Making the choice to get help for mental health challenges is a big first step, and one worthy of applause. In many cases, this is the first stop on the road to a better mental state.
While there are a number of ways to address mental health, a structured approach to outpatient therapy is a common choice. Inpatient programs can be challenging to balance with life, especially for those with full-time jobs or families to care for; outpatient programs, on the other hand, can be worked into an existing lifestyle as needed while still offering effective treatment.
It’s natural to want to see results right away — after all, therapy is often presented as a must-have for those struggling with mental health — and for some people, this will be a reality. However, it’s not guaranteed. Even the best outpatient therapy won’t be quite right for everyone, and seeing slow or stalled results is unfortunately a possibility. If you feel outpatient therapy isn’t working for you, these are some points to keep in mind.
What Makes Outpatient Therapy Work?
Outpatient therapy can be a very effective tool for those who don’t require or aren’t able to seek treatment in an inpatient environment. Flexible and possible to schedule around life obligations, outpatient therapy makes getting help simple and, in many cases, affordable with help from insurance coverage.
Outpatient therapy comes in many different forms, from group programs to one-on-one treatments with a mental health professional. For someone with depression, this could mean speaking weekly with a therapist as well as sessions in a larger group setting several times a month. Many outpatient programs allow patients to create a treatment plan, which means choosing from an array of services to best meet a diagnosis or set of symptoms.
For many people, particularly those still exploring options, outpatient programming makes getting help realistic and possible — and that can be critical to long-term success.
Why Outpatient Therapy Doesn’t Work
If outpatient therapy isn’t working, it’s easy to feel like you’re the problem, but this generally isn’t true. There are plenty of reasons why outpatient therapy, despite its advantages, may not be the right fit for you.
First, the therapy program in question may not be suited to your needs. No two people are alike, which means mental health treatment can’t be one-size-fits-all. Perhaps the therapist you’re working with or the group you’ve chosen isn’t ideal for your unique requirements as a patient. In this case, the problem isn’t outpatient therapy in general but rather the program you’re involved in.
Second, there could be some outside complications limiting you from making the most of a therapy program. Perhaps some life circumstances need to change before mental health can be addressed — for example, continuing a relationship with an abusive person may make treating depression impossible — or maybe there are other stressors, like financial struggles, that are keeping you from making progress.
Third, your challenges may be deeper than something that can be addressed in an outpatient therapy program. Some conditions, like severe depression, may necessitate an inpatient course of treatment. Outpatient care is limited in its reach, and some people may require more intensive care on an ongoing basis. If you need more than outpatient programs can provide, it may be best to consider other avenues.
Gauging Your Needs
To determine the success of an outpatient program, it’s important to identify your own needs for treatment. This may not be the kind of thing you can do independently — when in the process of recovery, we don’t always know what we need — but any evaluation needs to balance personal requirements with program capabilities. If outpatient therapy isn’t working, it doesn’t mean all outpatient programs will fail; it may mean finding a program that better meets your needs. Or, as illustrated above, it may mean transitioning to a more intensive form of rehabilitation.
When considering different program options, keep the following criteria in mind:
- Availability: Whether you want to see a counselor once a week or take part in a structured outpatient program, services need to be available as frequently as you deem necessary.
- Structure: Some outpatient programs are free-form in nature, while others have a structured schedule for all participants. If speaking to a therapist periodically isn’t generating results, a more structured program might be a benefit.
- Services: Therapy comes in many different forms and functions, and it might take time to find the one right for you. A program that focuses on a narrow range of services may limit your ability to try different methods.
- Environment: In many cases, feeling comfortable can be a big part of opening up and addressing issues. Make sure a facility makes you feel safe and comfortable before proceeding with care.
- Transitional options: Some structured programs have various levels of intensity with step-down options available for those showing progress, which can be a benefit for some patients. For example, a rigid and intense program may feel stifling for those in recovery who are ready to loosen the reins.
Making the Best Decision for You
As with many areas in life, sunk cost fallacy can apply to outpatient therapy, too: Just because you’ve invested hours, weeks or months in a particular therapy program doesn’t mean you need to continue if you’re not seeing progress. It’s okay to change programs or providers, try new solutions, like switching from talk-based therapy to psychopharmacologic treatment, or move to inpatient care.
At the end of the day, your health is what matters most. Don’t hesitate to alter treatment plans or switch service providers if that’s what you need to make progress in your care.
FHE Health offers numerous outpatient therapy programs for mental health. Please contact us today to learn more about how our treatment options can make a difference for you.