Outpatient depression treatment involves receiving treatment for depression — such as therapy — without staying overnight in a mental health facility.

Outpatient depression treatment is where someone with depression gets treated without staying in a mental health facility, such as a hospital, clinic, or residential program. In other words, outpatient treatment involves living at home and regularly seeing a mental health professional — like a therapist — to treat your depression.

While it’s less intense than inpatient therapy, outpatient therapy can be highly effective.

Outpatient therapy allows you to determine your own schedule, stay in your own home, and continue with work as normal, allowing your therapy sessions to fit in with the rest of your routine.

Outpatient therapy for depression is where you receive mental health treatment from professionals without staying overnight in a mental health facility.

Outpatient depression treatment can include individual, family, or group counseling with a therapist. This is called talk therapy or psychotherapy. Nowadays, outpatient therapy can be conducted online. Online therapy is often called virtual therapy or teletherapy.

Where necessary, outpatient depression treatment may also include sessions with a psychiatrist. Prescription medication, such as antidepressants, may be part of your treatment.

With outpatient depression treatment, you can go about your usual schedule, which may involve work, school, hobbies, and socializing with loved ones.

What is intensive outpatient therapy for depression?

Intensive outpatient therapy for depression involves seeing a mental health care professional frequently (usually a few times a week). Intensive outpatient treatment programs differ from facility to facility, but they often include individual and group sessions.

Intensive outpatient treatment could also involve a “day program” where participants spend the day at a facility and return home in the evenings. A day program may include individual and group sessions, mindfulness activities, skill-building workshops, and more.

The main difference between inpatient and outpatient depression treatment is where you live.

Outpatient treatment is where you receive therapy while living outside of a mental health facility (usually in your own home).

Inpatient treatment involves staying overnight in a mental health facility, usually for a few days or weeks. You would typically have a structured or semi-structured schedule, which includes therapy sessions, mealtimes, and other activities.

This leads to some key differences between inpatient and outpatient treatment:

  • Intensity: Inpatient treatment can involve multiple therapy sessions per week or even per day, which can be helpful if you’re currently in crisis.
  • Safety and monitoring: Because inpatient treatment involves around-the-clock support, it may be more appropriate if you think you may be a danger to yourself.
  • Other activities: Outpatient treatment typically allows you to continue your usual activities, such as work, school, and hobbies.
  • Cost: Inpatient treatment is nearly always more expensive than outpatient treatment, although the cost will depend on the facility, which professionals you see, and how often you have appointments with them.

Overall, inpatient treatments are usually more appropriate for people who need more support.

If you’re not sure whether to choose an inpatient treatment program or outpatient therapy, consider speaking with a therapist or contacting a mental health facility directly.

Outpatient depression treatment can work in many different ways. There is no set technique or program for outpatient therapy, so it can differ from one person to the next.

Commonly, outpatient depression treatment consists of regular talk therapy with a licensed therapist. This could be individual counseling, group, family, or couples therapy.

Outpatient treatment for depression may also include sessions with other mental health professionals instead of, or in addition to, seeing a therapist. For example, you may talk with a psychiatrist or religious counselor.

Depression treatment may also include prescription medications, like antidepressants. These are usually prescribed by a psychiatrist.

Other depression treatments can include:

If you’re not sure where to start with receiving outpatient depression treatment, speaking with a therapist can be a good first step.

Outpatient treatment and inpatient treatment both have their pros and cons. Although both can be used to help people with depression, inpatient treatment can offer extra support to those who need it.

Outpatient depression treatment may be best if you:

  • don’t need constant or daily support
  • feel able to cope while living at home
  • want to continue with work, school, and other activities

Additionally, many people opt for outpatient treatment over inpatient treatment because it’s more affordable. However, inpatient treatment may be more appropriate if you:

  • are currently in crisis
  • are having suicidal thoughts
  • need a break from your current environment or routine
  • need treatment for substance use as well as depression
  • would benefit from extra support
  • need to be monitored for your own safety

After inpatient depression treatment, many people continue receiving outpatient therapy to build on and maintain their day-to-day functioning.

Help is out there

If you or someone you know is in crisis and considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:

If you’re calling on behalf of someone else, stay with them until help arrives. You may remove weapons or substances that can cause harm if you can do so safely.

If you are not in the same household, stay on the phone with them until help arrives.

Was this helpful?

Yes. Outpatient depression treatment can be effective.

Numerous studies have found that talk therapy can help relieve the symptoms of depression. Talk therapy is considered a “first-line treatment” for depression as it’s highly effective.

Outpatient depression treatment may also include prescription medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These medications have been shown to be effective in treating depression.

Depression treatments differ from person to person, and not everybody will have the same responses to treatment. It may take time to figure out which treatments work for you, and likewise, it may take time before you start feeling better.

But don’t be discouraged: Outpatient depression treatment has worked for many people, and with the right combination of treatments, it can work for you too.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered highly effective in treating depression and other mental health conditions. It’s one of the most common and well-studied forms of talk therapy.

While there’s plenty of evidence that CBT is effective, it’s not necessarily better than all other types of therapy.

A recent review of research — which spanned 409 trials with 52,702 patients — concluded that CBT is effective in treating depression but not necessarily superior to other types of talk therapy.

CBT is often recommended as a first-line treatment for depression. But if CBT doesn’t work for you, this doesn’t mean your depression is untreatable. A different type of therapy may be more suitable for you.

Other evidence-based therapies for depression include:

Many therapists use an eclectic approach, meaning they use principles and techniques from a number of types of therapy.

Outpatient depression treatment is where you receive depression treatments without staying overnight in a facility. It usually involves regular talk therapy sessions.

Where necessary, outpatient treatments can include prescription medication and other evidence-based treatments. Sessions with a psychiatrist or another mental health professional can also form a part of your treatment.

Although inpatient therapy can be suitable for people with depression who need extra support, outpatient depression treatment can also be highly effective.