What is A Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility?

by Polaris Teen Center | Dec 28, 2018 | Parenting Tips, Resources, Treatment

polaris psychiatric residential treatment facility

A psychiatric residential treatment facility (PRTF) provides out-of-home psychiatric care to children, adolescents, and young adults in a non-hospital, highly structured setting.  PRTF’s serve clients whose mental health needs require more intensive treatment than can be provided in a community outpatient setting. Psychiatric residential treatment facilities provide a safe, therapeutic environment where clients can gain stability, support, and treatment for mental health diagnoses, substance abuse, intellectual/developmental disabilities, sexual conduct disorders, or other disabilities that may necessitate stabilization of mental health issues.

Psychiatric residential treatment facilities provide services under the direction of a medical/mental health physician, serve individuals under the age of 21, and must be accredited by The Joint Commission, CARF, CASFC, or any other state-approved accrediting organization.

Psychiatric Residential Treatment vs. Residential Treatment Facility

  • PRTFs are separate facilities (non-hospital entities), while residential treatment facilities are associated with hospitals or other facilities.
  • PRTFs treat clients under age 21, while residential treatment facilities may serve clients of all ages.
  • PRTFs always provide psychiatric care; some residential treatment facilities do as well, but many do not.

Services Offered in Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities

Medication Management

Psychiatric residential treatment facilities provide medication management, if it is determined that psychiatric medications could be of assistance to the client.

Treatment Planning

Psychiatric residential treatment facilities provide “active” treatment, which means a professionally developed and individualized treatment plan is created for each client.  This individual treatment plan is developed within 14 days of admission (usually within the first couple of days of a client’s stay).  The individual treatment plan is designed to treat the client’s condition or concerns (based on the diagnostic evaluation) in a manner that promotes earliest discharge from inpatient status.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy sessions are provided for every client on (at least) a weekly basis.  Individual therapy sessions take place with a licensed counselor, therapist, or social worker, and provide clients a space to talk about issues, process trauma, and learn skills to better manage their individual struggles.

Group Therapy

Group therapy sessions are conducted on a regular basis at PRTFs.  Group therapy addresses a wide range of issues in a social setting (i.e. – anger management, conflict resolution, boundaries, daily living skills, etc.)

Family Therapy

Family therapy is often an integral part of psychiatric residential treatment facilities. Family therapy sessions usually include parents or guardians of the client, and the client himself.  Family therapy sometimes includes other members of the family (i.e. – grandparents, siblings, etc.) based on the individual’s family unit.  The goals of family therapy include helping the family members better understand the client’s problems and struggles and the stages of treatment.  Family therapy in PRTFs can also educate the family and client on how family dynamics affect the client (and the treatment outcome).  Additionally, issues of accountability and responsibility are often identified, explored, and clarified.

Recreational Activities

PRTFs provide various types of recreational, community, cultural and experiential therapy activities to their clients.

Educational Services

All residents of psychiatric treatment facilities will receive academic services through an accredited, on-campus school.

Psychological Testing

Although not necessary for all clients, some may have a treatment plan that includes psychological testing.  Psychologists at psychiatric residential treatment facilities are trained to administer a wide variety of psychological tests and assessments to determine the presence of mental health disorders, level of cognitive functioning, etc. Psychologists at PRTFs may also provide neuropsychological tests, intelligence tests, and/or memory disorder screenings.  Psychological testing can help hone in on a client’s main issue(s), allowing for more effective treatment.

Why Choose A Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility

Psychiatric residential treatment facilities provide care to clients dealing with a variety of different struggles and issues.  Because of the restrictive and intensive nature, PRTFs should only be chosen if other (lower levels) of treatment have not worked, or if client safety is a concern.

Psychiatric residential treatment facility programs are designed for adolescents, teens, and young adults who are suffering severe impairment as a result of substance abuse, trauma (PTSD), dual diagnosis, eating disorders, or other mental illnesses.

The average length of stay for clients at psychiatric residential treatment facilities is anywhere from three to six months.  Nonetheless, the time spent in a PRTF is truly determined by a client’s individual needs, severity of symptoms, and progress made while in treatment.

What to Expect in a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility

  • A diagnostic evaluation – examination of the client’s medical, psychosocial, and behavioral background, as well as current issues and concerns.
  • A treatment team – PRTFs provide clients with an interdisciplinary treatment team. This team typically consists of a board-certified psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, a registered nurse, and a psychiatric social worker or mental health counselor/therapist.
  • Treatment plan review – typically, the treatment team will meet at least once per month with the client (and often parents/legal guardians) to discuss progress, areas of improvement, continued struggles and challenges, and estimated length of stay.
  • Discharge and after care planning – a client will be provided with discharge plans and resources for purposes of continuity of care once the individual discharges from the psychiatric residential treatment facility.

Choosing a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility  

  • Ask a medical or mental health professional for a referral or recommendation
  • Read online reviews
  • Check whether the PRTF treats the issue(s) or problem(s) the person is struggling with
  • Visit the psychiatric residential treatment facility
  • Find out if the program is nationally accredited and licensed by the state
  • Identify if your child meets the admission criteria set forth by the psychiatric residential treatment facility
  • Learn about the insurance coverage and/or payment options
Polaris Teen Center | Website | + posts

Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).