Why Outpatient Treatment May Not Be Enough for Your Teen

Although recovery is possible for all teens struggling with a mental health issue, not every teen recovers using the same method. Outpatient treatment can be helpful for some patients, while others require a more involved process to ensure they don’t relapse. If you’re concerned that your teen isn’t getting enough from outpatient treatment, there are other options that may work better for your teen’s needs.

What is Outpatient Treatment?

Unlike inpatient treatment, where patients reside at the facility that provides help, outpatient treatment allows patients to continue living at home or other residences while they undergo rehab. The types of therapy and support provided by outpatient treatment can vary, but they usually include group counseling and support groups. Outpatient treatment usually includes multiple sessions per week—the length of which can vary—but the patient can return home each night. In some programs, the patient can continue attending their regular school.

The Limits of Outpatient Treatment

Image Credit: John Towner

While outpatient treatment can be helpful for some teens struggling with a mental health problem, other teens need more care and supervision than outpatient treatment can provide. Certain conditions are better treated at an inpatient facility, where teens can receive full-time support. For example, teens who are recovering from a substance addiction may need round-the-clock care to help with the initial withdrawal and subsequent cravings. Since patients stay at the rehab center and are kept under supervision by professional staff, it’s much harder for them to gain access to illicit drugs. Teens who are struggling with a serious mental illness—such as chronic depression, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder—may benefit more from an inpatient facility, which can provide safety, structure and a place to stabilize.

Alternatives to Outpatient Treatment

If your teen is not responding well to outpatient treatment, or if you think that your teen requires more help than what an outpatient treatment center can provide, talk to your teen about going to an inpatient facility. Full-time inpatient treatment can offer a personalized program with support from a team of medical professionals including a psychiatrist, medical doctor and recovery counselor.

However, if this option isn’t feasible for you and your teen, consider a program that mixes inpatient and outpatient care. Some programs use outpatient treatment during the week but offer overnight inpatient care over the weekend. You might also choose to supplement your teen’s outpatient care with additional forms of help. Your teen can attend a therapeutic day school to receive an education in a supportive environment. Or they can stay at a sober living home while undergoing outpatient treatment; this type of facility can help your teen successfully transition from an intensive recovery program to a regular life.

While some teens respond well to outpatient treatment, many others find that they require inpatient care or additional support to make a full recovery. If you think your teen would benefit from other options, book an appointment with your teen’s doctor or therapist for recommendations.

Feature Image: Benjamin Combs