What is a Teen Behavioral Health Treatment Center?
Behavioral health, as a general term, means how the things you do affect your physical, psychological, and emotional wellbeing. The term applies to medical conditions most people think of as purely physical in nature, but have behavioral components. Diabetes is a perfect example. It also applies to conditions most people think of as purely emotional or psychological in nature, but have behavioral components. These include conditions/disorders such as addiction, conduct disorders, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
In 2021, it’s helpful to know that in most cases, when discussing behavioral health and mental health, behavioral health is considered a more expansive concept that includes mental health.
However, if you’re new to the language of mental health treatment – or new to learning about mental health issues in general – it’s important to understand there’s significant overlap between the characteristics of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder and behavioral disorders such as alcohol/substance use disorder (AUD/SUD) and behavioral disorders such as conduct disorder (CD) and ADHD.
For instance, an addiction disorder can change the form and function of the human brain. This means that what began as a behavioral disorder may become a disorder fueled by physiological imbalances. Evidence shows physiological imbalances are at the root of many mood disorders, such as anxiety or depression. In addition, a mood disorder such as depression can change behavior to the extent that the changed behavior exacerbates the underlying physiological components of the disorder. Therefore, it’s important to understand that while there are differences between the two terms, it’s also difficult to discuss one without discussing the other.
If you’re the parent of a teen diagnosed with a mental health disorder and you search for support for your teen, understanding that the terms behavioral health and mental health are often used interchangeably can eliminate confusion as you seek professional treatment for your teen.
They’re almost – but not quite – synonyms.
treatment programs for teens
Behavioral Health Treatment for Teens
In the context of treatment for teens with mental health or substance abuse issues, the terms behavioral health treatment centers for youth and teen behavioral treatment centers refer to specialized treatment centers that support teens with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, behavioral disorders, and/or substance use disorders.
At most teen behavioral treatment centers, for example, you can find professional support for your teen for all the following:
- Mood Disorders:
- Depressive disorder (MDE)
- Bipolar disorder (BD)
- Mood disorder + substance use disorder/alcohol use disorder (AUD/SUD)
- This is known as dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders
- Anxiety Disorders:
- Behavioral Disorders:
- Non-Suicidal Self-Injury
- Suicidal Ideation and Suicidality
That’s a fairly comprehensive – but not complete – list of the types of mental health, behavioral, and/or addiction disorders that teens can receive treatment for at any facility that identifies itself as a behavioral treatment center for youth or a teen behavioral treatment center.
We’ll now shift gears and talk about the different levels of support and care you can find for your teen at a behavioral health treatment center for teens.
Behavioral Health Treatment Centers for Teens: What Kind of Programs Do They Offer?
As the parent of a teen with a mental health issue, you probably already know there’s not a one-size-fits-all program that covers every teen with every diagnosis. Different teens with different disorders need specific programs to meet their treatment needs. Some teens need once-a-week office visits to manage their disorder. Other teens need immersive, intensive treatment that requires living in the treatment facility and receiving around-the-clock monitoring, treatment, and support.
On one end of this treatment continuum – often called the levels of care – is outpatient treatment. On the other end is inpatient psychiatric hospitalization.
We’ll now describe those two types of programs. We’ll also include the types of programs that fall between them on the treatment/level of care continuum:
1. Outpatient Programs
These programs involve office visits of about an hour each, with a frequency determined by you, your teen’s therapist, and your teen. Outpatient treatment is for teens who need support, but whose symptoms are not so severe that they prevent them from going to school, living at home, or engaging in family, social, or extracurricular activities. This support may occur in a typical office or at a behavioral health treatment center for teens.
These programs involve attending treatment three to five days a week for two to three hours per day. IOP support is for teens with symptoms that are more disruptive and difficult than teens who attend outpatient programs. However, their symptoms are not so severe they prevent them from living at home, going to school, and participating in typical family life. In some cases, but not all, teens in IOP may have difficulty participating in social or extracurricular activities. This level of support most often occurs at teen behavioral health treatment centers.
These programs involve attending treatment five days a week for four to six hours per day. PHP programs are for teens who are capable of living at home but whose symptoms prevent them from going to school and participating in most typical teen activities. This level of support most often occurs at teen behavioral health treatment centers.
These programs occur at residential treatment centers (RTCs). Residential programs are immersive and intensive. They’re appropriate for teens whose symptoms prevent them from living at home, going to school, and participating in the typical activities of daily life. At an RTC, teens receive around-the-clock support and monitoring. They typically engage in treatment for around eight hours a day, Monday through Friday. RTCs often involve therapy homework or other treatment activities during the evenings, with weekend schedules that vary according to both the treatment needs and practical needs of the teen in treatment.
5. Inpatient Hospitalization
These programs may occur at behavioral health treatment centers for teens, psychiatric hospitals, or the psychiatric ward in a general hospital. Although residential treatment and inpatient hospitalization both involve teens living at the treatment facility, there’s a big, important difference between the two types of programs. Inpatient hospitalization is for teens in crisis and need immersive care right away. This means the behavior associated with their symptoms creates an imminent risk of harm for themselves, their families, and others. Teens in an inpatient hospitalization program are monitored closely and receive the most intensive level of supervision and care possible. A teen will stay in an inpatient psychiatric care until medical staff determines they are safe, stable, no longer in crisis, and ready to participate in the treatment and therapy offered in residential or partial hospitalization programs.
You can find the first four levels of care mentioned above at most behavioral treatment centers for youth. Since inpatient hospitalization is a different type of care specifically for teens in crisis, you may not find that type of program at a teen behavioral treatment center. However, some teen-specific centers can and do support teens in acute crisis.
One More Thing to Know
You may also find the phrase behavioral treatment within another term that refers to a specific type of therapeutic approach that’s often used in teen treatment centers. It’s called cognitive behavioral treatment for teens.
Ready to Get Help for Your Child?Evolve offers CARF and Joint Commission accredited treatment for teens with mental health disorders and/or substance abuse. Your child will receive the highest caliber of care in our comfortable, home-like residential treatment centers. We offer a full continuum of care, including residential, partial hospitalization/day (PHP), and intensive outpatient treatment (IOP).
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.