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Mental healthcare can be an involved and intense process. Therapy can go a long way, but there are times when a teen needs more than a weekly session with their therapist to make significant progress. In such case, attending a teen mental health center for residential treatment is a great choice.

Some conditions are harder to treat than others, and controlling certain factors – such as a teen’s schedule or environment through a teen mental health center – can help a teen understand and overcome their symptoms and develop the coping skills needed for an effective long-term reprieve.

What Is a Teen Mental Health Center Like?

Mental health centers differ in size, shape, and intended purpose. Like an urgent care clinic or private practice, different clinics specialize in different types of treatments and mental health programs. Specialization is important – in cases of severe mental illness, a specialized environment and experienced mental health staff are necessary to make a difference.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Treatment

A mental health center will usually provide either inpatient or outpatient services, or both.

Inpatient services require a teen to stay at the facility while receiving treatment, including overnight stays and day-to-day activities. Some specialized inpatient mental health facilities include day schools and a plethora of activities and amenities to help teens feel at home, meet new peers, and keep up with their schoolmates.

Outpatient programs, on the other hand, allow a teen to stay at home and continue going to school while receiving continued care at a mental health facility on an appointment basis. Some outpatient programs, such as intensive outpatient care, may require a teen to visit the facility for multiple hours a day, five or six times a week. Other programs are more relaxed but will usually still require multiple appointments per week.

Other Treatment Services

Sometimes, mental health facilities are prepared to receive patients who need more intensive care. Psychiatric hospitals, for example, exist to cater to and tend to patients being hospitalized for a short period of time. Where outpatient or most inpatient treatment programs can last weeks and months, a stay at a psychiatric hospital is often no more than a few weeks.

Partial hospitalization is another form of outpatient treatment, considered a half-step between inpatient programs and an intensive outpatient facility. In many cases, partial hospitalization is used as a transitory step, helping patients move away from rehab and into long-term psychiatric support through an outpatient program and therapy in the outside world.

In a partial hospitalization program, a patient who would otherwise need to be hospitalized, who has just come from an inpatient program, or who might be at risk of relapse can seek intensive short-term care – no more than a few weeks – to focus on pivoting towards living alone or with family, and continuing support through group meetings or one-on-one therapy sessions.

Between partial hospitalization, outpatient program, psychiatric hospitals, and inpatient programs, mental health centers prepare for a wide variety of conditions and disorders.

When Is a Teen Mental Health Center Necessary?

Treatment at a mental health center may be necessary for your teen if first-line treatment through a therapist or psychiatrist is not enough. Depending on your teen’s condition, it may be difficult for them to make progress without more intense support.

While therapy can help, a lot of the leg work involved in overcoming feelings of depression or anxiety is ultimately related to consistent and daily changes in thinking and lifestyle, in addition to the effects of medication. Without the right support at home or in more severe cases, a teen will require inpatient or outpatient programming to benefit from their treatment plan.

Some Conditions Require Intensive Treatment

Some conditions are more likely to lead to intensive treatment than others. For example, severe schizophrenia can lead to long-lasting delusions, hallucinations, memory problems, and periods of confusion. A teen with schizophrenia may require a clinical setting and the help of multiple professionals working together to get the right treatment. Afterward, an outpatient program can help these teens continue to seek care while adjusting to life outside of therapy, sticking to their new schedules, their medication, and their new coping skills.

Substance use disorder is another example of a disorder that frequently calls for mental health treatment at a professional facility. Rehab at home or going cold turkey is often ill-advised for professionals, both due to the high risk of relapse and the physical dangers of an uncontrolled or improperly supervised withdrawal period.

If seeing a professional is not enough, in your teen’s opinion, consider talking to them about seeking out a treatment program at a mental health center. Here are a few examples of when you might want to talk to your teen about visiting a treatment center together.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are two of the most commonly diagnosed mental health issues in the world, but there are many different kinds of anxious and depressive disorders. Severe depressive disorders can include symptoms of self-harm and suicidal ideation, sometimes necessitating professional supervision while a teen receives treatment.

In cases of anxiety disorders, some conditions such as post-traumatic stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or severe phobias may require intensive outpatient treatment to overcome the strongest symptoms and help a teen reintegrate into everyday living.

Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder, or addiction, is one of the more common conditions that may require inpatient or outpatient treatment at a mental health center. Drug addiction can be a difficult habit to break, not least of which because it is often entrenched both physically and psychologically.

Furthermore, more than half of people with substance use disorders struggle with at least one other mental health disorder (dual diagnosis), which can compound and complicate treatment. An inpatient program can help teens detox safely and begin their rehab journey in a drug-free environment.

Personality Disorders

There are ten recognized personality disorders, each with its own unique set of symptoms and characteristics, across three major clusters.

Many personality disorders are chronic or even lifelong conditions. Under certain circumstances and severe symptoms, a teen might need treatment at a specialized facility to learn to control and mitigate the symptoms of their disorder and improve their overall quality of life.


Psychosis is characterized by experiencing, seeing, hearing, or even smelling things that aren’t there. When a person experiences a “psychotic break,” this usually means that their perception of the world around them has separated itself from reality. The most well-known psychotic disorder is schizophrenia, but there are several different conditions with hallucinatory or psychotic symptoms, including physical conditions such as brain tumors or head trauma.

Treating psychosis can be difficult, especially if a teen patient becomes paranoid or suspicious of their surroundings. Trust, in addition to patience, are important aspects of treatment.  

Do You Need Professional Help?

If you are unsure whether you or a loved one require an intensive treatment plan, please consider discussing it with your doctor or therapist. They may be able to refer you to a potential treatment facility or give you personalized advice.

If your loved one is struggling with a mental health condition that often requires inpatient or outpatient treatment through a clinic or a teen mental health center, then consider talking to them about it – and scheduling an appointment together. Struggling with mental illness is frustrating and often terrifying. Receiving help and support from others, especially those we love, goes a long way towards soothing those feelings.

For more information about Visions Treatment Centers, please contact us anytime.

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