On the Fence: Exploring Barriers to Residential Mental Health Treatment

If you live with a mental health disorder, chances are that the possibility of residential mental health treatment is always in the background, a kind of last resort if things get really bad. Often, however, people resist coming to residential treatment even after it has become apparent that outpatient care is not enough—often due to misconceptions, practical concerns, or emotional barriers, which can prevent them from healing and prolonging their suffering. Here we explore some of the most common things people tell themselves that keep them from seeking residential care:

Residential Mental Health Treatment Is Scary


The idea of residential care can be highly intimidating. Representations of inpatient hospitalization and psych wards in popular culture are often filled with terrifying images of acute psychiatric crisis, authoritarian clinicians, and paternalistic medical practices.[1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psychologist-the-movies/201205/mental-hospitals-in-one-flew-over-the-cuckoo-s-nest] The chaos, loss of agency, and dehumanization commonly portrayed in television shows and films create an image that is anything but inviting to those in emotional distress. The reality, however, is far different. Private residential mental health programs like Bridges to Recovery are designed to create a warm, inviting space in which each client is treated with dignity and respect. At Bridges, our compassionate team of expert mental health professionals engage you in a collaborative, interdisciplinary healing process designed to meet your unique needs and nurture mind, body, and soul. In contrast to the stereotypically cold, harsh hospital environment, our beautiful Los Angeles-area facilities offer all the comforts of home in serene settings complete with private chefs, gyms, gracious living spaces, and peaceful gardens and patios for private reflection. Because all clients enter treatment voluntarily, you can be sure that you are surrounded by others who are dedicated to recovery and are also seeking profound personal transformation.

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I’m Not Sick Enough


Many people believe that their situation is not severe enough to warrant residential treatment, even as they are unable to find relief from suffering in outpatient environments. This line of thinking is often related to the belief that residential care is a frightening place reserved for only the “worst” cases, something you wouldn’t subject yourself to unless absolutely necessary. As a result, you may set arbitrary guidelines for yourself that depend on a complete dwindling of function; if your bipolar disorder makes you cheat on your spouse, if your depression turns into suicidal ideation, if your alcohol addiction causes you to lose your job, then you’ll try residential care. In reality, people come to residential treatment with a wide range of experiences, histories, and symptom severities. What they share is not a particular stage of mental illness, but a commitment to engaging in an intensive therapeutic experience that will alleviate emotional and behavioral distress and allow them to live a richer, more authentic life. Earlier treatment not only prevents serious damage to your health, your relationships, and your professional life, it also leads to better outcomes for most mental health disorders, increasing your chances of recovery.[2. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2015/team-based-treatment-is-better-for-first-episode-psychosis.shtml] Delaying residential care until you feel you have no other option only subjects you to unnecessary suffering and puts your well-being at risk.

I Can’t Leave My Family


Parents often struggle with the decision to seek residential mental health treatment, particularly if they are the primary caretaker to their children. While childcare is a very real and legitimate concern, it is also often one that can be addressed with thoughtful planning. The deeper barrier many parents face is the belief that their children will be negatively affected by their absence during treatment. In reality, caring for your mental health is a critical part of ensuring your children will have a stable, healthy childhood, and a temporary absence for residential treatment can give you the ability to be truly present and emotionally equipped to care for both yourself and your family when you return home. Residential care also doesn’t mean that you can’t be involved in your children’s lives; at Bridges to Recovery, we encourage contact with your family throughout your stay through phone, email, and Skype, as well as visits as appropriate.

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I Can’t Take Time Off Work


In a culture that prizes professional and financial success, it can be difficult to make life changes that involve potentially compromising your work, particularly if you are the primary breadwinner. What often goes unspoken, however, is that it is not treatment that threatens your success, but your illness; without addressing your mental health disorder, you are left vulnerable to deepening levels of distress that can impair your ability to function socially and professionally. Prioritizing your psychological well-being is critical to ensuring that you can continue to perform in the workplace while enhancing your overall quality of life. Furthermore, regardless of the leave policies offered by your individual employer, federal legislation, including the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), provides special protections for people suffering from mental health disorders and can allow you the time to seek residential care without compromising your job.

Finding The Right Residential Treatment For You


There will always be reasons to not come to residential treatment, whether those are rooted in external factors or internal barriers. But few, if any, are as compelling as the reasons to come to residential treatment: to heal, to grow, to nurture yourself, and to enrich your life.

At Bridges to Recovery, we are committed to connecting you with the treatment you need to end psychological suffering and restore your sense of joy, hope, and possibility. If you are considering residential mental health treatment, we are always available to answer any questions you may have and provide guidance during your search for care. If you would like your outpatient care provider to be involved in the process, we are more than happy to speak with them to determine whether or not our program is a good match for you. If together we all decide that Bridges to Recovery is the best place for you to begin healing, we will support you through the admissions process to ensure that you can start treatment as soon as you are ready. If Bridges is not the right facility for you, we can connect you to more suitable resources that will provide you with the care you need. Regardless of whether you come to Bridges or go somewhere else, our goal is help each person find relief from pain and fully realize their potential.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential mental health treatment for people suffering from mental health disorders, co-occurring substance abuse, or other co-occurring impulse control disorders. Contact us for more information about our program and how we can help you begin the journey toward healing.