Should I Go to the Hospital or Call A Therapist?

If you’re new to therapy or have heard of other’s experiences, you may have some questions as to what kind of services may be beneficial to you or a family member. As a practice, clinicians are taught to assess an individual’s clients needs and treat or refer as applicable. Many times, people will seek treatment through a community provider or the local emergency room (in an event of crisis). Sometimes what service a person may need is clear cut, but other times, they may not know from where to seek help. This post is an overview of the three main levels of care for clinical services.

photo by Natalie Collins

photo by Natalie Collins

Outpatient: this is a good place to start if you are not in crisis or have never been in treatment. Outpatient treatment is considered the least restrictive because you can participate in treatment for a brief period time (6-12+ sessions) weekly, biweekly, or monthly. The services can be in the form of individual, group, teletherapy, or case management typically scheduled for 60-90 minutes.

Intensive Outpatient (IOP) or Day Treatment: IOP or day treatment is a service provided for at least three or more hours, several times per week. During this time, clients are tasked with participating in group, psychoeducation, and possibly treatment planning. This level of care is for the person who requires a bit more support than once a week. Substance recovery and emotion management groups are typical forms of treatment in this level of care.

Inpatient hospitalization: A psychiatric admission to an inpatient unit when a person is experience acute symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis, or has suicidal thoughts with plan. If you feel you or someone you love may require a hospitalization then they would need to be assessed by emergency mobile crisis and the hospital crisis staff which consists of an ED physician and licensed mental health professional.

There are several criteria which need to be met for a person to be admitting to the psychiatric unit which may include: not being able to contract for safety, severe depression or anxiety which is significantly impacting their life, difficulty with reality testing, any response to hallucinations or delusional thinking that is causing stress or disturbance to daily activities, difficulty caring for themselves. Typical inpatient stay is three to five days or for as long as needed to help a patient to stabilize and improve. Sometimes a patient may believe they need a psychiatric admission but are not sure, the best way is to be evaluated by a qualified professional who will provide support and treatment recommendations.

Substance detox and recovery treatment can also be provided in a hospital or residential setting. Depending on the need, a person could be admitted for a minimum of three days to six months.

I hope you have found this information helpful. If you are in crisis, contact 911 or your local crisis line (in CT contact 211). If you are looking for a therapist, please reach out to me by sending me an email at or search through for a local therapist.