July 13, 2020

Alternative to Psychiatric Hospital

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Medicially Reviewed By:
Dr. Priya Chaudhri
credentials here

When a serious mental health condition results in significant impairment it is appropriate to explore therapeutic solutions that offer a higher level of care than outpatient care. A residential mental health program provides an alternative to the psychiatric hospital treatment environment. While a psychiatric hospital offers the highest level of care, with 24-hour monitoring provided for individuals whose personal safety is at risk, these settings are for short-term acute stabilization, after which the individual will transfer to a residential treatment program.

What is not well known is that some residential mental health centers also provide the same acute stabilization services as a psychiatric hospital, which can eliminate the need to transfer the individual from setting to setting. Once stabilized and evaluated, the patient care shifts to rehabilitation within the residential setting. This smooth transition is less stressful for the individual, and allows them to stabilize in a comfortable home setting versus a sterile hospital environment.

Residential mental health care is highly individualized, so the individual will receive targeted treatment protocols that align with their specific psychiatric needs. All aspects of treatment will conform the unique features of their diagnosis for optimum efficacy. Residential programs often feature multi-modal integrative approaches that combine evidence-based and holistic elements for a more comprehensive treatment intervention. If your loved one is in need of a higher level of mental health care, consider the residential mental healthcare setting to accommodate all their needs.

Levels of Care Defined

Mental health disorders impact nearly 44 million Americans every year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Many people live with serious mental illness, not knowing how to go about finding help or simply avoiding treatment due to the perceived stigma attached to psychiatric disorders. Knowing how to guide a loved one toward appropriate treatment is essential.

Inpatient psychiatric care is available in two general levels of care:

Hospital facility

Generally, a hospital setting is reserved for the more severe psychiatric cases, with the primary goal of stabilizing the patient. A hospital setting is sterile and regimented, and freedoms are restricted to protect the safety of the patient, the staff, and other patients. The mental hospital environment offers 24-hour oversight of the patient and usually involves secluding the patient from others. The hospital setting is indicated for individuals who are on suicide watch or experiencing a psychotic break.

Residential facility

The residential treatment setting has a more home-like feel, providing a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere and more personal freedom. Residential programs are considered a step-down from an inpatient hospital program, and are a good option for treating individuals with escalating mental health disorders that have not yet responded adequately to treatment. Residential programs may offer holistic therapies and recreational activities to complement core treatment methods.

If unsure about which level of care is most appropriate for your loved one, possibly the private practice psychiatrist can guide this important decision.

When is Residential Mental Health Treatment Indicated?

When someone is struggling with a persistent mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, that isn’t improving with current interventions, the next level of treatment may involve enrolling in a residential program. The residential setting can offer intensive, focused treatment included within a more comprehensive treatment plan than an outpatient program can provide.

Possibly the individual has been treated for an extended period of time through outpatient providers, but their condition is deteriorating. Even so, it is hard to know at what point to take the step to obtain a higher level of care.  Some of the signs that a higher standard of care is needed include:

  • Impairment in functioning. Impairment occurs when the mental health issue becomes debilitating, such as when major depression is so severe that the individual is has become suicidal or when anxiety causes such fear that the person is afraid to leave their house.
  • Non-compliant with medication. If the individual has become unable to continue taking necessary medications per the prescribed schedule, thus endangering psychiatric stability.
  • Dual diagnosis. Escalation in severity of a dual diagnosis, which is the coexistence of two mental health disorders simultaneously, such two co-occurring mental health disorders or a mental health disorder and co-occurring substance use disorder.
  • Sleep disturbances increase. When insomnia or other sleep disturbances prevent the individual from achieving quality sleep, which causes the mental health condition to worsen.
  • Severe mood swings. Mood swings that have become more intense in nature, to the point that the person is a risk to their own safety.
  • Dissociative behaviors. When the individual exhibits signs of detachment and lack of emotion.
  • Risk to self. Becoming a danger to self or others, such as by displaying violent behavior, talk of suicide, or suicide attempts.

When the symptoms of a mental health disorder become chronic and steadily worsen, it is time to seek more specialized treatment such as residential treatment.

