5 Things to Look for When Choosing a Mental Health Treatment Center for a Loved One
Choosing a mental health treatment center for a loved one is a tremendous responsibility. Timeliness is important but so is finding the best possible care for long-term wellness. Treatment for mental illnesses can be effective, depending on several factors. Look for facilities that offer long-term care, an expert and collaborative staff, evidence-based treatment strategies, individualized treatment plans for co-occurring conditions, and a therapeutic community based on social support.
It’s difficult to watch a family member or friend struggle with mental illness. Whether it is a deep depression, a disabling trauma disorder, or a combination of co-occurring conditions, your loved one needs the right treatment to enjoy long-term, better mental health. Living with these conditions can make it difficult to impossible to select one’s own care. Step in and be the support your loved one needs. This starts with helping them find the best possible care.
One of the most important things to understand about mental health is that treatment can be effective. There is plenty of evidence from research that treatment reduces symptoms in people with mental illness and actually helps them live longer. Research also shows that people who don’t get adequate care suffer from greater impairment and a greater risk of disability as well as poorer general health.
While the research is clear that treatment can be effective, it is also important to realize that this is proven for evidence-based care. Any type of care is not necessarily effective. There must be proof from studies to show that certain treatment strategies actually work. This makes it even more important to select a treatment center for your loved one with care and a critical eye.
1. Residential Treatment
If possible, select a treatment center that offers a residential program. One of the most important reasons to choose residential care if you can is that it offers a much greater range of treatment strategies. Studies have found that simple counseling, one-on-one therapy most often administered in an outpatient setting, is not effective in managing mental illnesses over the long-term.
This doesn’t mean that therapy doesn’t work, but it does mean that only seeing a counselor a few times a week is not good enough for most patients. The evidence shows that it can help for a month or two, but for a lasting impact you need more intensive care and a greater variety of treatment and therapy types. For instance, in residential treatment your loved one will likely have access to different types of behavioral therapies, medical care, creative therapies, and group support.
Another good reason to go with inpatient care is that it provides your loved one with a safe place to live and learn while healing. Without distractions of home, family, or work, they can truly focus on treatment and getting well. Dedicated time spent on learning and practicing coping mechanisms and changing negative thoughts and behaviors is valuable over the long-term. It will provide your loved one with a better potential future managing their mental illness and symptoms.
2. Evidence-Based Treatment
Treatment for mental illnesses can be effective, but they have to be the right treatments. Look for treatment centers that tell you exactly what kind of therapies they use, how they benefit patients, and that these strategies are backed by rigorous scientific research.
For example, any good facility should offer behavioral therapies as a foundational type of therapy in the treatment plan. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a now-standard type of care, which has also been modified for different types of mental illness like personality disorders and trauma-based disorders.
CBT has proven to be effective in treating a number of mental health issues. It focuses on recognizing and changing negative patterns in thinking and behaviors. It is action oriented and includes goal-setting and responding better to stress and difficult situations. One study found that CBT proved to have long-term effectiveness in managing symptoms for patients with depression who did not respond to medications.
3. Thorough Intake Assessment and Individualized Treatment Plans
Never choose a treatment center that treats your loved one as just another patient. Everyone is different, and this is especially true when it comes to mental health. The best facilities have extensive, thorough intake practices that include a full assessment for all mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Your loved one should be able to get a complete differential diagnosis before any treatment plan is made.
And when it’s time to make the treatment plan, the best facilities will tailor it to each individual patient. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all treatment for any mental illness, even when there are particular therapies that are usually most effective. Treatment programming should include the patient’s diagnoses, background, physical health, and preferences.
An important part of this initial assessment and treatment planning is ensuring that your loved one has all mental health issues addressed. Co-occurring conditions are common and the most effective treatment considers all of them at the same time. For instance, if your loved one struggles from depression but also has developed an alcohol use disorder, they will need treatment for both in order to avoid relapses in the future.
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4. Expert Staff and Collaborative Care
Check out the staff at any treatment center before committing to admitting your loved one. The best facilities have staff members that are expert in different areas of mental health and treatment. Just having several therapists on staff is not adequate. They should have experience and expert knowledge in different types of care and mental illness to best serve patients.
The facility should also be one in which the staff practices collaborative care. This means they actively work together in the patients’ best interests. They consult with each other and plan their treatments and therapy focus based on what they can learn from each other. Collaborative care includes not just therapists but also physicians and nurses, holistic practitioners, dieticians, and others.
5. A Therapeutic Community
More and more mental health centers are offering patients a more positive experience in treatment, one that is more like a community of support than a hospital or medical setting. Look for treatment facilities that believe in fostering a therapeutic community. Your loved one will live together with others as residents rather than patients.
The members of a therapeutic community actively support each other. This provides another level of care. Social support is essential for good mental health, so having that community will benefit your loved one. Actively supporting others is also beneficial for mental health. As your loved one helps and supports those around them, it will improve their self-efficacy and self-confidence, their belief that they can do be a positive support for others and themselves.
It may seem like choosing a treatment center for your loved one is too great a responsibility. But if you have some knowledge about what effective care looks like, it is much easier to get it right. Take some time to get comfortable with the options you have; consider practical factors like insurance coverage, cost, and location; and then make sure your narrowed-down choices have these five things and you can’t go wrong.
Our Mental Health Facilities
Constellation Behavioral Health is proud to be a leader and innovator of mental health services. Our integrated, shared system of care ensures quality of care across all of our facilities, with a distinct focus on providing a robust differential diagnosis, cultivating personal agency, and working closely with families and healthcare providers to ensure the best chance for lasting recovery. Coordination and collaboration of staff across our different facilities contribute to consistency of quality and shared treatment philosophies.
BrightQuest Treatment Centers
Located in Nashville and San Diego, BrightQuest specializes in complex psychiatric conditions, providing compassionate care to a vastly underserved population. With our unique therapeutic community model, BrightQuest is the long-term residential solution you’ve been looking for to provide your loved one with the tools necessary to live a healthier and more independent life.
Bridges to Recovery
Our Bridges to Recovery locations in Los Angeles and San Diego are designed for men and women struggling with mental health disorders who are seeking a safe alternative to hospitalization for their care. Many clients choose residential care at Bridges to Recovery because, despite their best efforts and dedication to treatment, they still are not living a stable and satisfying life. Our clinical expertise and nurturing home-like residences provide clients a safe and supportive environment to recover and heal. The quality and comprehensiveness of our integrated, intensive treatment program allow for rapid relief from suffering and tremendous growth, all in a few short weeks.