Outpatient Mental Health: When It’s the Best Option

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Outpatient mental health session in an office.

Mental health is similar to many different types of physical health challenges in that for those who are suffering from an illness, there are varying degrees of severity. One important difference between the two situations is that more people are unaware of when outpatient mental health treatment is the best option as opposed to inpatient, or residential treatment. That confusion can lead to a lack of action, thereby causing the person who is struggling to continue to suffer.

SoCal Empowered is an inpatient mental health provider. The people who work with us come to stay at one of our facilities in Orange County or in Idaho. We treat all sorts of different challenges, but often times, we tell people who contact us that outpatient mental health is the option that makes the most sense for them. If they agree, then we will help them find a resource that gives them the best chance for success.

So, when does outpatient mental health treatment make more sense than a residential program? We’re going to dive into several specific situations below. We hope that by doing so, you’ll gain some perspective on your problem and take an important step towards finding the treatment you need and deserve.

It All Starts With a Diagnosis

The first, and most critical step towards getting mental health treatment is not necessarily realizing that there is a problem, but taking steps to get a diagnosis. Several sources, including the National Institutes of Health, state that it’s common for people with mental health problems to go a decade or more before they reach out to anyone for treatment.

That’s way too long, and at that point many mental illnesses increase in severity. However, once that diagnosis is in place, it’s time to decide on a course of treatment. Below you’ll find some factors that can lead to deciding on outpatient mental health as opposed to residential treatment.

1.   The Severity of the Problem

As mentioned above, mental illnesses vary in severity. Depending on the condition someone has, it could be a situation where regular, ongoing treatment would be helpful without having to completely drop out of daily life for a period of time. Obviously, if someone is a danger to him or herself or to others, that requires 24-hour supervision in some type of a facility. The same holds true if someone is suffering from a severe case of a mental illness that requires intensive intervention. If a person is generally able to function, though, then he or she may be better served by continuing with the existing routine and adding regular therapy sessions to a schedule.

2.   The Person’s Career Realities

It’s a basic fact of life that people depend on their jobs for income. This income funds their food, shelter and necessities of life, and for many people, it funds the lives of their families. For people in this situation who could do well with outpatient mental health treatment, keeping a job is critically important. However, there are different levels of outpatient mental health treatments. For those who have difficult illnesses but who may succeed in an outpatient setting, IOP, or Intensive Outpatient care, may make sense.

3.   The Recent Completion of an Inpatient Program

None of what’s shown here should indicate that inpatient vs. outpatient mental health treatment is an either-or dichotomy. In fact, a lot of people undergo both. It’s quite common for people to come to our facility after having undergone outpatient treatment and finding they need something more involved. It’s also very common for people to complete an inpatient program and then to transition to an IOP to help instill what they learned in their routines. A lot of people who have stayed at SoCal Empowered have done just that with great success.

4.   When the Treatment Pathway Is Straightforward

If someone is suffering from a mental illness that requires only one type of therapy and perhaps one type of medication, then it may make more sense to deal with this by way of outpatient mental health treatment. However, if someone is suffering from co-occurring disorders, and that person may need to begin taking several types of medications and undergo multiple treatment protocols, inpatient care makes much more sense. An inpatient setting will make it easier to monitor progress and for the mental health professionals to collaborate as the person progresses through the treatment.

5.   When Outpatient Mental Health Treatment Is Safe

If you’ve noticed a theme with what you’ve read so far, you are correct that one is present: Above all else, the decision on whether someone should undergo outpatient mental health treatment or inpatient care comes down to what’s best for the person who is struggling. If outpatient care is sufficient to safely treat the person who needs help, then that’s what should be done in most cases. Conversely, if there is any safety risk present, then an inpatient approach makes much more sense for obvious reasons.

SoCal Empowered Can Help You Decide With a Free Assessment

Regardless of what’s happening with you or a loved one, no decision on inpatient mental health care vs. outpatient is possible without taking that all-important first step. If you contact SoCal Empowered, we can take that step with you. It costs you nothing, it obligates you to nothing, but it can mean everything in the grand scheme of things.

If you contact us now, we will assess your situation free of charge. We will talk with you to determine what could be happening, how severe the problems are and, ultimately, what’s best for the situation. If we feel that a stay with us is necessary, we will not only tell you so, but we will contact your insurance company directly to determine coverage.

However, if outpatient mental health treatment is the most appropriate step, we will tell you that and even help connect you to the right resources. If you or a loved one is struggling, contact us today for that free assessment.

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