Types of Mental Health Disorders Treated in Residential Settings

Living with a mental health disorder can present unpredictable developments from day to day. One day the individual is feeling stable and optimistic, where the following day they might be contemplating suicide. Mental illness is complex and does not progress in a straight line. Even the most closely monitored disorders can suddenly take an extreme turn for the worse.

Residential treatment centers are staffed with psychiatrists and therapists that are trained in treating a wide array of mental health disorders. These conditions might include:

Anxiety disorders. The anxiety disorder spectrum features a variety of ways that anxiety can manifest in dysfunctional thought and behavior patterns. The common thread in all anxiety disorders is the expression of irrational fear and worry, which drive the associated symptoms in each different type of anxiety disorder, including phobia, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety.

Depression. Depressive disorders feature a persistent low mood, fatigue, sleep disruption, slowed motor and cognitive functioning, sudden weight change, loss of interest in usual activities, and thoughts of suicide. There are different types of depressive disorder, such as major depressive disorder, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

Trauma disorder. Features prolonged emotional suffering following witnessing or experiencing a highly traumatizing event. When the symptoms persist for more than a few months it is diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mood disorders. Mood disorders are complex mental health disorders and feature abrupt shifts between moods to varying degrees. These include bipolar disorder I, II, and cyclothymic disorder.

Personality disorders. Personality disorders involve established patterns of behavior that are considered to be out of alignment with societal expectations, such as borderline, narcissistic, antisocial, histrionic, or paranoid personality disorders.

Psychotic disorders. Psychotic disorders, or psychosis, refer to mental illness that features a break from reality. Symptoms might include hallucinations, delusional thoughts, and paranoia.

Eating disorders. Disordered eating patterns can result in serious health conditions and even death if not stabilized. These include anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

Each residential mental health program will have a specialty area that the program focuses on, so not all residential programs treat all of the above mental health disorders.

What to Expect in a Residential Mental Health Center

Treatment at a residential mental health facility includes interfacing with the psychiatrist, psychotherapists, social worker, and other mental healthcare providers as needed.  Various forms of therapy are available to augment the psychotherapy, including occupational therapy, art and music therapy, and recreational activities.  Some residential facilities also include complementary holistic therapies, such as massage, meditation, and yoga to promote overall mental and physical wellness.

Residential treatment interventions include:

  • Medication. A broad list of medications are available that help manage the symptoms of a particular mental health disorder. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, antianxiety medications, and mood stabilizers are prescribed together with psychotherapy other treatment measures.
  • Psychotherapy. There are different types of psychotherapies for treating various mental health disorders. The most commonly used are cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, interpersonal therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, solutions-focused therapy, exposure therapy, and attachment therapy.
  • Adjunctive therapies. Therapeutic activities that compliment the psychotherapy and enhance treatment results. These can be such therapies as eye movement desensitization (EMDR) or neurofeedback.
  • Recreation and fitness. Exercise offers both psychological and physical benefits and is integrated into the treatment milieu. These activities might include swimming, participation in sports such as tennis or golf, gym workouts, hiking, or walking.
  • Experiential or holistic therapies. To further augment the effects of the traditional therapies, experiential activities such as mindfulness meditation, yoga classes, art and music therapy, and deep-breathing techniques, are often included in the treatment plan.

When a loved one’s mental health condition has escalated to the point where a higher level of care is necessitated, residential mental health facilities can provide a comprehensive approach to treatment and healing.

Elevation Behavioral Health is a Leading Residential Treatment Center in Los Angeles

Elevation Behavioral Health is a luxury residential mental health treatment center in Los Angeles, California. Nestled in a tranquil canyon above Malibu, Elevation Behavioral Health provides an intimate setting for individuals in need of healing, versus the cold, institutional psychiatric hospital setting. The spacious and beautiful private home features unmatched luxury in both the interior appointments and exterior grounds.

This mental health and wellness program is built upon a foundation of proven therapeutic modalities, such as CBT and DBT. Added to those are holistic therapies, such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness training to offer a fully integrated approach to mental health treatment. When a mental health condition becomes debilitating, finding healing in a serene, relaxing environment with compassionate therapists and upscale accommodations can be a godsend. For more information about our residential program, please contact the team at Elevation Behavioral Health today at (888) 561-0868.


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