A young girl needs crisis stabilization services.

What Are Crisis Stabilization Services?

June 19, 2024

4 min.

Crisis stabilization services are designed to provide safety and support during mental health emergencies. Here, we review different services and how to access them for a teen or young adult in your life.

By: Alex Bachert, MPH

Clinically Reviewed By: Sarah Lyter

Learn more about our Clinical Review Process


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If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis, knowing how to access the right type of crisis service is essential to well-being and recovery. Mental health crisis stabilization services are designed to connect people with immediate care for psychiatric needs, such as frequent suicidal thoughts, symptoms of psychosis, or acute emotional distress following trauma. Below, we review different types of crisis stabilization services, when contacting emergency services is necessary, and how to manage a psychiatric crisis with Charlie Health.

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Our wraparound services include crisis support during and outside treatment sessions.

What are crisis stabilization services?

Crisis stabilization services are short-term interventions designed to support people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. “Stabilization services are focused on support, safety, medication management, and teaching coping skills,” according to Kathleen Douglass, MA, LCPC, Charlie Health Clinical Supervisor. They’re used until the “crisis is averted and the person is able to function, care for themselves again, and continue working in an outpatient setting,” she says.

There are several types of crisis stabilization services that can help reduce people’s mental health symptoms and ensure their overall safety and well-being. With these resources, the goal is to help people regain stability while avoiding more restrictive levels of care, such as hospitalization or repeat visits to the emergency department.

24-hour crisis lines

National resources like The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline are often the first point of contact for crisis intervention. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or are in danger of harming yourself, this is a mental health emergency. Contact The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 24/7 by calling or texting 988. You can also find a suicide prevention and crisis center in your state here

Local mobile crisis teams

“Crisis stabilization services vary by geographical area,” says Douglass. “Some areas have something called the mobile crisis team, who will come to your home and provide you with support and an evaluation to see if intensive mental health services are required.”

Partial hospital programs (PHPs)

Partial hospitalization is an option for people who need intensive, structured mental health treatment — including those who are experiencing acute psychotic symptoms but don’t pose a threat to themselves or others. PHPs include daily therapy and medical support, and people receive onsite treatment but can return home at night. 

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs)

An IOP allows people in crisis to access mental health treatment without disrupting their lives. Through multiple weekly sessions, people learn to build healthy coping skills and manage their condition while maintaining their connections at home, school, and with loved ones. With Charlie Health’s virtual IOP, a typical weekly schedule involves 1 hour of individual therapy, 1-2 hours of family therapy, and 9-12 hours of group sessions. 

What is a mental health crisis?

If you’re wondering when it is appropriate to access crisis stabilization services, a good rule of thumb is any time there’s a mental health emergency that’s not able to be resolved with a person’s regular coping methods and resources. 

“A mental health crisis is any situation in which a person’s actions, feelings, and behaviors can lead to them hurting themselves or others or put them at risk of being unable to care for themselves or function in the community in a healthy manner,” explains Douglass. Some signs that a person is experiencing a mental health crisis include:

  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of harm to self or others with a plan and intent to follow through on the thoughts
  • Symptoms of psychosis, like auditory and visual hallucinations or voices that are telling you to harm someone else or yourself
  • An inability to care for yourself fully because symptoms are preventing you from taking showers, eating, getting out of bed, or going to work
  • Inability to work or go to school because of severe anxiety, depression, or other forms of mental illness
  • Significantly reckless behavior that poses a threat to self or others, such as while in a manic state
  • Increased social isolation or use of drugs or alcohol, often used to cope with the symptoms of severe and persistent mental illness

What triggers a mental health crisis?

“Any person at any time can have a mental health crisis,” according to Douglass. “Substance use disorders can trigger a psychotic episode that needs immediate stabilization and victims of trauma can have acute needs, particularly if trauma is recent. Sometimes grief can cause a severe depression that needs crisis intervention.” Other times, a person’s mental illness can flare and require immediate and aggressive stabilization. Examples of mental illnesses include: 

How Charlie Health supports clients in crisis

Charlie Health offers clients access to 24/7 crisis services to help ensure the safety and well-being of all teens and young adults in their programs. The Crisis Services team includes trained care coaches, crisis managers, and individual and family therapists who are adept at delivering emergency services with compassion and care. 

Care coaches are the front-line support team for clients during group sessions, while crisis managers ensure that clients and their families have access to support between group and individual therapy sessions. Crisis managers provide risk assessment, safety planning, and de-escalation, as well as clinical consultation when a client is in acute distress or has elevated clinical needs. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing a psychiatric crisis and require mental health support, Charlie Health may be able to help. Complete the form below to get the care you need today.

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