Taking the Step to Get Mental Health Treatment at a Rehab Center

Taking the Step to Get Mental Health Treatment at a Rehab Center

Talking with a medical or counseling professional can help you to decide which type of treatment is ideal

Thinking about making the big decision to get help from a rehab center can seem like a scary prospect. But you or your loved ones may have finally come to the conclusion that you need caring, professional help to get your life back. Would outpatient treatment be a better option for you than residential inpatient care?

Let’s take a closer look at the general treatment options out there to help determine what would be best for you in dealing with your specific mental and emotional needs.

Outpatient Treatment Isn’t for Everyone

On the positive side, outpatient treatment programs provide patients with more freedom of movement (in and out of the treatment facility) than residential inpatient care, which allows them to maintain a regular commitment to family, work, and educational responsibilities. Because of the ability to go home after a daily or evening visit, patients are able to have a greater level of privacy and anonymity. They often do not need to explain a prolonged absence to friends, coworkers or family members.

However, unlike residential treatment programs, outpatient programs do not provide patients the safe, secure environment that can shield them from negatively influencing factors. Patients return to their own environments after outpatient treatment and must “do their homework” outside the walls of the treatment facility. But like residential programs, outpatient care can provide a support network for patients in the form of official support groups, individual counseling, and family counseling so that patients don’t feel totally alone in the recovery process. Patients are provided with a strong support network of non-using peers and sponsors. Outpatient treatment can provide a new, positive element of social change in a patient’s life to help facilitate long-term recovery.

Like residential programs, outpatient treatment also focuses on family support and involvement, and an immediately positive element of outpatient treatment is that patients can automatically apply the lessons learned from outpatient treatment programs to their daily experiences.

Why Are Inpatient Programs Often More Effective?

Residential treatment provides care 24 hours a day, usually in a non-hospital setting. The best-known residential treatment model is the therapeutic community (TC), with planned lengths of stay ranging between 6 and 12 months. TCs focus on the “resocialization” of the individual and use the program’s entire community – including other residents, staff and the social context – as active components of treatment. Patients’ needs are viewed in the context of the individual’s social and psychological deficits, and treatment focuses on developing personal accountability and responsibility as well as socially productive lives.

Treatment is highly structured and can be confrontational at times. Activities are designed to help residents examine damaging beliefs, self-concepts, and destructive patterns of behavior, and residents are guided to adopt new, more harmonious and constructive ways to interact with others. Many TCs offer comprehensive services onsite, which may include employment training and other support services.

Research shows that TCs can be modified to treat individuals with special needs, including adolescents, women, homeless individuals, people with severe mental disorders, and individuals in the criminal justice system. Residential treatment programs typically last a minimum of 28 days. Patients who have attempted outpatient treatment programs but have ultimately found them ineffective or too difficult to complete successfully can achieve success in a residential program.

Residential programs are safe, structured environments. Because negatively influencing factors are removed from a patient’s daily experience, participants in residential treatment programs can begin to work on building life skills that had been obstructed by the stresses of life.

The level of care necessary for a patient should be determined by an in-person assessment with a qualified medical or counseling professional. Most often, patients who have attempted outpatient programs without success do require residential care. Some patients who have not yet undergone outpatient treatment may not require this high level of care.

Some patients are wary about the intensity of a residential treatment program, but these programs are highly supportive and focus on helping the whole person—body and mind—through treatment. For this reason, many residential centers encourage family participation, including evening family education programs and weekend programs. In addition to the other differentiators of long-term residential care, it is the close and supportive camaraderie gained through empathy and shared experience that often helps patients come to a point of restoration and renewal psychologically. Patients receive not only relational support, but also some “tools” for maintaining a whole, healthy life.

Which Type of Treatment Program Is Right for You?

Talking with a medical or counseling professional can help you to decide which type of treatment is ideal for your situation. Be honest with yourself about how independently dedicated you can be in an outpatient program. If you feel that daily stresses, close relationships, lack of social support, etc. would be an issue in successfully completing outpatient treatment, then a residential program may be best for achieving the desired results. When you speak with a specialist about treatment, discuss your personal circumstances in order to figure out which aspects of outpatient or inpatient treatment programs would best suit you. Both types of treatment program can have life-changing benefits, and understanding which program will best help you achieve long-term results is one of the first steps toward recovery.1

Treating the whole person—mind, body and spirit—is part of our highly effective approach; an approach that has been acclaimed by 11 federally funded studies of programs across the country. Our Dual Diagnosis approach considers the various aspects of mental illness that may be plaguing you or your loved one. Our kind and knowledgeable coordinators are available 24 hours a day at our toll-free line to help you figure out what best meets your specific situation and needs. Call today to find the help you need.


1 Gifford, Steven, LICDC, LPC, “Differences Between Outpatient and Inpatient Treatment Programs”, PsychCentral,  http://psychcentral.com/lib/differences-between-outpatient-and-inpatient-treatment-programs , (May 9, 2011).