What Is Outpatient Psychiatry?

Angela Farrer

Outpatient psychiatry is a course of treatment for patients with emotional difficulties or mental disorders that do not warrant long-term hospitalization. They normally attend therapy sessions on a regular basis in a psychiatrist's office. Some other types of outpatient psychiatry may include group therapy for patients with conditions such as substance addictions. Psychiatrists who practice this medical specialty help their patients develop skills for coping with their conditions and with everyday challenges in a positive manner. Depending on individual disorders, this kind of psychiatric treatment often combines cognitive or behavioral therapy techniques with prescribed medications.

Patients suffering from seasonal affective disorder may undergo outpatient psychiatry.
Patients suffering from seasonal affective disorder may undergo outpatient psychiatry.

Patients with conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, or various personality disorders usually undergo outpatient psychiatry for these problems. These disorders are usually significant enough to interfere with regular functioning such as job or school performance. Sufferers often seek this treatment after a referral from a medical doctor or after a brief period of inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. Before general practitioners refer patients to a psychiatrist, they normally perform a complete medical examination and an evaluation of past health history.

Psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental illness.
Psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental illness.

Psychiatrists often have different approaches to treatment depending on which types of psychotherapy they feel is best for their patients. Certain mental disorders improve with exercises designed to help patients gain better control of overwhelming emotions such as anger or despair. This approach is considered a fundamental part of behavioral therapy that teaches people how to replace negative behavior patterns with positive ones. Cognitive therapy is another popular method in outpatient psychiatry because it entails making changes to destructive underlying thought processes. Consistent sessions of these therapies are frequently helpful in treating conditions such as social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.

One of the main factors that distinguishes outpatient psychiatry from straightforward psychotherapy is the inclusion of mood-stabilizing medications. Psychiatrists are trained and certified as medical professionals who are able to prescribe dosages of these medicines to patients with conditions such as bipolar depression. This type of mental disorder often originates from chemical imbalances in the brain, and certain medications can bring these chemicals to the correct levels. Outpatient psychiatry is frequently considered an ongoing process that requires dedication on the part of both the patient and psychiatrist. It usually entails work to be done in both the psychiatrist's office and throughout daily life as patients learn to apply their new behavioral habits to various situations.

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