Teenage boy smiles as his mental health counselor speaks to him.You’ve made the difficult decision to seek mental health treatment, but now you’re faced with even more choices. What types of programs are out there? What’s the difference between inpatient and outpatient programs? Which one is right for me? And what can I expect during treatment?

Trying to answer these questions on your own can be overwhelming, which is why Behavioral Hospital of Bellaire is here to help. By the end of our article, you should have a clearer idea of what inpatient and outpatient programs are and how to choose which one is right for you. We dive into the differences between inpatient and outpatient programs and weigh their pros and cons depending on your mental health needs.

What is an Inpatient Mental Health Program?

An inpatient program, also known as residential treatment, involves living at a treatment facility for a set period of time to receive mental health services. This type of program provides 24/7 care and support, with a structured schedule of therapy sessions, group activities and other recovery-focused activities. Inpatient programs provide individualized treatment tailored to each patient with the goal of helping them return to their daily life as soon as possible.

Who is inpatient therapy best suited for?

Inpatient programs are best suited for individuals who:

  • Have a severe mental illness or behavioral health disorder
  • Have a co-occurring mental health disorder
  • Need crisis stabilization and/or medication stabilization
  • Need a safe and structured environment to recover
  • Do not have a supportive or stable home environment
  • Have tried outpatient treatment before and found that they needed more structured treatment

What to expect in an inpatient program

In an inpatient program, individuals will receive round-the-clock care and support from a team of compassionate medical professionals, therapists, and counselors. The program length varies but typically lasts for 30-90 days. It may be longer depending on the severity of the patient’s needs.

During their stay, people will participate in a variety of therapies, such as individual therapy, group therapy and family education. They will also have access to medical care, medication management, integrated treatment and other holistic approaches.

Inpatient programs also provide a structured and supportive environment, with rules and guidelines to help patients stay on track with their recovery. This can include daily schedules, curfews and restrictions on outside communication and visitors.

What is an Outpatient Mental Health Program?

An outpatient program involves attending treatment sessions in a medical setting, such as a treatment facility, hospital or therapist’s office. Unlike inpatient programs, outpatient programs do not require an overnight stay and patients do not live in a specialized facility. As a result, this type of program offers more flexibility and enables people to receive treatment while also continuing with their daily responsibilities, such as work or school.

Who is outpatient therapy best suited for?

Outpatient programs are best suited for individuals who:

  • Have a mild to moderate mental illness or behavioral health disorders
  • Have a supportive and stable home environment
  • Have already completed an inpatient program and have ‘graduated’ to an outpatient program
  • Cannot take extended time off from work or school for an inpatient program
  • Are unable to afford the cost of an inpatient program

What to expect in an outpatient program?

Outpatient programs typically involve attending therapy sessions a few times a week for a few hours at a time. The duration of the program can vary, but it usually lasts for 3-6 months. Depending on the patient’s mental health needs, however, the program length may vary.

Unlike inpatient programs, people in outpatient programs have more freedom and are not required to follow a strict schedule or adhere to strict rules. However, they are still expected to attend all scheduled therapy sessions and actively participate in their recovery.

Outpatient programs also often provide virtual options, making them more accessible to those who may have mobility issues.

Behavioral Hospital of Bellaire, for example, provides two outpatient program options: A day treatment program and an intensive outpatient program. Meeting schedules vary depending on whether you are an adult or an adolescent.

Inpatient vs Outpatient: Pros and Cons

Both inpatient and outpatient programs provide different benefits.

Inpatient program pros

  • 24/7 access to medical care and support
  • Structured and supportive environment
  • No distractions/temptations from the outside world
  • More intensive therapy and treatment
  • Higher success rates for long-term recovery
  • Suitable for those with severe conditions

Inpatient program cons

  • Requires extended time off from work or school
  • Can be more expensive than outpatient programs
  • Limited contact with family and friends

Outpatient program pros

  • More flexibility and freedom
  • Enables people to continue with daily life while receiving treatment
  • More affordable than inpatient programs
  • Suitable for those with a mild addiction
  • May be done virtually

Outpatient program cons

  • Access to medical care and support is more limited
  • Less intensive therapy and treatment
  • May not be suitable for those with a severe addiction
  • Requires a supportive and stable home environment

Inpatient vs Outpatient: Which is Right for You?

Considering everything we now know about inpatient and outpatient programs, how do you decide which one is right for your mental health needs? Consider the following:

  • The severity of the condition: Inpatient treatment programs are typically recommended for people with a severe mental illness or behavioral health condition, while outpatient programs are more suitable for those with mild to moderate issues.
  • Co-occurring disorders: If you have a co-occurring disorder, inpatient care may be more beneficial as it offers 24/7 access to medical care and support. For those with a less severe addiction, however, outpatient programs may be beneficial as well.
  • Support systems: If you have a supportive and stable home environment, outpatient services may be a good option. However, if your home environment is not conducive to recovery, an inpatient program may be a better choice.
  • Time and costs: Inpatient programs require extended time off from work or school, which is not always feasible. Outpatient programs offer more flexibility and may be a more affordable option for receiving mental health treatment.

It’s Never Too Late

Inpatient and outpatient programs, although different from one another, both provide effective treatment for common mental health issues. Deciding which one to choose starts with learning more about the different kinds of treatment, intensity, and level of care they provide. Ultimately, the most important factor is finding a program that meets your individual needs and helps you achieve long-term recovery.

If you or a loved one are dealing with persistent mental health concerns, it may be time to consider a mental health program. Behavioral Hospital of Bellaire is here to provide compassionate treatment. We offer inpatient programs and outpatient programs for adolescents, adults and older adults. Reach out at 1-800-423-0017 or complete this form to learn more.

Behavioral Hospital of Bellaire

Behavioral Hospital of Bellaire is a facility that provides specialized behavioral health services focused on helping adults learn the skills necessary to live successful meaningful lives. We offer acute mental health treatment in our inpatient psychiatric facility as well as less intensive outpatient care.

Located in Houston, Texas, we take an integrative approach to mental health by having our multidisciplinary work together with patients to create customized treatment plans that focus on their individual goals. Our programs include servicing adolescents, adults and older adults. Some of the conditions we treat are depression, anxiety, substance use and more. We also have a variety of evidence-based treatment practices, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy.

To schedule a no-cost assessment or for more information, please call 1-833-379-0017