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Acute vs Outpatient Psychiatric Care

acute, acute care, inpatient, inpatient treatment, outpatient, psychiatric, mental health

Acute and outpatient and inpatient — oh my! When it comes to receiving psychiatric care, many programs and treatments are available. If you are wondering what type of mental health care is ideal for you or your loved one, you need to understand the differences between the various types. However, the best treatment plan will depend on your diagnosis and needs. Some benefit from short-term treatment, while others require extended care. One is not better than the other but keep reading to learn the differences between acute and outpatient psychiatric care.

What Is an Acute Mental Illness?

Acute mental illness relates to a state of crisis — or a brief phase — where a person displays specific psychiatric symptoms in such a way that severely prohibits them from effectively functioning in a typical community setting. One in three young American adults aged 18 to 25 experience a mental illness, but one in 10 will experience a serious one, according to National Alliance of Mental Illness, NAMI.

Acute care refers to health services the patient receives during a brief yet severe episode of acute mental illness. However, an acute condition does not usually require ongoing hospitalization and can be shorter than other rehabilitation options requiring extended hospital care. Nevertheless, even though acute care may be considered short-term, it is always inpatient supervision, which means the person must stay overnight at a mental health facility.

What Is the Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Care?

Inpatient care means the patient stays at a mental health hospital with 24/7 support from doctors, nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, and other medical experts. Outpatient care allows them to continue living at home and go back and forth to various programs and therapies according to their treatment plan.

In 2021, 41.7 million American adults received treatment or counseling for mental health, according to Statistica. These figures include outpatient therapy, counseling, or prescription medication. Depending on your particular needs and diagnosis, inpatient and outpatient care can be short-term or long-term programs.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

A variety of programs are available during outpatient care. Your treatment plan may be leisurely or include intensive outpatient programs, which means you will attend classes and therapies for several hours a day, multiple days a week, and several weeks.

  • Group counseling allows individuals with similar issues to have therapy sessions to provide the sense that they’re not alone with their problems.
    Individual therapy covers multiple issues, including recommendations for lifestyle changes, overcoming self-defeating thoughts, and processing challenging emotions.
  • Family counseling teaches families to be a strong support system to help their loved ones with mental health issues. It can also enable the family to discover underlying dynamics contributing to these issues, allowing them to overcome everything as a family.
  • Detox supports those with substance use disorder to safely undergo a withdrawal process and clean their bodies of drugs and alcohol.
    Medication management helps patients examine and assess the lasting effects of any psychiatric medications.

Types of Inpatient Treatment

All options for outpatient treatment are available for inpatient care as well, except it all takes place under one roof. You don’t return home after your therapy but stay overnight at the same facility.

The majority of inpatient treatments usually fall into one of three categories:

  • Long-term care can last anywhere from several months to a year or longer. The length of time helps people recover and master a broad range of coping strategies and life skills they can take with them in their everyday life to transition out of inpatient treatment.
  • Short-term treatment lasts from a few weeks to a few months, providing the strategies and skills an individual needs to function independently.
  • Detoxification from addictive substances can be quite painful and dangerous. Inpatient detox is vital for supporting and monitoring those who want to be sober but experience withdrawal symptoms.

When Is Acute Care Necessary?

Some people only want to do outpatient programs or avoid therapy altogether. However, your diagnosis will help determine what is best for your situation. Furthermore, there are specific times when a person must receive acute care with either voluntary or involuntary admittance to an inpatient program, even for short-term treatment. Those cases include:

  • Suicidal actions
  • Self-harming or harming others
  • Delirium or altered mental state
  • Psychosis
  • Manic episodes
  • Severe depression
  • Escalating reckless or impulsive behavior

Because of the significant risk to the patient and others around them, the focus of the acute program is to treat the symptoms with 24/7 care immediately.

Do You Need Acute Care, Inpatient Treatment, or Outpatient Programs?

If you or a loved one are dealing with mental illness, help is available at Willow Creek Behavioral Health. Our medical experts can handle acute episodes as well as arrange short- or long-term inpatient or outpatient care. Schedule a free assessment to learn more about your diagnosis and create a personal treatment plan. Contact us now and you can start programs that will improve your life.

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