Female psychologist noting down while her patient is talking about her problems
Published On: February 17, 2016|Categories: Teen Mental Health|

If you’ve researched forms of mental healthcare programs on behalf of your teen, you’ve likely discovered many different options. Deciding which is the best, however, can feel overwhelming, if not confusing. How can you determine which care level is best for your teen?

The good news is you don’t have to decide on your own. The trained admissions staff will guide you and your teen toward the best program selection to promote the highest quality of mental health.

Teen mental health treatment

Treatment options for teens vary from less supervised outpatient options to intensive inpatient treatment. Knowing what each program offers can help your research and give you an idea of what kind of treatment your child will receive.

Outpatient programs

When receiving outpatient mental health treatment, the therapist provides treatment for many concerns a teen can be facing, including:

  • Mild to moderate symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • Some experimentation with drugs or alcohol
  • Uncharacteristic behaviors, including acting out, anger/irritability and attention-seeking
  • Family conflict

Usually, sessions with a therapist happen once a week, but the frequency can vary depending on the availability of the therapist and the severity of the client’s symptoms.

Outpatient therapists may also oversee therapy groups designed to allow individuals of similar ages and problems to be treated within a group setting. Many of these groups occur for a couple of hours a week. Some of the most common adolescent groups include social skills groups and groups aimed to assist teenagers with attentional difficulties. If you notice your child struggling socially, group therapy offers an appropriate therapeutic setting to help them develop these skills.


Psychiatrists have the license to provide assessments or recommendations regarding medications. Often, the psychiatrist sees individuals for an initial evaluation and then follows up with them for medication management sessions. Some psychiatrists will see patients weekly and provide both individual talk therapy and medication management sessions to help teens regain their mental well-being.

Many people seeking help for the first time will try to get their initial appointment with a psychiatrist. However, getting an appointment with an outpatient clinician is often easier and quicker. These specialists can then begin therapy and offer a referral for your teen to a psychiatrist if the clinician believes that medication is worth considering.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP)

Intensive outpatient programs offer a higher level of care designed to treat teens experiencing moderate to severe symptoms. IOPs usually meet multiple days a week for three to four hours per treatment day. This schedule generally lasts between two and three months.

All IOPs are designed with a strong emphasis on group work to assist your teen with developing specific skills to improve their level of functioning.  If your child uses drugs or alcohol regularly, this is most likely the appropriate level of care for them. Additionally, those who struggle with eating disorder symptoms often receive a referral to this level of care.

If your teen received therapy from an outpatient clinician but has not made much progress, this may be the next step. Conversely, if your family member has not been in treatment before, but their symptoms are raising some safety concerns (including self-harm or suicidal thoughts), this may be the needed level of care.

Partial care/partial hospitalization programs (PCP/PHP)

This level of care is the step between an IOP and an inpatient hospitalization program. It benefits teens who are not at immediate risk of harming themselves but may struggle to function daily.

PCPs – group-based programs that provide family work, individual work and medication management sessions – usually run five days a week for five to six hours at a time. At this level of care, the patient usually attends the program for anywhere from two to four weeks, with specific goals of getting their medications adjusted, improving their level of functioning, addressing any safety concerns and creating an appropriate aftercare plan. Many partial patients will step down directly into an IOP.

If your child is not attending school, not functioning well, showing severe depressive symptoms, self-injuring or expressing suicidal thoughts regularly, then this may be the appropriate level of care for them.

Inpatient hospitalization

If your teen is in immediate danger, the best thing to do is take them to the emergency room for an evaluation. Any suicidal gesture or attempt needs to be taken seriously and inpatient hospitalization (that is, seeking help in the emergency room) should be pursued.

When you take your child to the emergency room, they will be medically cleared and evaluated by a therapist to determine the appropriate next step. Many times, the therapist will recommend a stay at the hospital. Although this recommendation may sound scary, it is the best action for someone in crisis.

Inpatient treatment often includes therapy groups, family sessions, and regular medication management by the psychiatrist. Once patients are more stable and no longer at high risk of harming themselves, the clinician at the hospital will assist you with determining the next appropriate level of care.

Ready to receive help?

Contact High Focus Centers today to contact a counselor who can help you and your teen determine what level of care is needed to enhance their well-being. With inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment options for your teen, there’s sure to be a program that fits their needs.

Call us today at 800-877-3628 to learn more.

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