As a clinician at an inpatient psychiatric hospital unit, I am often asked by clients, “How can I prevent this from happening again?” That is exactly what we aim to do after stabilization: Provide our clients and their loved ones with education, resources and follow-up to prevent another mental health crisis that leads to hospitalization.  

Seeking inpatient behavioral health services is difficult and frightening. Folks are often entering a facility on what they consider to be the worst day of their lives. Many clients have not been receiving any type of mental health treatment and do not know where to start to connect to behavioral health services, understanding that the services available in the Amarillo community can help people navigate or prevent a mental health crisis. Different levels of care address the diverse needs of individuals, and understanding them can help people make informed decisions about the type of treatment that is best for them. 

Traditional outpatient behavioral health services are the most common form of mental health treatment. These involve individual sessions with a licensed therapist on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, typically lasting from 45 minutes to an hour. This level of care is ideal for individuals who can function in their daily lives but may need support to manage symptoms of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety or PTSD.

Intensive outpatient behavioral health services provide a higher level of care, and involve more frequent group therapy sessions, ranging from nine to 15 hours per week. These services may even be increased to a partial hospitalization program, which provides around 20 hours of therapy per week. These programs are designed for individuals who require more intensive support in managing their mental health symptoms but do not require round-the-clock supervision or care. These programs also include medication management, case management and individual therapy, and are often recommended for individuals transitioning from inpatient care or who may not be progressing in traditional outpatient services.  

Inpatient behavioral health services, also known as psychiatric hospitalization, offer the highest level of care for individuals experiencing mental health crises. These involve round-the-clock supervision and care for individuals who are a danger to themselves or others, or who require intensive treatment and stabilization. Inpatient programs include a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, medication management, and other interventions. The goal is to stabilize individuals in crisis, provide a safe and supportive environment for recovery, and develop a comprehensive treatment plan for ongoing care. Inpatient programs typically last for a few days to a few weeks, depending on needs and progress in treatment. 

The key differences between these three levels of care lie in the frequency of therapy sessions and the intensity of treatment. Traditional outpatient services offer flexibility and convenience for individuals who need ongoing support in managing mental health symptoms. Intensive outpatient programs provide a higher level of care for those who could benefit from increased treatment and support. Inpatient services offer the highest level of care for those experiencing mental health crises or severe mental health conditions. Ultimately, the type of behavioral health services that are best for someone will depend on their specific needs, symptoms and goals for treatment.  
Recognizing when to seek a higher level of behavioral health services can be crucial in keeping yourself or your loved ones safe and maintaining quality of life. I advise families to pay attention to signs and indicators that may suggest the need for a higher level of care, and reach out for help when the time comes.

Signs that you or someone you know may be in crisis and need to seek a higher level of care include:   

  • Increase of mental health symptoms such as persistent sadness, excessive worry, irritability, or mood swings
  • Impairment of usual functioning (completion of daily tasks, socialization, work) 
  • Isolation 
  • Thoughts of death, suicide or self-harm 
  • Increase or decrease in sleep, appetite and/or weight  
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Change in energy level 
  • Slowed thoughts, speech or movements
  • False beliefs and paranoia 
  • Seeing or hearing things that others do not 
  • Withdrawal from alcohol or other substances 
  • Feeling lonely, sad, worthless, hopeless, helpless or suddenly and abnormally unwell 

If you or someone you know is struggling, get immediate help from these resources: 

  • National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988 
  • Texas Panhandle Centers 24-hour Crisis Hotline: 806-359-6699 (crisis services and traditional outpatient services) 
  • Oceans Behavioral Healthcare: 806-310-2205 (inpatient services, intensive outpatient services, partial hospitalization services coming summer 2024)  
  • Northwest Texas Behavioral Healthcare: 1-800-537-2585 (inpatient and intensive outpatient services) 
  • Family Support Services: 806-374-5433 (crisis services and traditional
    outpatient services) 

Author

  • Emily Permenter, LCSW

    Emily is the Director of Clinical Services at Oceans Behavioral Hospital Amarillo, a psychiatric hospital focused on helping individuals experiencing depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, behavioral changes related to dementia, medication management or substance abuse, and other mental health issues. Emily has been a social worker for more than seven years and completed graduate school in Denver, while working with foster and at-risk youth. Emily is an Amarillo native and takes pride in providing affirming, compassionate and quality care to people in this community.

    View all posts