Add To Favorites

Treatment Settings

By: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Treatment is not a one size fits all approach. Where you go for mental health treatment depends on your situation and recovery needs. Knowing where to look and what to expect can help reduce confusion and stress.

Mental health care professionals that provide services include psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric or mental health nurses, social workers and counselors. Psychiatrists prescribe and manage medications. Finding a professional who accepts your health insurance can help cover the cost of services, but some psychiatrists and other doctors do not accept insurance.

Private Practice

Individual, family and group therapy sessions are held in a variety of settings, a common one being private practice. A professional in private practice may work out of a variety of places, from an office to her home. Meeting weekly, bi-weekly or monthly with a care provider, can provide a person better understanding of relationships, feelings, behaviors and how to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse.

Community Or County Mental Health Centers

A community or county mental health care center often provides public mental health care services when a referral to a private doctor or therapist is not possible. Centers are operated by local governments to meet the needs of people whose mental health condition seriously impacts their daily functioning. Some of the services a person might receive from a community or county mental health center include outpatient services, medication management, case management services and intensive community treatment services.

Often centers manage contracts with mental health service providers and refer clients for employment, day program services, residential treatment services, therapeutic residential services and supportive residential services.

Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors and peer support specialists work at centers to provide the range of services clients need. Some centers use the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team-based care model to coordinate a client’s care. Services may include psychiatry, case management services and help with employment and substance use issues.

Most of the people getting services from a community or county mental health care center receive Social Security disability benefits and rely on Medicaid to fund their treatment needs.

Mental health centers often have emergency walk-in services or a mobile crisis unit with clinical staff able make an on-site evaluation of a person’s condition. The purpose of both is to deescalate, stabilize the individual and determine the next steps.

Substance Abuse Treatment Centers

Some people with mental health conditions also have substance abuse concerns. The most widely used form of treatment is integrated intervention. With this treatment, a person receives care for both a specific mental illness and substance abuse. Types of substances abuse centers include:

  • Detoxification facilities. Withdrawal from alcohol can be life-threating and requires medical supervision. Opiate withdrawal is less risky, but detox can be important to organize community-based efforts to provide sobriety supports.
  • Acute Residential Treatment (ART) programs. ART are short-term, highly focused treatment programs that help individuals solidify their recovery and sobriety.
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP). IOP allows individuals to work, go to school and carry on their regular activities while also providing services and supports, such as a 12-step program to remain sober.

Teletherapy And Telepsychiatry

Liberalization of teletherapy and telepsychiatry coverage in many health plans means professionals can now provide many treatments virtually. Most visits in this way require a camera on a smart phone or computer—but not all. This therapy can be delivered by phone. Your therapist or health plan will be able to answer your questions on their use of this technology.

The literature strongly suggests that the quality of teletherapy care is as effective as in-person sessions for most people with most conditions. It is not ideal for everyone, however, as some people strongly prefer talking in person, in a safe space dedicated to healing. There are also some populations — like geriatric patients and people with autism spectrum disorder — in which this form of treatment may not be as effective as in-person. Only you can decide what is right for your recovery journey.

Check with your health care provider and/or your health plan to see what options are available to you.