January 31, 2024|Mental Health|
A female patient sits on a sofa while listening to her psychiatrist.

Outpatient programs provide a flexible and individualized option to those with mild to moderate behavioral issues. They are a popular choice for people looking for mental health treatment, as they successfully treat a variety of mental health conditions.

But what conditions does outpatient therapy treat specifically? How do I know if an outpatient program can help me deal with my mental illness?

In this article, Hartgrove Hospital walks you through the most commonly treated mental health conditions in outpatient programs. We provide an overview of each condition, its symptoms and how outpatient programs can help.

Common Conditions Treated in Outpatient Programs


Depression is a mood disorder that causes continuous and overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness and despair. Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Self-harm or suicidal ideation
  • Problematic sleeping patterns (not sleeping enough or sleeping too much)
  • Problematic eating patterns (not eating enough or overeating)
  • Low energy and fatigue

Various factors, including brain chemistry, genetics or life events may cause depression. In outpatient settings, a mental health professional will work with you to determine which treatment options best fit your needs.

For example, those with neurochemical imbalances may benefit from a medication management outpatient approach. This enables the patient to work with a medical professional to integrate medication into their routine.

Others, instead, may benefit from psychotherapy. In this case, patients work with a licensed professional in individual or group environments to overcome their depression.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mood disorder that can cause intense changes in mood, energy level and behavior. Bipolar episodes vary in length and can be difficult to predict. Depending on the severity, they can cause intense disruptions to one’s day-to-day life.

There are different types of bipolar episodes, including manic episodes and depressive episodes. Given this, there are a variety of symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Manic episodes

  • Sudden, seemingly spontaneous positive mood changes (happiness, excitement)
  • Increased energy
  • Increased impulsivity
  • A sudden desire to make grandiose, somewhat unachievable plans
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors

Depressive episodes

  • Sudden, seemingly spontaneous negative mood changes (sadness, hopelessness)
  • Low energy
  • Sudden loss of enjoyment in the things that once made you happy
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation

Various factors may cause bipolar disorder, although the most common one is genetics. Most people diagnosed with bipolar disorder have at least one family member with the same condition.

Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong medical condition, treatment is possible. In outpatient settings, a mental health professional may use a variety of psychotherapy techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), family therapy and psychoeducation.

ADHD and Other Disruptive Behaviors

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that causes executive dysfunction. People with ADHD struggle to control their thoughts, emotions and actions. It is commonly diagnosed in children.

There are four types of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, combined, and unspecified. Given this, symptoms may range widely. However, common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Impulsiveness
  • Disorganization
  • Difficulty multitasking or managing time adequately
  • Forgetfulness
  • Appearing distracted and frequently daydreaming
  • Fidgeting
  • Restlessness

Research has shown that the leading cause of ADHD is genetics. People with ADHD may have different brain structures (such as in the frontal lobe) that reach full development later in life than others. Other causes of ADHD include lead exposure in childhood and substance use during pregnancy.

Treatment plans for ADHD mainly involve a combination of outpatient therapy and medication. For children and adolescents, outpatient therapy may involve developing behavior management techniques. For adults, it may involve a combination of education, counseling and behavioral skills development.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that may arise after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Some of the common signs and symptoms include:

  • Persistent nightmares of the traumatic event
  • Vivid, life-like flashbacks to the traumatic event
  • Avoiding situations, people and activities that remind you of the traumatic event
  • Social withdrawal and inability to talk about the traumatic event
  • Difficulty remembering the traumatic event
  • Persistent negative emotions such as anger, irritability, sadness and fear

Given the nature of PTSD, there are a number of traumatic situations that can trigger these stress responses. Trauma events may include serious accidents, illness, abuse (physical, mental, sexual), military and combat exposure, natural disasters, the sudden loss of a loved one (grief) and more.

When seeking outpatient treatment for PTSD, healthcare professionals may offer different solutions. Overall, outpatient counseling would aim to develop social support, guidance and coping mechanisms to thrive despite the traumatic event.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a chronic mental health condition in which the person develops frequent obsessions that cause compulsive responses.

Obsessive symptoms

  • Fear of germs or surfaces deemed unclean
  • Fear of making mistakes that cause injury or death
  • Need for perfection, neatness or order

Compulsive symptoms

  • Having very specific ways of arranging things
  • Spending excessive time cleaning yourself or your surroundings
  • Repeatedly checking things, sometimes in a ritualistic way
  • Hoarding

OCD may be brought on by a number of factors, such as genetics, structural differences in the brain or childhood trauma. Outpatient counseling helps people with OCD identify their obsessive thoughts and behaviors. By doing so, they learn how to reclaim their lives, gain control over their obsessive thoughts, and develop healthier ways to cope.

Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorder is a mental health problem that involves the problematic use of substances such as alcohol, tobacco, prescription medication or illicit drugs. Common symptoms of substance use disorder include:

  • Having a strong desire for the substance
  • Displaying trouble with daily life activities, such as school or work, due to the substance
  • Straining relationships with friends, family and loved ones as a result of substance use
  • Using the substance over and over again, even in dangerous situations
  • Using the substance over and over again, despite adverse health consequences
  • Developing a tolerance for the substance, resulting in increasing/prolonging use
  • Experiencing withdrawal without the substance

Many people misunderstand the danger of substance abuse until it is too late. What may start as an experimental or occasional use of the substance eventually becomes all-encompassing. The affected person may feel that they have no control, causing them to further spiral into substance abuse.

Depending on the severity of the condition, people with substance abuse issues may choose to start with an inpatient detox program and slowly progress to outpatient counseling. Overall, good substance abuse counseling is usually highly individualized and takes a holistic approach.

Get Help Now

Outpatient treatment provides assistance to people with a variety of mental health conditions stemming from a variety of reasons. With the right combination of therapy techniques, treatment modalities, support groups and education, outpatient therapy can help you on your journey to recovery.

Hartgrove Hospital is proud to provide inpatient and outpatient services in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, give us a call at 773-413-1700 or complete this form.

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