How Do I Choose the Best Mental Health Treatment Center?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

When selecting a mental health treatment center, patients should think about the nature of their conditions, the goals of treatment, and factors like location and expense. Family members may also play a role in choosing a location, particularly if a patient is underage or too unstable to make important medical decisions. It is advisable to collect information about several treatment centers, visiting them if possible, to reach the most informed decision.


The first consideration is what kind of mental health condition the patient has. Some mental health treatment centers focus on very specific conditions or may exclude patients with complex mental illnesses. A patient with treatment-resistant schizophrenia, for example, may need to attend a specialty center, while someone who needs hospitalization for depression can choose from a wider array of locations. A doctor can provide information about regional centers, and patients can also research online or through professional organizations to get listings of facilities that may meet their needs.

The goal of treatment is another thing to think about. A mental health treatment center may focus on stabilizing patients for release, or following up with more long-term care. Some patients may feel more comfortable in an inpatient setting after they are stable so they can learn coping skills and develop strategies before reintegrating into society. Some centers specifically provide long term care for patients who need to remain in institutions. At all facilities, there are different approaches to treatment and patient care that patients should think about when selecting a location for treatment.

Expense can be another issue at a mental health treatment center. Many facilities are very expensive, and private insurance may not cover all the costs. Public facilities can be less expensive but may not offer the same quality of care. Most do not offer financial assistance and may expect payment up front. Patients may also want to think about location; friends and family may find it easier to visit when the facility is nearby, for example, or patients might deliberately want a remote location so they can focus on treatment.

Every mental health treatment center should provide information about its accreditation, staff, and treatment philosophy. Prospective patients can interview staff members and get information about available treatments. It can be helpful to look at sample patient schedules, rules for patients while in the facility, and general facility guidelines to determine if a mental health treatment center will be a good fit. Patients may also want to ask about outpatient and day programs to help them transition. It is advisable to look up the facility's record for signs of violations of medical ethics or health and safety laws.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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