Skip to Main Content

Inpatient Mental Health: FAQS About Residential Mental Health Treatment

Updated 14 September 2021 Written by Deborah QuinnClinically Reviewed by Sarah Fletcher, LPC, LAC
people-in-group-therapy

What Is Inpatient Treatment For Mental Health?

Inpatient treatment for mental health is when you stay overnight at a substance abuse or health treatment center.

Inpatient treatment centers provide all the care you need under one roof. They might have medical staff in addition to mental health professionals and other support staff.

Inpatient treatment is usually best for you or a loved one with serious mental health concerns that need a high level of care for safety, compliance with treatment, and supervision.

A man pointing at a "Inpatient mental health treatment" text

You might need inpatient treatment if you are feeling suicidal or have tried all other options for treatment with no success. You also might need inpatient treatment if you have a break from reality, an overdose, or other crises.

Inpatient treatment for mental health can treat many types of mental health issues, including:

  • Depression
  • Severe anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorder
  • Serious mental illnesses, like schizophrenia or schizo-affective disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance use disorder

During inpatient mental health treatment, you get intensive support and a high level of supervision. During a mental health crisis, you might be in a short-term emergency inpatient stay, such as a psychiatric hospitalization.

Inpatient treatment is among the highest levels of care for mental health and substance abuse treatment services. After inpatient treatment, you will most likely get a referral for lower levels of care with outpatient services or partial hospitalization.

Are Residential Treatment Centers The Same As Inpatient Mental Health Centers?

Residential treatment centers are a type of inpatient mental health center.

While overnight hospitalizations offer a high level of care, they are often short-term. You might stay at a psychiatric hospital for one to two weeks, yet you might still need inpatient care.

You can stay at a residential treatment center as a step down in levels of care from the hospital. Residential treatment programs offer a long-term length of stay with support staff and mental health professionals available 24/7.

Unlike a psychiatric hospitalization, a residential treatment center will be more “home-like” than a hospital’s medical setting. 

You might get a referral to a residential treatment facility during your inpatient hospitalization to continue your mental health or substance abuse treatment. A psychiatric hospital might also refer you to intensive outpatient (IOP) or partial hospitalization (PHP) programs.

When To Get Inpatient Mental Health Care

It would be best to get inpatient mental health care when you are in a crisis, are not stable enough to recover without intensive support, or have tried everything else without success.

You might also seek inpatient mental health care for a loved one during a crisis. Your loved one might be a danger to others or themselves. They might not be in touch with reality and are unable to make decisions for their own care.

Often, inpatient mental health care is needed for things like:

  • Suicide attempt or ideations
  • Drug or alcohol overdose
  • Law enforcement response to mental health issues
  • Self-harm
  • Danger to self or others
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Overwhelmed by distressing thoughts
  • Psychiatric medication adjustment

When you are concerned about yourself or a loved one engaging in dangerous or deadly behavior due to substance use or mental health disorders, inpatient care might be the next step.

Other times, you might not be in a crisis but are unable to function mentally or emotionally. You or a loved one might struggle to get out of bed dealing with severe depression. You might also need a safe place to stay while making changes to psychiatric medications.

Inpatient treatment is most often needed to get better when you suffer from a mental breakdown. 

What Is A Mental Breakdown?

A mental breakdown means that you are struggling with your mental health and can include a range of symptoms.

When your mental health interferes with your ability to function in daily life, you might be having a mental breakdown. Your life might be spiraling out of control, or things feel hopelessly overwhelming. You might notice that your loved one is “not themselves.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the following might be warning signs that you or your loved one are having emotional distress leading to a mental breakdown:

  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Unexpected and significant weight gain or loss
  • Withdrawing from activities, work, and relationships
  • Low levels of energy
  • Unexplained pain, like headaches or persistent stomach aches
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Excessive worry, doubt, and guilt
  • Struggling to adjust to life changes
  • Increase in smoking, vaping, or caffeine consumption
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Prescription drug misuse
  • Suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and actions
  • Threats to harm others

In addition, teenagers and young adults might display these signs when having a mental breakdown:

  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Isolation
  • Problems at school with grades, attendance, or conduct
  • Risky behaviors, like drug or alcohol use, reckless driving, or promiscuity
  • Cutting and self-harm

Additionally, MentalHealth.gov adds “hearing voices or believing things that are not true” as a warning sign of a mental health problem. 

