Adolescence can be a challenging time for both teenagers and their parents. Between school, social media and peer relationships, it’s no wonder teens struggle with mental health.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 13% of adolescents aged 12-17 have experienced a major depressive episode. For parents looking for help for their struggling teen, outpatient programs can be a beneficial option. 

In this article, Sierra Vista Hospital explores outpatient programs for adolescents and how they can help teens navigate mental health services.

What Are Outpatient Programs for Adolescents?

Outpatient programs for adolescents are mental health treatment programs that enable teens and young adults to receive therapy and counseling while still living at home. This is unlike an inpatient program, where the patient lives in a treatment facility while receiving care.

There are two types of outpatient programs for adolescents: intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and partial hospitalization programs (PHP).

Intensive outpatient treatment for teens takes place 1-3 days a week for at least a few hours. They usually occur in the evening after school.

Partial hospitalization treatment for adolescents, instead, takes place 3-5 days a week for 4-8 hours. If this schedule overlaps with school, outpatient facilities usually provide temporary schooling.

What Are the Most Common Behavioral Health Issues in Adolescents?

Adolescence can be a challenging period. Teens suddenly need to navigate physical, emotional and social changes. This can cause common behavioral health issues. Some of the most prevalent ones include:


Teenagers can experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed. Symptoms of depression in adolescents include changes in appetite and sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating and thoughts of self-harm.

Anxiety disorders

Teenagers may develop various anxiety disorders. These include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or panic disorder. These conditions can cause excessive worry, fear and avoidance of certain situations or activities.

Substance abuse

Adolescents may experiment with drugs or alcohol, which can lead to substance abuse and addiction. Teen substance abuse can have significant negative effects on their physical and mental health. It can also affect academic performance and social functioning.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders also commonly emerge during adolescence. They include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. These disorders involve unhealthy eating behaviors and distorted body image, leading to severe physical and psychological consequences.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that often begins in childhood and continues into adolescence. Teenagers with ADHD may struggle with impulsivity, inattention and hyperactivity. This, in turn, can affect their academic performance and relationships.

Self-harm and suicidal ideation

Some teenagers may engage in self-harming behaviors or experience suicidal thoughts. These behaviors are often indicative of underlying mental health issues, such as depression or borderline personality disorder. Self-harm and suicidal ideation should always be treated seriously.*

How Do Adolescent Outpatient Programs Differ From Adult Outpatient Programs?

Adolescent outpatient programs and adult outpatient programs are different in several ways.

Treatment approach

Adolescent outpatient programs meet the unique needs of teenagers. The treatment approach considers the developmental stage, emotional challenges and social factors that are specific to adolescence. On the other hand, adult outpatient programs focus on addressing the mental health conditions faced by adults.

Therapeutic techniques

Adolescent counseling often uses therapeutic techniques tailored to the needs of teenagers. These may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, group therapy, art therapy and other activities. Adult outpatient programs may use different therapeutic techniques more suitable for adult patients.

Peer support

Adolescent outpatient programs recognize the importance of peer support during this crucial stage of development. These programs often provide opportunities for young people to connect with peers who are facing similar challenges. Adult outpatient programs, on the other hand, may focus more on individual therapy.

Parental involvement

Adolescent outpatient programs typically involve parents or guardians in the treatment process. This may include family therapy sessions, educational workshops and support groups for parents.

Environmental considerations

Adolescent outpatient programs consider the unique environmental factors that impact teenagers. This includes school, family dynamics and social pressures. By keeping these factors in mind, the treatment plans are relevant and effective. Adult outpatient programs, instead, may focus more on the patient’s personal and professional life circumstances.

Are Outpatient Programs for Teenagers Effective?

Research shows that outpatient programs can help teenagers in various ways. For example, they can help reduce symptoms, improve problem-solving abilities and enhance social skills and overall happiness.

Outpatient programs also provide supportive and structured environments. We believe that peer support plays a crucial role in the recovery process. Adolescents can share experiences, learn from each other and build a sense of belonging.

Also, outpatient programs for adolescents often involve collaboration with parents. This approach helps strengthen family relationships, improve communication and give parents the tools to support their teenager’s mental health journey.

Remember, outpatient programs are not one-size-fits-all. We recommend talking to a mental health professional to find an outpatient program for your teen.

Help Is Available at Sierra Vista Hospital

It is never too late to ask for help. Your adolescent’s mental and behavioral health is always a priority and adolescent outpatient programs can make a difference.

At Sierra Vista Hospital, we understand that sometimes life just feels too heavy, but you are not alone. Located in Sacramento, California, our compassionate team provides a judgment-free path to recovery. 

We are here to help out. Reach out at 916-288-0300 or complete this form to get started on your path to recovery today.


*If you are in crisis and need assistance immediately, call 911 or 988 for the Suicide Prevention Hotline or go to the nearest emergency room.