Inpatient vs. Outpatient Mental Health Treatment


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The decision to seek mental health treatment in a person’s quest for a successful recovery is not the easiest to make. And anyone that relates should know that they are not alone. In fact, the 2019 Health Statistics by the CDC showed that over 19% of US adults received mental health treatment for various ailments like depression, anxiety, mood, and bipolar disorders.

Nonetheless, there are several mental health treatment options – some inpatient and others outpatient. But what distinguishes the two? What should you expect from both types of treatment? Which option suits you or your loved one best? Well, read on to find out!

What is Inpatient Care?

In the simplest of terms, inpatient care is when an individual is admitted to the facility and allowed to stay overnight. It’s the most intensive treatment program, and it’s offered by inpatient facilities such as hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers, or mental health care facilities.

Moreover, how long a patient stays at the facility may vary with the offered type of care. For instance, in mental health admissions, the stay could last somewhere between three and ten days. Alcohol or drug related stays, on the contrary, can take up anywhere from 16 to 28 days.

During this time, mental health care providers, physicians, or other trained experts can closely monitor the patient and also be there to offer them round-the-clock emotional and medical support. For that reason, inpatient care best suits individuals who have a history of relapse or pose the risk of harming themselves or even others.

Benefits of an Inpatient Care Program

The constant supervision accompanying inpatient care has to be its most prominent advantage, especially for alcohol or drug recovery treatment. More benefits include:

  • Removal from situations, places, and people who can trigger a relapse or rather worsen the symptoms
  • Extensive care for co-occurring psychiatric disorders
  • Around-the-clock emotional and medical support
  • Access to 12-step programs
  • Medication management (if required)
  • Access to family, group, and individual therapy

Potential Downsides of Inpatient Care

Inpatient treatment is notable, no doubt. But like every other service, it has its share of potential downsides. For one, it isolates the patient from their typical everyday life. That makes connecting with their loved ones difficult for them, which may even worsen their depression symptoms.

Additionally, inpatient treatment takes a rigid structure managed and enforced by staff. Most patients dislike the fact that they are not in control and have to follow directions from someone else throughout the day.

Also, inpatient treatment costs tend to exceed that of outpatient treatment. But come to think of it – the cost of treatment doesn’t match that of suffering from mental distress or addiction issues. Don’t you think?

What is Outpatient Care?

Unlike inpatient treatment, outpatient care doesn’t entail staying overnight at the facility. In other words, it covers all other types of care that are not inpatient but offered in a clinical environment – from mental health counseling to group therapy.

Best part? Outpatient care allows patients to receive a high standard of treatment without interrupting their regular day-to-day routine. It may be offered at a hospital, an outpatient surgery center, a walk-in clinic, or even your doctor’s office.

Given the flexibility and freedom accompanying outpatient care, it best suits individuals transitioning from inpatient care and those with mild symptoms of mental illness or in the early stages of substance addiction. Further, people who lack the luxury of taking lengthy absences from their personal and professional lives could also benefit from outpatient treatment.

Benefits of Outpatient Care

We’ve already mentioned flexibility as one of the primary upsides of outpatient treatment. Other benefits may include:

  • More privacy than inpatient treatment
  • Possible to maintain your job
  • Less costly than inpatient care
  • Referrals for medication management
  • Less chance of having to travel for treatment

Potential Downsides of Outpatient Care

Unlike inpatient treatment, patients don’t spend their entire time in a safe and secluded environment. Unfortunately, that means they have an increased likelihood of coming across negative factors and personal triggers in their everyday routine, which will make it even more difficult for them to learn vital coping skills.

Outpatient treatment may also not be an excellent fit for patients who need medication management. Despite some facilities offering this option, most don’t. As a result, it can prove a deterrence to the patient’s recovery plan, driving some to give up on treatment.   

Outpatient vs. Outpatient Care – Which Option Best Suits You?

You may be well informed about inpatient and outpatient treatment options, which is great. However, you should consult a mental health expert when looking to ascertain the best course of action. Besides helping you find the best facility, a licensed professional will also offer additional resources and work out the right treatment plan for you.

But speaking from a general point of view, inpatient mental health treatment is, in a way, more effective than outpatient treatment. After all, more is better, especially when addressing mental health and addiction issues – which explains why inpatient care is often the preferred option.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean inpatient treatment is the ideal option for everyone. It’s not reasonable in some cases, particularly where family or professional obligations are unavoidable. So, again, consulting a licensed mental health counselor, medical professional, or addiction expert to assess your needs is prudent.     

Steps For Change: Your Go-to Mental Health Center in Minneapolis

Suppose you’re struggling emotionally or helping your loved one address their mental health issues; we understand how overwhelming it can be. But, while that may seem to be the case, it doesn’t have to be, and all of us need to keep hoping for a better tomorrow.At Steps for Change, we’re dedicated to serving the residents of Minneapolis, helping them make progress and move forward. We boast a team of licensed mental health counselors who are more than willing to help you or your loved one better their mental well-being. So, contact us today and let our experienced specialists guide you through your recovery journey and bring your silent suffering to an end.