When you notice warning signs like these, it is important to seek treatment. Sometimes, these signs could indicate an underlying medical issue. Speak to your primary healthcare provider for guidance and referrals to mental health services, if needed.

How To Get Inpatient Mental Health Care

You can get inpatient mental health care with a referral from your primary health care practitioner, a mental health professional, or an involuntary commitment for a loved one struggling. 

Often inpatient care follows a crisis or a mental breakdown. You might be involuntarily committed by a family member. Other times, you might be committed by law enforcement if you are a threat to yourself or others.

During a crisis requiring law enforcement or emergency services, you might not have a choice about getting inpatient mental health care.

Usually, during a mental health crisis, you will be taken in for inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. However, a short-term stay at a psychiatric care unit in a hospital is only for stabilizing your mental health to deal with an immediate concern.

You might need to detox or adjust psychiatric medications during inpatient hospitalization. Psychiatric care units can help you during a medication adjustment, and detox centers can help if your mental health issues triggered alcohol or substance abuse.

It is best to get mental and behavioral health treatment services before a complete mental breakdown and crisis.

You can also get a loved one into inpatient mental health treatment before a crisis, like suicidal behavior or police involvement. When you notice warning signs of failing mental health, getting yourself or a loved one into inpatient or residential care might be necessary.

Most often, your primary care physician (PCP), family doctor, or other trusted healthcare provider should be your main point of contact for referrals and guidance. 

Although your family doctor might have a medical degree and not specialize in mental health treatment, they can rule out any physical health issues that might be causing mental and behavioral health problems.

However, if you currently have a professional providing mental health services for you or a loved one, you can speak to them about a worsening condition. You might have a diagnosis already, and something triggered an increase or relapse of symptoms.

Inpatient residential care might be the right step for you or your loved one when you show early warning signs of a mental health disorder, have worsening conditions, or become triggered due to significant life changes.

If you are seeking inpatient mental health services for you or a loved one at a residential treatment center, you should keep the following questions in mind:

  • What mental and behavioral health disorders do they treat?
  • Do they offer dual diagnosis treatment if you also struggle with alcohol or substance abuse?
  • Does the facility have a license to operate or accreditation from a reliable source, like the Joint Commission?
  • What is the length of stay for treatment at the facility? Most facilities are at least 30 days, but some residential treatment programs run longer.
  • Do they offer an array of mental health treatment options, like holistic approaches, traditional individual and group therapy, family therapy, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and evidence-based practices?
  • Do they offer support for co-occurring behavioral health problems, like eating disorders and self-injurious behaviors (SIBs)?
  • What types of professionals are on the treatment team? Do they have medical staff, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, case management, life coaches, etc.?
  • Are family members involved in developing treatment plans?
  • What amenities and levels of care are provided?
    • Ask about meals, sleeping arrangements, toiletries, etc.
    • Ask if the facility has high levels of supervision and about the staff to client ratio
  • Also, ask about any additional services provided, like:
    • Social skills training
    • Vocational or academic assistance
    • Recreation therapy
    • Medication management
    • Support for family members and loved ones
  • Does the facility help with aftercare treatment services? 
    • The facility might have “step down” services, like intensive outpatient (IOP) or partial hospitalization programs (PHP).
    • Some facilities have alumni programs, including peer support for continued recovery.
    • For those with a dual diagnosis of mental health and substance use disorder, you might need a sober living home to transition back to daily life after inpatient residential care.

You can always call any facilities to ask about their admissions process and treatment programs.

Background Image

We’re available 7 days a week to help answer any questions you may have.

What To Expect From Inpatient Mental Health Treatment

You can expect therapy, 24/7 supervision, peer support, and recreational activities from inpatient mental health treatment.

You can expect a range of mental health services from inpatient treatment. The best facilities will have a mix of evidence-based practices, peer support, and alternate therapies for you or your loved one. Programs like these are considered “evidence-based programs.”

The Child Welfare Information Gateway defines evidence-based programs as ones that “involves identifying, assessing, and implementing strategies that are supported by scientific research.”

