Inpatient vs. Outpatient therapy
*photo by Madeleine S./written by Peter Sacco
Potential patients and family members often times wonder, what approach to mental health treatment works best– in patient care or outpatient therapy? Even though the answer to the question should be complex, at best trite, it isn’t. As a matter of fact, the answer to the question is quite simple. How serious is the mental health problem and to what degree of distress is it causing?
For the most part, in patient treatment is usually reserved for those with serious mental health problems such as psychosis (for example schizophrenia), dysthymia (bad depression), suicidal/self-harm, eating disorders (anorexia nervosa), and individuals possessing concurrent disorders (a mental health problem along with an addiction). Depending on the severity and degree of dysfunction the patient is in, in patient treatment is usually the best option for them.
In patient treatment is excellent in that it allows practitioners to monitor and facilitate the progress of the client. Obviously, if the patient is in a state of crisis, delusional or psychotic, they require around the clock care to make sure they are kept safe. In patient care is exceptional for monitoring medications, when patients need to be medicated, and conversely promoting abstinence, for when a client requires detoxification.
In a perfect world, in patient facilities are great for treating severe mental health problems. The problem with this approach is there are usually not very many hospital beds available for patients with severe mental health problems. Furthermore, one of the concerns for in patient treatment programs is that some patients become dependent on them (the staff and facility) that once they are released into the real world, they regress to the appoint of needing to be re-admitted to the facility.
Outpatient treatment programs are more popular as they are more cost-effective, thus making them more abundant. Outpatient programs are used primarily to treat mental health problems such as; less serious types of depressions, anxiety, personality disorders, anger management, bulimia, paraphilias/sexual variants, and relapse for addictions. Even though they are very cost effective, most outpatient programs are government funded which result in wait-lists. This delay may cause a state of crisis which could potentially lead to in patient treatment!
A huge benefit of outpatient treatment is that it encourages the patient to develop a sense of autonomy and responsibility for their treatment. They are more likely to take a greater interest and active participation in their healing process. They personally monitor their progress, medications when needed, appointments/meetings for treatment as well as their everyday living activities which puts them in a greater frame of mind. Outpatient programs empower and guide patients toward optimal health that is when they have a good grasp of their thought process.
On the other hand, when triggers (situations which cause distress) are still not resolved, they can cause a patient to spiral downward into bad states. In patient programs help patients identify triggers and teach them the coping mechanisms for dealing with them. Unfortunately, outpatient programs can not monitor patients around the clock and some clients are likely to slip or relapse into negative mindsets leading to bad situations.
Also inpatient treatments usually have a team of health practitioners devoted to your health. They would often communicate to best help their patients. Patients are guided and directed to appropriate healing methods and tools. Outpatient treatment is organized and directed by the patient. If the patient is not aware or able to make the right decisions, physical and mental health is in jeopardy.
Many patients justify overdoses on medications because they feel it is best for their health. It relieves pain. But this masks huge underlying issues that can be safely explored and monitored at inpatient treatments.
Each person must make the best decision for their lifestyle.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. What are your issues?
2. How severe are your symptoms?
3. Can you afford inpatient treatment?
4. What is your level urgency?
5. Can you afford time away from work and family?
6. Do you have discipline to have a treatment plan?
7. Do you need a treatment team and organized facility?