Find The Right Level of Care for Adolescents In Need

Find The Right Level of Care for Adolescents In Need

Adolescent mental health is currently in a mental health crisis in this country and across the world. As much as a decade before the added stress of the pandemic, feelings of persistent sadness and hopelessness had increased by 40% among young people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. Without intervention, poor mental health and substance abuse can be life-threatening. Learn which level of care is appropriate for your anxious adolescent or teen in crisis. 

Would you rather listen? Press play above. Ready to read? Scroll on.

Anxious Generation

The increase in suicidal ideation, self-harm, anxiety, and depression has disrupted the adolescent population, and many are self-medicating with illegal substances. An adolescent currently dealing with mental health issues is more at risk of developing a co-occurring substance abuse disorder. In fact, recent data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported teenagers who experienced a major depressive disorder episode were more likely to use drugs and alcohol.

If an adolescent isn’t experiencing these issues in their life, they are likely seeing loved ones, friends, peers, and people in the media living through a mental health crisis. How does that make a teenager in this world feel, where at every turn, there are mental health struggles? For most teenagers, it is an unsettling reality of their current world and the dread of their future. 

Specifically, teenagers who are in the midst of their mental health battles are susceptible to mental health and substance abuse areas. If you are a parent, loved one, friend, teacher, or mentor, how will you know what level of care is required to help someone who is in need?

Knowing Levels of Care

Here, in detail, are the levels of care from least to greatest to least intensive to give you a better picture to help a person in need.

Inpatient Hospitalization: At the highest level of care is inpatient hospitalization for an individual who is experiencing life-threatening symptoms, such as suicidal ideation, self-harm, drug abuse, or overdose. In these situations, if you are monitoring a teenager showing an increase in high-risk behaviors, calling 911 or transporting them to a mental health hospital is the best option for their safety. At the highest level of care, a teenager is placed in an environment that can keep them safe from drugs, self-harming behaviors, and suicidal plans. In this level of care, there are routine mental health check-ins by psychiatrists for medication management and therapy in group and individual settings. In most cases inpatient hospitalization is short-term, and provides 24-hour care to monitor patients. When a teenager has been evaluated and has shown a decrease in high-risk symptoms, the patient is referred to a lower level of care.

Partial Hospitalization Program: When released from the highest level of care in a hospital, PHP programs are recommended to continue the level of care. In this environment, it is less restrictive than an inpatient hospital. Services are usually held weekly from 8 am-5 pm to assist patients with individual and group therapy, and medication management. If a patient shows improvement they can move to a lower level of care.

Residential Treatment: This level of care can be referred after a patient is released from inpatient hospitalization; this is recommended when a client is dealing with substance abuse. Residential treatment is longer than inpatient hospitalization to help patients manage their substance abuse and psychoeducation to increase awareness. Residential treatment helps develop goals with the patients to improve their well-being. Also, individual and group therapy is there to help patients through encouragement and support. Medication management is provided if needed by psychiatrists. Once a patient has been assessed with improvements they can go to a lower level of care.

Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP): This level of care is usually recommended after inpatient hospitalization. IOPs meet 5 days a week and hold individual and group therapy for several hours. IOPs allow for more flexibility than the other places of care explained before, which is helpful for teenagers to progressively return to school and other routine activities. If stability improves, the patient can move to a lower level of care.

Outpatient Therapy/Psychiatrist Appointments: This is the lowest and most flexible level of care for a patient to receive mental health services, and one most people are familiar with. Once a patient has been assessed and has more stability, outpatient therapy is the recommendation for continued care. Outpatient therapy can be held in private practice, hospitals, or community health centers that provide therapy, and medication management. At this level, a patient can attend to their routine work or activities. 

Understanding the different levels of care and what they provide is valuable knowledge,, but loved ones may also ask how to know which level of care is needed. 

What Level When?

There are several areas to highlight to make sure the referral of care fits the situation. At the lowest level of care outpatient therapy, services may hold intensive work like trauma care, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse. However, outpatient care is not suited for life-threatening behaviors like someone having plans to commit suicide. If someone has a plan and intent to harm themselves, it is essential to assist the teenager to an inpatient hospital. If a teenager is using drugs, outpatient therapy can help with substance abuse. In the situation where a teenager has uncontrolled substance use or overdose, it is vital to assist the teenager with inpatient hospitalization or residential treatment. It is important to note that just because a teenager uses substances doesn’t always mean hospitalization or residential treatment. A higher level of care depends on high-risk behaviors or endangerment. Teenagers who have a mental health crisis or episode are recommended to go to a higher level of care like inpatient hospitalization to assess their current mental health state. The inpatient hospital will evaluate and screen the patient to make plans to move the patient to the levels of care needed.

If you are or know someone who is currently experiencing severe mental health issues or substance abuse, knowing this information is critical. If experiencing an emergency contact 911 or find the closest hospital for immediate care.  If you know an adolescent in need of therapy services, working with a therapist who gets you and where you’re coming from is a great first step. Book an appointment with me at Lifeologie Counseling Dallas at (214) 357-4001, or find a therapist near you who specializes in working with adolescent therapy.

About Micah Gultery

Micah earned his BA in Psychology from the University of Texas at Arlington and his Master’s in Clinical Counseling from the University of North Texas at Dallas. Micah Gultery specializes in anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, mental health issues, self-harming, anger management, self-esteem, stress, and time management issues through individual, family, or group counseling. As a part of the Gen Z population, Micah has found his passion and purpose in working with adolescents, young adults, and adults looking for solutions for their well-being. Micah utilizes the approaches of person-centered, solution-focused and CBT to assist clients through their adversities.

Meet Me