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We totally understand: any care program can be intimidating. Whether it’s a consultation before wisdom teeth removal or long-term behavioral and mental health care, it’s totally normal to experience regular anxiety in anticipation of your visit.

We find that in general, the more we can tell a patient about their upcoming visit, the less they have to be worried about. That’s why we’ve taken the time to outline what you can expect from your first outpatient program, to help replace any stress or anxiety you might be feeling with peace of mind. Familiarize yourself below with 5 things you can expect from your first outpatient program.

But before we get to the specifics, here’s one thing to know: you can receive outpatient care, or participate in outpatient programs, for a great many needs. After all, outpatient care is recommended whether you need a mammogram, a colonoscopy, specialist consultation or scheduled chemotherapy. As a result, your individual experience will hinge on the appropriate type of care you need. That’s why we suggest you take the time to reach out to the licensed medical professionals who will be taking care of you during your outpatient program, to address specific expectations or concerns you may have about the upcoming appointment. Below, we’ve outlined more general guidelines that govern the majority of the outpatient programs you’re likely to experience.

1. A unified goal

This one’s fairly straightforward: whenever you walk through the doors of an outpatient program or facility, every certified medical professional inside has the same goal for you: they want you to be able to walk back out of the same doors feeling better than when you walked in. And if there’s any discomfort before you leave, it’s only because those same professionals have decided that it’s what’s best for you.

We suggest that before you visit any outpatient facility, you get to know their mission and their goals. Sometimes, this means familiarizing yourself with their website or online social media. You can learn about their history, their onsite staff, and their commitment to your lasting satisfaction. Sometimes, this means giving that location a call and asking about the quality of care they offer, and how their specialists help ease concerns and promote strong health. You can expect any certified therapists, counselors, doctors, psychiatrists or any other specialists at your outpatient program to hold the same goals for you that you already hold for yourself.

2. Some sort of assessment – mental, physical, or both

Whether this assessment takes place before you ever arrive at your outpatient program, while you’re in the waiting room, or in front of your care specialist, at some point you’ll likely be required to evaluate your current state. If your outpatient program consists of biweekly therapy visits to help you cope with trauma, then this assessment likely takes place during the actual session itself, led by your counselor or therapist. If your outpatient visit is only to an urgent care clinic to draw blood, it’s an assessment likely filled out while you’re in the waiting room. Either way, you can expect an assessment at some point, that helps the staff identify your individual needs.

3. A long-term solution

We don’t want you to get the wrong impression: sometimes, outpatient programs really can have you back on your feet in minutes. Other times, your first outpatient program might really be the first of many visits to that same outpatient program. Especially with regard to any longer-term rehabilitation facility, sober living house or mental and behavioral health program, your first visit might primarily be an introduction to the therapist, counselor or psychiatrist you’ll be seeing in the months to come. As a result, you can expect an outpatient program to concern itself with your long-term health, not just your immediate future. Sometimes, this process requires patience, since multiple visits to the outpatient program might be necessary before you begin to see the growth and change you were hoping for.

4. Some degree of family involvement

While this isn’t true of every outpatient program, in general an outpatient program is about helping you find the best version of yourself, and live your life to the fullest extent of that personality. As a result, especially if you’re involved in any sort of outpatient rehab program, the staff involved welcomes family involvement. In some cases, family therapy might even be an option or recommended supplement to your existing outpatient care, in order to address among family members your individual or collective needs.

5. Open doors

That’s one of the best things about outpatient programs: you’re typically free to come and go as you please. Sometimes this is meant literally: a sober living house, where individuals live under structured schedules as they collectively pursue freedom from addiction, allows residents to come and go just like they would do normally. Other times, it’s because your actual outpatient care is completed in hours, or even minutes, such as a mammogram appointment or blood work. You’ll likely spend longer in the waiting room than you do in the appointment room getting your needs addressed.

Outpatient programs are all about you

Our Atlanta-based outpatient mental and behavioral health program is one such example of an outpatient program geared toward your long-term success. At Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare, we offer the city’s first free-standing structured outpatient program: an opportunity for adults and adolescents to address mood and anxiety disorders on their own time. We follow the same guidelines you see above, helping anyone control behaviors in a way that builds up the family unit as a whole.

No matter the type or the level of care, outpatient programs are engineered to help you address your own medical concerns. They’re never meant to be intimidating; in fact, many of them actually exist to help you deal with that same anxiety. Ultimately, the end goal is simple: outpatient programs want you to leave feeling better than you did when you arrived. That’s what you can expect from your first, second, third, or fiftieth visit to any well-oiled outpatient program: dedication to everything that matters in your life.

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