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What is Outpatient Treatment for PTSD?

What is Outpatient Treatment for PTSD?

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What is Outpatient PTSD Treatment?

Outpatient PTSD treatment is a broad term that encompasses various approaches for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), usually designed to produce quick results. It refers to therapy services delivered in mental health treatment centers, doctor’s offices, or hospitals.

Outpatient therapy for PTSD does not require an overnight stay, even in the case of an intensive outpatient program for PTSD. Patients who undergo outpatient therapy instead of residential or inpatient care return home each night.1 You can maintain regular activities while receiving outpatient therapy for PTSD. The advantage of exposure to the outside world is that issues can be faced directly instead of being shielded. Getting used to the real world is helpful for people who could run into triggers in their daily life.

In contrast, long-term treatment presents numerous challenges, including the need for patients to spend a significant amount of time away from their families and jobs.2 Additionally, you cannot communicate with anyone outside of that setting while receiving treatment in an inpatient environment.

Various outpatient programs can help treat PTSD, including:

  • Traditional Outpatient Treatment: Without requiring an overnight stay, PTSD outpatient treatment in Tennessee are therapies or tests that can be performed in a hospital or clinical setting. Most treatments and testing can be completed in a few hours. Additionally, patients may see a therapist for individual sessions as often as recommended, generally one or two times a week for 45-50 minutes.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program for PTSD (IOP): IOP programs allow patients to go about their daily lives while receiving intensive treatment.3 Several days per week, participants must attend group or individual therapy or treatment as well as recreational activities as part of IOP for PTSD. A psychiatrist’s regular medication management or traditional psychotherapy, which can last for years, is not like IOP treatment. An intensive outpatient program for PTSD is a direct intervention. The objective is noticeable progress in the shortest amount of time.4
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): A PHP is a highly structured IOP for PTSD. They provide active treatment, including psychotherapy, group counseling services, and skill-building lessons, for several hours a day. After treatment, individuals can return home or to a sober living community.
  • Support Groups: Tennessee support groups offer services to help people stay committed to trauma recovery. Belonging to a support group fosters camaraderie among others on the same path, making trauma recovery feel less lonely. Members of support groups can meet once a week under the supervision of licensed therapists.

PTSD, which affects more than 8 million adults in the United States, is a type of anxiety disorder that can be brought on by exposure to or experiencing a traumatic event. You might replay the situation repeatedly or entirely forget about it. Even if you weren’t personally involved, you could still find it challenging to lead a normal life due to the shock of what happened.

A few symptoms that could manifest are flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, intense anxiety, low self-esteem, feeling emotionally numb, and irrational ideas regarding the incident. Symptoms usually begin up to three months after the stressful occurrence but might appear years later. Symptoms must endure for over a month and be serious enough to interfere with relationships or employment to be recognized as PTSD.5,6,7

Insurance may be able to help cover the cost of therapy. Find out if your insurance provider can help with the costs by filling in our confidential insurance verification form below.

Outpatient PTSD Treatment Process & Goals

Outpatient PTSD treatment varies with each individual. Some will require a few hours a week, while others may need an intensive outpatient program for PTSD, which can require up to a few hours per day, five days a week.

Outpatient PTSD treatment gives you the tools to manage your PTSD symptoms better and a greater understanding of how trauma has altered your thinking. In order to live a full and productive life, IOP treatment attempts to reduce psychiatric symptoms, increase independence, and encourage self-reliance.

Many psychotherapies are helpful for people living with PTSD. Some are explicitly directed toward PTSD symptoms, while others focus on social, occupational, or familial issues.

Therapists near you in Tennessee may combine different therapies depending on your needs. These therapies may include one or more of the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on the connections between ideas, feelings, and actions, targets present-day problems and symptoms, and attempts to alter thought, emotional, and behavior patterns that make it challenging to function.8
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): This trauma treatment will teach you how to change and dispel false beliefs about the traumatic event.
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Long-term exposure teaches you how to gradually handle upsetting memories, emotions, and situations. You’ll often find that the painful memories and cues are safe and do not need to be feared by facing what has been avoided.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This structured therapy that can last up to 90 minutes urges you to concentrate on the traumatic memory while undergoing bilateral stimulation (usually eye movements or tapping). This is linked to a decrease in the vividness and strong emotion attached to the traumatic event and its memories.
  • Stress Inoculation Training:9 Techniques for reducing anxiety and stress can assist patients in feeling less overall discomfort and agitation.
  • Group Therapy: Just as you can benefit from others’ experiences by listening to their stories, your experiences may also be helpful to others. Being able to help others can increase your sense of self-worth and confidence in your ability to control PTSD symptoms.10

PTSD symptoms may not always be controlled by psychotherapy. Several medications, like antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds, can also help reduce PTSD symptoms.11 Combining psychotherapy and medicine have the potential to improve your symptoms significantly.12

Moreover, the following therapies can also be used to treat PTSD:

  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS):13 TMS is a non-invasive procedure that stimulates the cells in a particular brain region by delivering electromagnetic pulses using an electromagnetic coil. Moreover, this treatment controls the activity of brain cells linked to PTSD in other brain regions, potentially bringing them back to baseline. The signs of PTSD are diminished when your brain’s equilibrium and stability are restored.
  • Present-Centered Therapy (PCT):14 Instead of directly processing the trauma, this non-trauma-oriented therapy concentrates on present-day issues. Along with teaching problem-solving skills to deal with daily stressors, PCT also provides psychoeducation on the impacts of trauma.

