Understanding the Nuances Between Residential Treatment and Outpatient Care at SunCloud Health

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A guest post by Rachel Goodwin, LCPC, LMHC, CEDS, Director of Virtual IOP
and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor at SunCloud Health

Whether you are new to the world of mental health treatment or have sought treatment before, it can be challenging to learn the levels of care and even more challenging to decipher which program is best to pursue.

SunCloud Health is here to help. In this blog, you’ll learn the differences between residential and various outpatient services, as well as how to determine which level of care is best for yourself or a loved one needing support.


What Are the Elements of Residential Treatment?

Residential treatment provides 24/7 care for mental health conditions, including eating disorders, substance use disorders, addictions, PTSD/Trauma, and co-occurring issues. Patients who opt for residential often need a high level of care, so they agree to temporarily live on-campus at a treatment facility to receive support from staff at all hours.

At SunCloud Health, our residential treatment incorporates specialized programming to aid patients in their pursuit of recovery. Weekly programming starts at 7 am, runs throughout the day, and ends approximately at 8 pm.

There are many groups throughout the day that patients attend, including skills-based groups, process groups, experiential groups, art groups, yoga groups, and adventure groups. Patients also receive individual therapy with their treatment coordinator (therapist) twice weekly. There are scheduled breaks throughout the day that provide patients the opportunity to rest and reflect, and we even lead outings patients can attend on the weekends. With residential care, nurses and behavioral health specialists are present overnight to provide any necessary additional support to maintain recovery.


The Average Length of Stay in a Residential Treatment Program

It’s important to note that everyone’s healing journey is unique, making the amount of time needed for effective treatment vary. Therefore, the length of stay within a residential program greatly depends on the patient’s condition and progress. Research indicates the longer someone stays in residential treatment, the better the long-term outcomes are. Generally, at SunCloud we hope patients stay in residential treatment for 30-45 days, but with each patient having different treatment needs, this timeline is adjusted per case.  


Common Misconceptions about Residential Care

Residential care is not inpatient psychiatric care – there are fewer restrictions in residential care. Residential care is intensive, but it does not enforce isolation; we frequently take our patients on outings and guide them in getting lots of time outside to decompress from the rigor of treatment. Additionally, visitors are welcome to come and see their loved ones while they are in our treatment program.


How to Know if Residential Treatment is Right for You or a Loved One

Residential treatment is generally the most suitable level of care for patients who need a high level of support to maintain recovery. It is the best option for someone who is unsure if they can maintain their well-being or safety on their own. Residential provides additional staff and peer support from 4 pm – 9 am (during the hours when Partial Hospitalization Programs cannot provide care), which can make a difference in the recovery process for some patients. Additionally, there are more programming options residential offers in the evenings, as well as a community of like-minded peers that provide support in a shared space.

This care option is also helpful for patients who would benefit from being away from their current living situation to develop a foundation for recovery. With this foundation in place, they can return to their previous living situation with more assurance of maintaining their recovery. However, if returning to their previous living situation is not viable for recovery, we can assist them in finding alternative housing options.


What Are the Elements of Outpatient Care?

There are a few levels of outpatient care available for patients seeking mental health care. The first level of care after residential treatment is the Partial Hospitalization Program, or PHP. A PHP is a day program where patients come to facilities for treatment in the morning, stay on campus for 6 hours, and leave in the afternoons to return home. In SunCloud’s PHP, patients participate in a variety of therapeutic activities and programming that initiates and supports their recovery journey.

Just beneath PHP day programming are Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) and Outpatient Groups, both of which SunCloud also offers. These levels are less of a commitment and serve as great options for someone who has previously completed residential and/or PHP care and is looking to transition back to their life outside of treatment, while still needing weekly support. Outpatient care is great for adults with familial or occupational obligations, or adolescents with school demands, as programming tends to run in the afternoons and evenings. In these programs, patients can receive the weekly therapeutic structure necessary to initiate and maintain progress in recovery.


How to Know if Outpatient Care is Ideal for You

Outpatient care is a good option for those who feel secure enough to maintain safety/recovery overnight and on the weekends, without the support of professional mental health staff. These individuals should feel confident in their recovery progress, have a support system outside of programming (peers and loved ones), and have solid skills in place to be able to manage emotions or situations that may arise while outside of our care. However, if an individual’s living environment is not conducive to recovery, it may be best to start in residential care to allot time for arrangements to be made.

If you’re unsure which level of care is best, schedule an assessment with one of our SunCloud Health intake coordinators. Our coordinators are a part of a multi-disciplinary team and are specifically equipped to make the best recommendations.


SunCloud’s Strength is in Numbers  

SunCloud has an extremely thorough intake process to ensure we are the best fit for prospective patients. We do not accept every patient solely to have a full program. Instead, we utilize our vast network of professionals, talk to outpatient providers, and gather laboratory findings to make sure we are the treatment center that is best for the patient. Moreover, we are not afraid to refer someone out if we do not believe we are the best center to treat a patient. Above all else, we want the patient to be well served, even if that is not by us.

At SunCloud Health, we are a program that believes strongly in the power of the group. We encourage our patients to discuss all things at the group level. Our process group is a space where patients can share anything that has happened to them, anything that they are struggling with presently, interpersonal relationships in the milieu, etc.

Through peer engagement and experiential processing, patients begin to heal childhood wounds through corrective experiences with group members and facilitators. Patients learn to identify emotions as they arise in the moment and work through the discomfort of these emotions while in the comfort of others who understand at a deeper level. Group members engage with each other to support each other in recovery and skill-based activities outside of programming. We do not subscribe to the belief that patients should censor themselves out of fear of triggering peers. We trust the group to hold and support each other well and we believe triggers are an opportunity to practice the skills patients have been learning in skills-based groups.


More about SunCloud’s Specialties

SunCloud Health specializes in the treatment of complex, co-occurring disorders, specifically the intersection between eating disorders, addiction, mood disorders, and trauma. We treat these disorders with a transdiagnostic, integrated model. We have found that parallel or serial treatment of patients with complex illnesses is associated with a fragmented experience for the patient, increased risk of morbidity and mortality, and increased healthcare time and cost inefficiencies. So, instead, SunCloud Health treats co-occurring illnesses within a unified, integrated program. Ultimately, our approach leads to the delivery of optimal care for people with complex co-occurring disorders, especially those with both substance use and eating disorders.

Our integrated model is designed to treat the whole person, to target underlying biological, psychological, social, and spiritual causes of problematic symptoms for each individual patient taking a dimensional rather than categorical approach to care. We have a specialty Residential Treatment unit, known as The Institute for Eating Disorders and Addiction (EDAC) that is specifically for patients who have both substance use and eating disorders. Read more about this center here.

If you or a loved one requires care for any of the above-mentioned conditions, please, don’t wait to get help.
Reach out to us today to start a recovery journey that will lead to a fuller life.

Visit us online at: https://suncloudhealth.com or call (844) 576-0279 to speak with an intake specialist.