Evidence-based programs can include things like:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Mindfulness
  • Somatic Symptom Assessment and Plan
  • Brain & Body Trauma Assessment and Plan
  • Weekly Organized Physical Activities
  • Nutritional Assessment and Plan

The best inpatient mental health treatment programs will focus on your whole health and wellness. 

Recovery from mental illness is about living a healthy lifestyle without resorting to substance abuse or other maladaptive behaviors to cope. You want to find a program that will improve your overall quality of life.

The best programs help you achieve your life goals, both in and out of treatment.

How Long Is An Inpatient Mental Health Stay?

An inpatient mental health can vary in length depending on your program and needs:

  • Inpatient hospitalization is usually around one to two weeks in length. These services help you get safe and stable if you are a threat to yourself or others.
  • Inpatient detox services for dual diagnosis are usually three to seven days, depending on how much and what types of substances you used.
  • Residential treatment centers usually provide inpatient care for 30-90 days. Some facilities may allow for extensions and longer stays.

You might require stabilization at a hospital or detox center before residential care. Recovery from dual diagnosis might take longer due to withdrawal symptoms from alcohol or substance abuse.

Can I Be Committed For Being Suicidal?

Yes, you can be committed by family members, mental health professionals, physicians, or the police for being suicidal

In most states, parents can request inpatient services for their children below the age of 17. Sometimes, you might get a court order for treatment when emergency services respond to a mental health crisis.

Suicidal behaviors and ideations should always be taken seriously, and you should get help right away by calling 911 or other crisis services if you or a loved one are suicidal.

How Much Is Inpatient Mental Health Care?

The cost of inpatient mental health care depends on your insurance plan, length of stay, facility, and types of mental health services provided.

Facilities can vary on their costs and the type of treatment provided. Your insurance coverage might provide for short-term stays, detox, or other emergency mental health services.

Other inpatient mental health programs, like residential care, might have out-of-pocket expenses. It would help if you also considered the costs of other things needed during your treatment, like toiletries and meals.

Some programs provide these essentials along with add-on services, like recreational activities, academic tutoring, and vocational services. Other facilities might have additional costs for non-essential services.

Does Insurance Cover Inpatient Mental Health?

Most insurance plans cover inpatient mental health treatment, but your length of stay might be limited by your coverage.

Generally, if you receive a referral for inpatient services, most insurance plans will cover most of the costs. If you have questions about coverage, call your insurance provider for more information.

Many facilities will also answer questions about your insurance coverage and payment options. Some programs offer financial assistance for you or a loved one.

Can You Have Your Phone During Inpatient Mental Health?

Each inpatient mental health treatment center will have its own rules about phones during your stay.

Some facilities only allow access to your phone for a limited number of hours per day. You might give your phone to staff during the admissions process. Social media apps on smartphones might distract you from treatment.

They might take your phone away for your entire stay, allowing you to use their phones to contact family members and loved ones.

Contacts on your cell phone might disrupt your treatment. You might have unhealthy relationships that trigger your symptoms. By limiting cell phone use, you can focus on yourself and your recovery.

Inpatient mental health facilities can contact your loved ones in case of an emergency. They might have designated phone times for you to make a call to family members. Other facilities might have visiting hours for loved ones, which might be supervised.

Do I Need Inpatient Mental Health Treatment?

If you are struggling with your mental health or substance abuse and cannot get better on your own or with outpatient services, you may need inpatient mental health treatment.

If you have been in long-term mental health treatment from an outpatient provider, like a psychiatrist, counselor, or therapist, and find that you continue to struggle, inpatient care might be the next step.

When you see warning signs that your mental health is getting worse, you should seek some type of help. Inpatient mental health treatment provides everything that you need under one roof. These facilities can keep you safe from triggers or other outside influences.

If you have a dual diagnosis of mental health and substance use disorder, inpatient mental health treatment can help you stay sober during your program. 

With the supervision, peer support, and mental health professionals available 24/7 with inpatient services, you can get the help and treatment you or your loved one need to get better.

Inpatient mental health treatment at a residential facility can help you or a loved one get through a mental health breakdown or crisis. Sandstone Care is here to support teens and young adults with mental health and substance use disorders. Call (888) 850-1890.