Finding Great Mental Health Care at Every Level

March 6, 2022

If you have stomach pain, you go to a gastroenterologist. If you have kidney issues, you go to a nephrologist. With mental health, treatment is more complex, because every patient’s needs are so different. When people need mental health support, they often feel unsure where to turn for help.

The first step is typically to arrange for a mental health evaluation to determine the patient’s level of need. Because mental health care is quite complex, health advisors can assist with this process in multiple ways: 1) selecting the right level of care, 2) choosing the right providers and programs, 3) managing the patient’s transition from one level of care to the next, and 4) advocating for the patient throughout their treatment. Health advisors also provide valuable support for patients with chronic mental health issues that require extended treatment.

Based on the patient’s needs, treatment could include various levels of care, including:

Inpatient Mental Health Care 

Inpatient treatment at a behavioral health facility is recommended for patients who require immediate stabilization. A patient who is in crisis, or who presents a danger to themselves or others, often needs inpatient care. A typically inpatient stay lasts for two or more weeks. Treatment includes meetings with a psychiatrist and therapist, group therapy, and medication management.

Some inpatient programs focus specifically on eating disorders, substance abuse, or other mental health issues. People experiencing both substance abuse and mental health issues may require special treatment plans where they can work with counselors and psychiatrists who specialize in dual diagnosis.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

The next step down from inpatient care is partial hospitalization. This type of treatment program is similar to an inpatient stay in that it is quite intensive, but the patient is not living at the facility. Treatment typically takes the full day (8am – 4pm) and lasts five days a week for six to eight weeks. It includes individual therapy, group therapy, and medication management, and the patient goes home at the end of each day.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

An IOP is usually a half-day program, with patients attending three days a week for several weeks, depending on the level of need. Treatment is similar to the above, including individual therapy, group therapy, and medication management. Because it is less intensive, an IOP is considered a step down from the partial hospitalization. People often transition from a partial hospitalization into an IOP during their recovery.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy is the most common form of mental health treatment. Patients typically meet with a licensed professional (usually a social worker or psychologist) one to two times a week. If they need medication, they may also see a psychiatrist.

As a patient’s need level changes, they may move up or down between the different levels of care.

How Health Advisors Can Help

Finding the right mental health providers and treatment facilities can be challenging, because the best care often depends on the specific patient’s needs. The following examples show how a health advisor can help to guide care.  

Sarah*, 14, told her mother that she was struggling with suicidal thoughts and planned to overdose. Sarah’s mother called Better Health Advisors, and we arranged for an immediate evaluation at a crisis center. Sarah was diagnosed with severe depression and needed inpatient treatment. We found her an inpatient facility, where she stayed for 60 days and was prescribed medication for her depression. After she completed her inpatient treatment, we connected Sarah with a therapist for follow-up visits and relayed key medical information. She has stabilized and no longer feels suicidal.

Brian*, 33, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, but stopped taking his medications and was self-medicating with alcohol. When his wife noticed that he wasn’t sleeping and was showing symptoms of mental illness, she reached out to Better Health Advisors for help. After an evaluation, we helped arrange a treatment plan for Brian. He attended a partial hospitalization program five days a week for 30 days, and he is now back on his medication and feeling stable. 

*For client confidentiality, names and identifying details have been changed.

If you need help accessing great mental health care for yourself or a loved one, reach out to an expert health advisor for support throughout the process.

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