One of the cruelest symptoms people experience is hopelessness. This often looks like believing it’s not worth asking for help because there is no help to be had. Although every program has strengths and weaknesses, many programs DO work. What matters most is that you find and get help. There is no “right” answer when your family is in crisis. Recovery and healing look different for everyone, and there is no “right” path.
Mental illness does not have a simple, black-and-white answer. It is often episodic and strange. People can have years of high functioning in between low cycles or relapse. With few exceptions, we do not know why people develop mental health issues, and we do not know exactly why most treatments work. More than half of all mental health conditions develop before the age of 14, and the other before the age of 25. You know your family member. If your family needs help, trust your gut and begin looking to schedule an evaluation at a program.
When looking for help, you will come across four types of treatment programs: community mental health centers, corporate healthcare programs, private small businesses, and telehealth programs. We will break down the pros and cons of each type so that you can make an educated choice on what is right for you and your family.
1. The Community Mental Health Center
The Community Mental Health Center is a government-funded program that provides readily accessible mental health services. With various centers spread across the state, these programs are mandated to cater to anyone residing within their geographical area regardless of their insurance status. These programs are essential safety nets for the community and provide an essential service.
One significant advantage of these facilities is the extensive experience of their staff, who have encountered a diverse array of mental health scenarios. Usually, the staff have “seen it all” and will know how best to help the people in their care. Moreover, these programs are known for their affordability. These programs typically accept every insurance type and are designed with affordability in mind.
On the flip side, with all of these advantages come costs to quality and speed of care. There are typically sizable waitlists due to their affordability. Similarly, because the programs are designed to be affordable, the staff tend to be underpaid and understaffed, with strong turnover problems and burnout. Given the size of these programs, it’s a common experience to feel like just another number in the system, no matter how incredible the staff and team might be. While these programs are essential social service structures, we typically do not recommend them unless they are the only option.
2. The Corporate programs
Operated by a large company with a presence in multiple states, this program will have access to a wide net of resources.
A notable advantage of this type of program is its typically higher quality of care. The extensive network of programs allows for ample time for trial and error, facilitating a deep understanding of effective practices. Due to stronger financial incentives, these programs often boast shorter waitlists and prioritize continuous improvement and expansion. Staff members are generally well-compensated and have more flexibility to provide higher-quality care to families.
However, a drawback of these programs is their affordability. Many exclusively work with a limited set of insurance contracts or operate on a private pay basis. Additionally, because the program is one of many, the space can have a clinical or sterile atmosphere, potentially lacking some personalized touches. Nevertheless, they excel in using evidence-based approaches, maintaining robust quality control measures, and providing clinicians with the freedom to genuinely assist individuals, which can be a great option for families.
3. The small, private pay programs
These programs often emerge from the vision of a highly charismatic and exceptional therapist or an individual in recovery known for their strong, inspirational, and motivating presence. Founded on powerful spiritual or holistic principles, these programs are usually expensive and require private pay for enrollment.
On the positive side, these programs boast a unique philosophy that is profoundly meaningful and deeply human. Engaging with genuine individuals who comprehend your journey firsthand, having traversed similar paths, enhances the sense of connection.
However, there are drawbacks to consider. The program’s philosophy may lack adaptability and not be evidence-based. Relying on non-traditional, non-“Evidence-based” therapies, the effectiveness may vary, especially for teens. The higher price tag associated with private pay is a notable con, limiting accessibility. Furthermore, the program’s success can be closely tied to the presence of its founding “guru.” Staff alignment with the original vision may become a challenge if the leader is not there, and quality of care may be hard to replicate without the founder. These programs can be incredible, and we have many we love and highly refer teens to. We recommend asking many questions, visiting the program, and ensuring you know who will be at the program while your teen is there.
4. Telehealth and innovative programs
This new, emerging type of mental health program is defined by pioneering new ways of doing care. These programs are unafraid to explore new approaches, often incorporating telemedicine and unexplored care options such as embedded care, peer mentorship, outdoor care, contingency management, and utilizing technology in new ways through apps and gamification. These programs acknowledge the shortcomings of the other program types, knowing that despite those programs existing, major mental health and addiction crises are getting worse for adolescents.
The advantage to working with a program like this is that their team is often highly passionate, committed, and enthusiastic about making strides for your teen. Trying a new solution can be worthwhile if you have tried many programs before and nothing is working or if you want something more tailored to your family. Despite being more innovative, inspired, and dynamic, these programs are still developing core parts of their business model and approach. A few of these programs have run into sketchy territory regarding data leaks and challenges with quality control while scaling.
Antelope Recovery fits into this type of program. We are committed to improving upon the current mental health system and are open to trying new ways to help kids with the hope that we can improve upon the current system.
You are not alone.
Finding the right care can be incredibly challenging. What matters most is that you and your loved ones know that you are not alone. Whether you’re a veteran parent who’s been around the block with multiple programs or just getting started in the world of teen mental health, the options can be confusing and oftentimes not all that great. We hope this guide helps you narrow down the type of care you’re looking for and serves as a reminder that many people are also going through this. You are not alone.