function independently. Stays can be indefinite for mental health disorders, but stays for alcohol and substance rehabilitation are often 30 days; the highly structured environment away from home and relapse triggers offers an opportunity to focus on recovery.

“In between” treatment settings are technically outpatient programs that provide intermediate levels of care. They are comprehensive, structured programs that offer a variety of therapies from individual psychotherapy to group counseling and support, as well as holistic treatments.

  • Partial hospitalization programs (aka “day programs”) involve 6+ hours a day, most days of the week, providing maximum support for outpatients who attend during the day and go home at night; these are often used as step-down from hospitalization.
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs, or “structured outpatient” programs) involve fewer hours, sometimes during the evening, allowing participants to continue their work or schooling.

Outpatient Treatment

Forty percent of treatment facilities in the US are exclusively outpatient. This setting allows people to address their mental health challenges in a more independent setting with the help of a professional. Therapies may include individual, group and family counseling with psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. Practitioners may also provide medication evaluation and management.

Outpatient therapy is delivered during one- or two-hour sessions weekly, every other week or monthly with a therapist, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist (sometimes concurrently). Outpatient is well suited for those:

  • with mild to moderate symptoms who can function outside the treatment setting.
  • who may be going through a difficult time as result of divorce, trauma, loss of a loved one or major life changes.
  • who need to maintain their mental health after leaving a more intensive program such as inpatient or residential treatment.

The four most common mental health disorders among adults—anxiety, depression, PTSD and bipolar disorder—are well suited to outpatient treatment. Therapists may specialize in certain types of therapies, but multi-practitioner offices usually offer several options.

Outpatient support can also take the form of 12-step programs and support groups. These are often free, community-based programs that connect people with others who face the same challenges, such as alcohol addiction or grief. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has support groups for those navigating mental health challenges and for their families.

Advantages of Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient therapy’s main advantage is continuity; you can continue to live your life while you’re in treatment. It allows you to stay in the familiar surroundings of home and stay connected to family and friends who can provide needed support. If you care for loved ones, that can continue without interruption. Outpatient therapy gives you flexibility to choose appointments that meet your needs and fit into your schedule, with a choice of providers.

In contrast to more expensive inpatient programs that may not be covered by insurance, outpatient treatment is more budget friendly. Costs are generally lower; outpatient doesn’t require room or board like inpatient settings. Some insurances pay for outpatient services following a diagnosis; government-sponsored plans (such as Medicare, Affordable Care Act plans and plans offered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program) cover mental health services in various settings.

An outpatient setting also:

  • offers more privacy. You continue to go to work or school like always, and  others will not know you’re getting treated unless you choose to tell them.
  • helps you learn how to cope with stressors in your everyday environment.
  • offers the same or similar therapy options as inpatient settings, including group therapies, education, and medication management.

Take Care of Your Mental Health

Treatment settings can be thought of on a continuum, from the constant, more structured care of inpatient facilities to the independence of outpatient therapy. You may need both settings—or an in-between option—at different times in your life. The good news is, there are lots of options, and you can move between them as your needs change.

Any course of care should start with an assessment that involves reviewing your and your family’s medical and mental health history and other considerations. Best Day’s counselors are trained to assess each client’s unique situation; our mental health professionals will recommend the best treatment option possible to facilitate a life that can be lived to its fullest.

How We Can Help You?

Best Day Psychiatry and Counseling is here to help you have a better day and find a better way. We treat a wide range of psychiatric conditions for both children and adults. Contact us today, we’re ready to help:

Fayetteville: (910) 323-1543  Fuquay-Varina: (919) 567-0684  Raleigh: (919) 670-3939  Greenville: (252) 375-3322  Durham: (919) 659-8686