As the mental health crisis in young adults increases, parents and guardians are left wondering what the best route is to help their loved ones. Mental health disorders can be complex, especially when it comes to diagnosing and treating them.
Many times, a young adult struggling with a mental illness needs more help than they can get at home. This is why it’s important to stay educated about the different types of young adult mental health treatments and care programs.
Continue reading to find out the difference between inpatient vs. outpatient mental health care and how mental health residential programs for young adults can benefit individuals and their families.
3 Types of Mental Health Services for Young Adults
There is a wide variety of mental health services for young adults, but sometimes care needs to go beyond weekly talk therapy sessions. If an individual struggling with increased depression is in need of more structure or a secure environment, they may want to consider one of the three programs listed below.
1. Inpatient Mental Health Care
Inpatient care for mental health issues usually refers to an overnight or longer stay in a psychiatric hospital or the psychiatric unit of a hospital. These stays are short-term programs that are focused on safety and stabilization.
Most inpatient mental health facilities for young adults have psychiatrists and physicians who work together with the patient to help treat conditions such as anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Depending on the patient’s needs, some facilities for young adults also have resources to treat substance abuse and addiction issues.
The main purpose of an inpatient mental health facility for young adults is to ensure the patient is stable and not a risk to themselves or others. If the patient is stable by the time their treatment is complete, but they still require additional care, they will most likely be transferred to a mental health residential program for young adults.
2. Residential Mental Health Care
Though mental health residential programs for young adults may seem similar to inpatient facilities, it’s important to understand that there are key differences between the two. An inpatient mental health facility for young adults is focused on crisis management. This is a place where someone goes when they need immediate and intensive care to become stable.
On the other hand, while residential mental health care is also a place for young adults with mental health issues to stay, the stays usually last 90 days or more. These programs allow young adults to live in a home-like environment while participating in long-term clinical care, experiential activities, and academics.
While residential mental health programs for young adults are designed to feel comfortable and homey, the facility is supervised by trained staff members including psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, nurses, dietitians, and experiential therapy practitioners.
3. Outpatient Mental Health Care
Outpatient programs are most often used to aid individuals with mental health disorders and/or substance use disorders. The care will vary depending on the level of structure as well as the hours spent in treatment.
For example, some individuals will go to an outpatient facility for half a day and participate in school the other half, while others spend a full day in a program that includes educational components.
There are two main types of outpatient mental health care programs: partial hospitalization programs (PHP) and intensive outpatient programs (IOP).
Young Adult Partial Hospitalization Programs
Young adults who take part in a partial hospitalization program (PHP) will typically live at home but attend treatment programs all day, for five days a week.
These programs will either take place at an outpatient mental health clinic, in a psychiatric hospital, or in the psychiatric unit of a hospital. The purpose of partial hospitalization programs is to provide the care and support an individual may need as they transition out of a mental health residential program for young adults. Doing this will allow them to continue their recovery in a structured and safe environment.
Most often, during their time in a program, they will take part in therapies and activities including:
- Group therapy
- Individual therapy (patients will see a psychiatrist at least once a week)
- Psycho-educational classes
- Parent support groups
Young Adult Intensive Outpatient Programs
Similar to PHPs, intensive outpatient programs work as an extension of a residential mental health program for young adults. However, intensive outpatient programs are not as demanding or critical as PHPs.
An individual will still take part in daily treatments, but they will only attend for about three or four hours a day. These programs still offer a structured and secure place for recovery, but the individual will also continue to deal with their everyday lives. Because of this, it’s a great opportunity for young adults to learn how to cope with day-to-day stressors and triggers in a healthy and controlled way.
Young adult intensive outpatient programs are commonly used to treat underlying issues with mental health disorders and co-occurring disorders. Many times, an individual will gradually decrease their time in an IOP, eventually transitioning to a lower level of care like weekly therapy sessions.
During their time in an intensive outpatient program, an individual will often take part in the following:
- Individual therapy
- Experiential therapies
- Group therapy
- Psychiatric and medical management
- Will periodically be seen by a psychiatrist
Choosing Between Inpatient vs. Outpatient Mental Health Care
After researching the differences between inpatient vs. outpatient mental health care programs, it may still be difficult to decide which route is right for an individual struggling with a mental health disorder.
Knowing what type of elements to consider while making the decision can help narrow down the choices. Below, we’ve listed some key questions that should help individuals and their support systems contemplate which service will be most beneficial for them.
Is the individual at risk of hurting themselves or someone else?
The most important thing to look out for is the individual’s safety and those around them. If there is any inkling or suspicion that the individual may hurt themselves or another person, they should get help immediately. It’s imperative that parents and guardians know the warning signs of suicide.
Are there stressors or triggers at home or within the community that may inhibit an individual’s progress during recovery?
Sometimes there are risk factors in an individual’s environment that will cause their mental stability to regress or push them to fall back into unhealthy habits.
It’s impossible to avoid all stressors and triggers, but it’s important for an individual going through recovery to be surrounded by a strong and healthy support system. This means people who are encouraging them to get the help they need as well as people who take their mental health and well-being seriously.
Is the individual able to handle everyday stressors and triggers during the recovery process?
As we said above, it’s likely that an individual will come across a stressful or triggering situation at some point in their recovery process. However, it’s important to look at their ability to cope with those triggers as they come.
If an individual is at a point where any type of trigger may push them over the edge, they should be in a secure environment so that when it happens they have the proper help and support to deal with it immediately.
Does the individual live with a mental health disorder that has led them to self-medicate?
There are cases where an individual struggling with a mental health illness turns to self-medicating and/or substance abuse to cope with their disorder. If this is the case, whether it is currently happening or has happened in the past, the individual should make sure they are in a structured and controlled environment.
Self-medicating and substance abuse is dangerous for the individual and the people around them. It’s best that any triggers or temptations that may cause them to take part in self-medication and/or substance abuse are eliminated early in the recovery process.
Remember, mental health care recovery is a process, and sometimes it can be a long one. It takes time and may take many different approaches. If individuals become discouraged throughout the recovery process, consider reading other people’s stories to discover that they should not lose hope. Help is always out there, and all they need to do is ask.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health disorder, take a look at our treatment programs to see how Malvern Behavioral Health can help. Contact us on our website or call us at