What Do Mental Health Centers Do?Shelby Wall
Over 25 percent of the U. S. adult population suffers from one or more mental health disorders, yet such struggles are frequently ignored, dismissed or stigmatized. Many people delay seeking treatment because they’re ashamed of their illness; because they don’t understand that treatment is for people still functioning as well as for the seriously ill; or simply because they don’t know how or where to find help. Unfortunately, as with most illnesses, an ignored mental health disorder is less likely to go away than to get worse.
Fortunately, mental health is becoming better understood, and treatment easier to find. Professionally staffed mental health centers—medical centers focusing on treatment for mental health issues—are now widely available and visible to the public.
Mental health centers may be:
- Divisions of larger hospital systems
- Separate, privately owned hospitals
- Outpatient office complexes staffed by psychiatrists and therapists (which may also be part of larger medical centers with diverse services)
Specific treatment options and details vary, but most mental health centers provide most of the following medical services.
Licensed psychiatrists and/or clinicians interview clients in detail to determine the cause of symptoms, diagnose specific mental illnesses and recommend long-term treatment options. (Psychiatrists also provide prescriptions if needed.)
If a mental illness case is found to be severe, and the client seems at risk for hurting themselves or anyone else, the center may arrange for immediate hospitalization.
If a patient has mild or moderate illness and remains functional in everyday life, he or she will likely be put on an outpatient program, which means living at home and coming to the mental health center for regular therapy sessions. There are two primary forms of outpatient care.
- Intensive outpatient care. A client comes for individual and/or group therapy sessions two or three days a week. Ongoing support and monitoring in recovery is the focus.
- Partial hospitalization programs, or day treatment. Similar to intensive outpatient care, but therapy sessions are more frequent. A typical schedule is 3–5 days a week totaling 12 or more total hours of weekly counseling.
Residential, or inpatient, care is for clients too severely impaired to live independently or under home caregiving. It’s also frequently recommended for those with co-occurring behavioral illnesses (such as substance abuse disorder), who are more vulnerable to relapse in a non-controlled environment and may need supervised hospitalization for physical detox.
A typical residential care period lasts around three months, but may be as short as one month or as long as six months. At many centers, a patient completing the residential care period will be transitioned through formal outpatient care before re-entering the everyday world.
Therapy and Counseling
After the official care period is complete, additional long-term therapy is still important to lasting recovery. The mental health center will either provide, or refer the client to, individual, peer-group and family therapy on a weekly-to-monthly basis.
Ongoing mental health counseling is important to:
- Reduce feelings of being alone or hopeless
- Master strategies for living effectively with a disorder
- Maintain accountability in sticking to recovery plans
- Receive perspective and encouragement in times of slow progress or relapse
For patients unable to attend therapy in person, most centers and therapists also provide virtual-counseling options.
Finding a Mental Health Center
Sources of qualified referrals to mental health centers include:
- Primary care physicians
- Health insurance companies
- Religious centers and other nonprofits
- Local government offices
There’s a mental health center for every need. And any reputable center will provide an initial consultation and a tour of its premises at no charge.
In addition to the medically focused mental health centers discussed above, most communities have government agencies and nonprofits that provide educational resources for the public. Many of these organizations also offer basic counseling services at little or no cost.
A Mental Health Center for All Needs
Serene Behavioral Health treats most mental health disorders, including depression, schizophrenia and addiction. Our priorities include a tailored, individually focused treatment plan for every client.