What if outpatient counseling isn’t working?
You like your counselor and have a good rapport. The weekly sessions are helpful, and yet you just can’t get a handle on your anxiety and depression.
You appreciate the help, but you’re not healing. Every day is a struggle to function. You can’t even imagine getting to a place of strength again.
Most likely, the lack of progress has nothing to do with your therapist’s competency, or how much you are trying. And if you are participating in Christian counseling, a lack of progress certainly doesn’t point to a lack of faith on your part.
What is it, then?
Of course, each case is different. We can’t apply a broad brush to your situation. We can share what we typically see – and what we’re seeing more of – among our clients lately.
It has to do with a clinical word called “acuity.” If you are not making progress, it might mean that you need a “higher dose” of therapy.
This concept of using the right prescription for the need applies in other areas of our lives: medicine we need, nutrition we need, or physical fitness levels we aspire to reach. Each of us has different situations and different levels of need.
Some of us need a higher dose of therapy to treat a more acute mental health challenge.
A higher dose of mental health care could mean adding frequency to your regular outpatient visits. It may also include the addition of therapy targeted to a particular area of need. For example:
A skills group can help you practice the theories you discuss with your counselor during your outpatient visits. In such a group, a therapist works with a variety of individuals just like you who are practicing certain skills, sharing their challenges, and growing confidence with progress. Like regular outpatient counseling, these groups are often covered by insurance. They are designed to help you make progress faster and make your outpatient counseling more effective.
For those with much more acute (serious) anxiety and depression, an even higher dose of therapy may be required. If you are truly struggling to function on a daily basis, piling up absences from school or work, seeing your relationships deteriorate, damaging your health with destructive habits – you likely need more intensive treatment. An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is designed to give you the right dose of therapy. The goal is to stop destructive behaviors, heal the hurt, and build the behavioral skills you need to do more than survive – to thrive.
A higher dose of care is more than an hour or two per week of outpatient therapy. Skills groups add about 90 minutes a week to the regular outpatient therapy. An IOP typically replaces your weekly outpatient therapy with the more intensive group work, four days per week, about three hours per day, in a clinic setting. You can still see your outpatient therapist outside of group hours, but typically you do not need to do so. Your group therapist will collaborate with your outpatient therapist to ensure your care is coordinated.
Intentional and Intensive
Clients enrolled in an IOP continue working and living in their own community. Yet, an IOP is intentional and intensive. It takes time to deliver a higher dose of care and commitment to stay on the prescribed course.
The time commitment of a higher dose of care can be tough to swallow. Your regular schedule at work or school may need to be adjusted during your intensive treatment. Just remember – most people who are referred to this type of treatment are already missing work or school anyway due to the severity of their symptoms. Perhaps you are taking “mental health days” because you can’t function well …
What if you resolved to be more intentional about that time away from work?
If your symptoms are not improving with traditional outpatient counseling, and they are impacting your ability to function in life, a few weeks in an IOP will be well worth your time. This decision may even help you avoid the costly in-patient, hospital-based treatment that could be required if your symptoms continue to escalate.
As we said, each case is different. The appropriate level of care is determined either during your intake process or after your diagnostic assessment (DA). The DA is scheduled after you call to refer yourself or after a medical or mental health professional refers you to an IOP.
If your outpatient counselor suggests an IOP, don’t be afraid of the logistics. Embrace the idea of a higher level of care. Everyone involved wants you to feel better, faster. You may not be able to see a way through the process right now. That’s normal when you’re hurting. Your care team will work with you and help you through the logistics.
Focus on your healing.
And begin to hope.
We will believe for you until you begin to believe for yourself.
If you would like to learn more about the GROWTH Intensive Outpatient Program at Christian Family Solutions, please contact us. Our team is here to help at 800-438-1772. Or visit us here for more information.