Benefits of Outpatient Treatment for PTSD

Outpatient PTSD treatment has several advantages for those who have a solid support system at home and can maintain high degrees of independence, including:

  • Connections to a strong support network
  • Ability to maintain and manage daily responsibilities
  • Acquiring new coping techniques, like self-care and effective communication
  • Assistance in the transition from inpatient to outpatient care
  • More affordable than inpatient care
  • Scheduling flexibility
  • The option for virtual treatment

When is Outpatient Treatment Right for You?

Anyone having trouble with daily life will benefit from outpatient therapy. Outpatient therapy for PTSD enables you to surround yourself with people going through similar situations. You might feel a sense of community and hope when you establish deep ties with others who understand what you’re experiencing. Trauma recovery requires vulnerability.15

For those with a solid support system and high-functioning independence, outpatient treatment is suitable. In addition, those who do not require round-the-clock care are excellent candidates. Moreover, IOP for PTSD can be helpful if you have previously participated in inpatient treatment programs.16

Residential or inpatient treatment may be necessary for people who need continuous therapeutic assistance, must be seen frequently, or cannot live independently.17 Additionally, you might require a higher degree of care if you have active suicidal thoughts.

Success Rates & Outlook of Outpatient PTSD Treatment

Those receiving PTSD treatment typically experience symptoms for roughly 36 months. The typical duration without therapy for those with symptoms is 64 months. Unfortunately, more than one-third of people with PTSD never completely recover.18

A favorable prognosis is correlated with quick treatment initiation, early and consistent social support, prevention of re-traumatization, good premorbid function, and the absence of other mental illnesses or substance abuse.

In one particular study of an intensive outpatient program for PTSD, over 50% of patients no longer met the criteria for PTSD, over 80% of patients had a clinically significant response, and 2.3% of patients dropped out.19 In addition, after three weeks of outpatient prolonged exposure therapy, a randomized controlled trial involving 234 military personnel and veterans from four Texas locations found clinically significant reductions in PTSD symptoms in more than 60% of patients and long-term remission of the diagnosis in more than 50%.20


  1. “What is Outpatient Mental Health Treatment?” Pacific Health Systems, 2022, https://pacifichealthsystems.com/blog/what-is-outpatient-mental-health-treatment/
  2. Road Home Program at Rush. “Road Home Program | Center for Veterans and Their Families at Rush.” Road Home Program, 3 Mar. 2023, roadhomeprogram.org.
  3. “3 Different Types of Outpatient Rehab Programs.” TruHealing, 2022, https://www.truhealingcenters.com/rehab-blog/3-different-types-of-outpatient-rehab-programs/
  4. “A Complete Guide to Intensive Outpatient Programs: What Is IOP? How Does It Work? And How Might It Help You?” Plural Healthcare, pluralhealthcare.com/intensive-outpatient-program-guide. Accessed 5 Mar. 2023.
  5. “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 6 July 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967.
  6. “What Are the Treatments for PTSD?” WebMD, 22 Mar. 2017, www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-are-treatments-for-posttraumatic-stress-disorder.
  7. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd. Accessed 18 Sept. 2022.
  8. “PTSD Treatments.” American Psychological Association, July 2017, www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments.
  9. Tull, Matthew PhD. “How to Manage PTSD Stress With Stress Inoculation Training.” Verywell Mind, 12 Aug. 2021, www.verywellmind.com/stress-inoculation-training-2797682.
  10. Tull, Matthew PhD. “The Benefits of PTSD Group Therapy.” Verywell Mind, 23 Jan. 2021, www.verywellmind.com/the-benefits-of-group-therapy-for-ptsd-2797656.
  11. “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” Mayo Clinic, 6 July 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355973.
  12. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Diagnosis and Treatment – Mayo Clinic. 13 Dec. 2022, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355973.
  13. “TMS Therapy for PTSD | Success TMS Depression Treatment.” Success TMS, 2 Mar. 2020, successtms.com/tms-for-ptsd.
  14. “PTSD Facts and Treatment.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/treatment-facts. Accessed 18 Sept. 2022.
  15. Siebrasse, Keri. “The Benefits of Outpatient Mental Health Treatment.” Alter Wellness Care, 22 Feb. 2023, alterwellnesscare.com/mental-health/the-benefits-of-outpatient-mental-health-treatment.
  16. “What is Outpatient Mental Health Treatment?” Penn Highlands Healthcare, 2022, https://www.phhealthcare.org/news/penn-highlands-healthcare-news/what-is-outpatient-mental-health-treatment
  17. Marschall, Amy, PsyD. “What Is Outpatient Therapy?” Verywell Mind, 18 Jan. 2022, www.verywellmind.com/outpatient-therapy-definition-and-efficacy-5214546.
  18. Rosellini, A. J., et al. “Recovery From DSM-IV Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys.” Psychological Medicine, vol. 48, no. 3, Cambridge UP (CUP), July 2017, pp. 437–50. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0033291717001817.
  19. Thoresen, Ida Haugland, et al. “Intensive Outpatient Treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A Thematic Analysis of Patient Experience.” European Journal of Psychotraumatology, vol. 13, no. 1, Informa UK Limited, Apr. 2022, https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2022.2043639.
  20. Peterson, Alan L., et al. “Massed Vs Intensive Outpatient Prolonged Exposure for Combat-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.” JAMA Network Open, vol. 6, no. 1, American Medical Association (AMA), Jan. 2023, p. e2249422. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.49422.

If you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from mental health disorders, contact Athena Care today.

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