What Is Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Mental Health?

Across the U.S., more than 50 million adults suffer from some form of mental illness. This is the equivalent of 20% of the entire adult population.

In some cases, a mental illness may have a relatively minor impact on your ability to function. However, many people are affected by a serious mental illness that produces significant impairment. 

No matter what kind of illness is impairing your health, you can recover with effective treatment. The setting for treatment is not the same for everyone.

Some people can get all of their recovery needs met in an outpatient mental health program. However, others need the help of an inpatient program. The two approaches to treatment different in a variety of important ways.

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Mental Health Treatment: Settings

Outpatient Settings

The setting used for treatment is one of biggest differences between outpatient and inpatient care. While in outpatient treatment, you maintain residence in your home.

As your recovery plan requires, you go to your facility for scheduled care. There are three types of outpatient programs:

Programs in each category represent a specific level of structure and treatment. They also reflect the seriousness of your condition.

People in standard programs receive the least amount of treatment, with a minimum of a single weekly visit. As a rule, this minimal level of care is for people who need help, but still only have mild symptoms. 

In an IOP, the time spent in weekly treatment jumps to anywhere between nine and 19 hours. People at this level need more help than a standard program can give.

However, their illness is stable and they lack physical health issues that could interfere with their care. 

Weekly treatment time in a PHP begins at 20 hours. This kind of program sits right below inpatient care. People at this level have unstable symptoms that require part-time access to a hospital or similar setting. 

Inpatient Settings

Inpatient Settings

All inpatient treatment programs require you to live at your facility rather than at home. There are two kinds of settings for inpatient mental health care:

  • Residential facilities
  • Hospitals 

Residential inpatient care may take place in a facility designed solely for that purpose. In addition, it may take place in a facility that also provides inpatient treatment.

Several types of hospitals provide inpatient services. Examples of these hospitals include:

  • Private and public psychiatric hospitals
  • General hospitals that provide mental health services
  • Medical centers operated by the Veterans Administration

People in inpatient programs require more care than an outpatient program can provide. One common reason for needing this kind of care is having symptoms too serious to permit independent living.

You may also suffer from acute mental illness. This terms refers to illness that requires immediate attention and management.

For example, you may need acute treatment for uncontrolled psychosis. In addition, the security of a hospital psych ward may be needed to prevent you from harming yourself or others. 

Which Type of Program Is More Common?

More than 75% of all mental health programs offer outpatient treatment other than a PHP. About 15% of programs provide PHP services. Inpatient treatment accounts  for 17% of all programs. Hospitals make up about 16%. 

Different Conditions Treated With Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Mental Health

Any mental illness may require treatment in an inpatient or an outpatient setting. The difference between the two is not the type of illness affecting you. Instead, the impact of your illness serves as the key factor.

For example, take someone with major depression, America’s single most common mental illness. This illness can have a range of effects, including everything from feelings of sadness to suicidal thinking.

If you are suicidal, you can expect to receive inpatient hospitalization. 

However, if you are not suicidal, other possibilities become available. The right setting for you may vary all the way from a residential program to standard outpatient care.

What works best for you will depend on the extent to which your symptoms affect you.

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Mental Health: Treatment

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Mental Health Treatment

Is there a big difference in inpatient vs. outpatient mental health treatment options? Not in many cases. Two main forms of treatment are available in both types of programs: medication and therapy. 

Medication may form part of a treatment plan for any serious mental illness. The specific type(s) in use depend on the illness affecting you.

Appropriate use of medications is widespread in both inpatient and outpatient programs. Almost three-quarters of all outpatient programs use this form of treatment. In inpatient programs, a full 96% of all participants receive medication.

The majority of both inpatient and outpatient facilities provide group therapy. Psychiatric hospitals use this form of treatment more than any other type of facility. Individual therapy is also widely available in both types of programs. 

The single most common technique used for inpatient and outpatient therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

More than 60% of all outpatient and inpatient programs make use of this therapy. CBT is especially common in facilities that offer both inpatient and outpatient care. 

By far, the rarest treatment used in mental health programs is electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT. This therapy relies on controlled electrical bursts to make changes in your brain function.

All told, just 5% of all facilities make use of ECT. Hospitals use it far more often than other types of programs. 

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Mental Health: Services

In addition to frontline treatments, a mental health program may offer supporting services. These services provide additional options for promoting your recovery. They include such things as:

  • Suicide prevention
  • An educational technique called psychoeducation
  • Case management that helps coordinate your overall care
  • Exercise and diet counseling

Are different services offered in inpatient vs. outpatient psychiatric treatment? Not in most cases. Any type of program may provide a given service.

For example, two-thirds of all inpatient and outpatient programs offer some kind of case management. Public psychiatric hospitals and outpatient PHPs are the least likely to provide this service.

Psychoeducation is also widely used, with services offered by more than 60% of all programs. Suicide prevention efforts are far more common in hospitals than any other program type. 

Choosing Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Mental Health Treatment

Choosing Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Mental Health Treatment

With all these factors in mind, how do you choose an inpatient or outpatient mental health program? By consulting a mental health specialist.

Experienced specialists can evaluate your condition. They can also use this evaluation to help determine the best setting for treatment. Depending on your circumstances, experts you consult may include:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Doctorate-level psychologists
  • A therapist or counselor with a specialized master’s degree
  • A masters-level clinical social worker

Mental Health: Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Costs

Typically, there is one big difference between inpatient and outpatient care: cost. When you take part in outpatient care, you only pay for the amount of treatment you receive each week.

Inpatient programs not only provide more weekly treatment. They also house and feed you throughout your stay. 

All of this means that an inpatient program may cost more to attend than an outpatient program.

However, if you have health insurance, the difference in cost may not matter. Some plans cover the expense of both types of treatment. 

In addition, cost may not be your main consideration. If you need a certain level of care to recover, you may view the expense of that care as secondary.

However, most people want to maximize the affordability of their treatment. Programs of interest to you may have flexible payment arrangements that lighten your financial load.

Discover Your Options for Outpatient and Inpatient Treatment

Outpatient care and inpatient care are both vital options for mental health recovery. Either option may work best for your circumstances.

There are many differences between inpatient and outpatient programs. However, the two types of programs also share many similarities.

The main factor in choosing your treatment option is the extent of your illness. Among other things, this means that you may need both outpatient and inpatient care at some point in time.

Transitions between the two types of programs commonly occur. Some people begin with inpatient services and later move to outpatient services. However, the reverse is also possible. 

The cost of treatment may have an impact on the type of program you choose. But cost alone may not drive your decision.

That is especially true since insurance often covers some or even all of your costs. Payment arrangements may also help you manage the expense. 

At Emerald Isle, we offer a full range of outpatient and inpatient mental health options. Those options include all three forms of outpatient care. They also include a full slate of inpatient services. 

In addition, Emerald Isle provides mental health assessments and psychiatric evaluations. Both of these procedures help determine the type and seriousness of your illness.

In turn, this information helps determine the best initial treatment option. As needed, you can move from one type of program to another. For more information on our mental health recovery programs, contact us today.