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An outpatient mental health center is a community-based private clinics organized to provide specialized care to patients who need an intensive mental healthcare plan without the need to enroll in an inpatient residential facility–such as a residential clinic, psychiatric hospital, or a wellness center related to outpatient mental health for teens.

If an inpatient facility is a place for patients who need professional supervision to avoid potential self-harm or relapse, an outpatient facility is two steps removed from that concept, giving patients the freedom to return home and continue to go to school or to work, but with a strict schedule that requires recurring therapy and counseling sessions at a designated outpatient facility.

Intensive outpatient programs are usually recommended to patients who need a dedicated treatment plan, one that schedules individual talk therapy and modalities as often as five or six times a week.

For most patients with mental health issues, an intensive outpatient program might seem excessive. But there are cases and conditions where regular or intensive outpatient mental health care can make a massive difference and keep a teen’s condition from taking over entirely.

How Does Outpatient Mental Health Care Work?

An outpatient mental health clinic provides a rigorous standard of care, usually involving multiple mandatory individual and group therapy sessions per week, in addition to a potential prescription for medication and prescribed at-home practices (such as mindfulness training and journaling).

Like inpatient programs, outpatient programs vary in intensity and content. Most clinics provide a wide range of treatment modalities and practices to cater to many different patients. Some clinics specialize in treating teen patients, for example, while others specialize in treating cases of behavioral addiction or drug use with co-occurring disorders.

Outpatient programs are sometimes recommended in the interim between returning from an inpatient program and re-entering school or the workforce. An outpatient program can help teens and adults transition back into a healthy everyday schedule, and help them manage their time, implement healthier coping skills, and practice working on executive functioning after struggling with self-sufficiency due to their condition.

What is Intensive Outpatient Care?

The difference between intensive outpatient care and regular outpatient care is usually defined by the frequency of outpatient visits and scheduled therapy sessions, as well as the aim of the program.

Outpatient vs. Intensive Outpatient

An outpatient program, or outpatient mental health for teens, can be used to describe any long-form treatment plan that involves multiple appointments at a dedicated outpatient care clinic or treatment facility. Intensive outpatient usually describes cases where patients need to schedule three or more sessions per week, rather than a shorter weekly or biweekly schedule.

Intensive outpatient care for teens is often recommended in the aftermath of a relapse, or as a transition program between residential treatment and a shorter outpatient care plan, or group support. For example, a teen transitioning out of rehab might be enrolled in an intensive outpatient program to help them continue to focus on implementing the coping skills they learned in rehab in their everyday life, and help them focus their priorities on school and their own personal growth goals.

Extended Care

In cases where teens continue to struggle with addiction after rehab and experience a relapse, an intensive outpatient program or extended transitional care may be recommended to help them reiterate what they’ve learned and redevelop their commitment to sobriety.

Intensive outpatient care may also be needed in cases where teens struggle with severe depressive disorders, or other mental health conditions where they may require long-term intensive care.

Intensive Outpatient Care vs. Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization is yet another type of treatment plan, albeit usually reserved for shorter periods. Like intensive outpatient care, partial hospitalization involves multiple sessions of treatment per week. However, sessions are usually longer than in intensive outpatient care programs.

Teens going through partial hospitalization will be asked to remain at the treatment facility for upwards of five hours at a time and can go home to sleep at night. Partial hospitalization programs are used as an alternative to inpatient residential treatment if:

  • The patient is medically stable.
  • The patient has a robust support system at home.
  • The patient is willing and motivated to seek treatment.
  • The patient is not at risk of hurting themselves (or anyone else).
  • The patient is having trouble at school or at work.
  • The patient is struggling with a co-occurring disorder or a severe mental health problem.

Despite the name, partial hospitalization, despite the name, is not appropriate in cases where teens need to see a medical professional for a physical or mental emergency. Partial hospitalization facilities are typically not urgent care clinics or psychiatric hospitals. They are also not equipped to help patients who are a danger to themselves.

In these cases, it may be best to take your teen to a psychiatric hospital or seek a referral to an inpatient treatment facility, where they will be surrounded by psychiatric and medical professionals and given a rigorous and personalized treatment plan.

The Benefits of Outpatient Mental Health for Teens

Outpatient mental health for teens is best for those who need a consistent treatment schedule after a more intensive program, but without the trappings of an inpatient or residential treatment program. In particular, there are major benefits to considering an outpatient treatment program for your teen’s continued recovery and therapy:

  • Staying Connected – Inpatient programs involve removing yourself from the world for several weeks. Teens going into rehab should prepare for a long-term treatment process that limits their ability to interact with friends or family or continue going to school. An outpatient program does not have these limitations.
  • Flexibility for Busy Teens – Inpatient programs can cut teens off from the outside world, which affects their relationships with others – but it also cuts into their ability to continue going to school, dedicating themselves to extracurricular activities, or holding down a job. An outpatient program allows teens who already have an established or productive schedule to continue their day-to-day life while addressing their mental health problems in active treatment. Keep in mind that some inpatient residential programs have day school available so a teen can stay on track with their academic responsibilities.
  • Affordable Care – Outpatient treatment programs are typically more affordable than inpatient care. When the budget becomes a problem, an outpatient program can offer many of the same benefits as inpatient care for teens who might not need residential care to stay safe and continue their recovery process.

At the end of the day, the best thing to do is consult with a reputable mental health center and your teen. Weigh your options carefully and consider what your teen might be most comfortable with.

Give us a call to learn more about Visions Treatment Centers and our outpatient mental health and wellness center.

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