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On October 19, 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association designated the youth mental health crisis as a national emergency. This declaration came after a decade of rising rates of persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in youth, an increase in loneliness, isolation, […]

By: Charlie Health Editorial Team

September 2, 2022


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On October 19, 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association designated the youth mental health crisis as a national emergency. This declaration came after a decade of rising rates of persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in youth, an increase in loneliness, isolation, and suicidal ideation, and a marked increase in rates of diagnosed mental health disorders among teens and young adults.

Despite this pervasive crisis, mental healthcare remains inaccessible for many young people. But it doesn’t have to be.

Virtual Intensive Outpatient Programming (IOP) is an accessible, effective, and personalized solution for teens and young adults struggling with mental health issues. Our virtual IOP is designed to meet the needs of those who would benefit from more than once-weekly therapy or for those who need continued support after an inpatient or residential treatment program. 

Here we dive into how our IOP works, discuss how we know it’s effective, and outline the different types of mental health conditions we can support. We also dive into the origins of Charlie Health and why accessible mental healthcare is needed for all. 

What is a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)?

IOP is a higher level of mental healthcare than traditional outpatient therapy. It can also serve as a step down from inpatient or residential treatment. IOP incorporates evidence-based modalities like supported groups with peers, individual therapy, and family therapy. Most importantly, IOP has one of the highest success rates of mental health treatment options. 

While IOP may be an ideal treatment path for those who need more than weekly therapy, virtual IOP may be even more effective and accessible. Whether it’s due to limited local programs, mental health provider shortages, or transportation limitations, virtual IOP actively breaks down traditional barriers to care. Plus, a virtual model allows clients to continue to live their day-to-day lives while exploring new coping skills and strategies with peers and mental health professionals.

How does Charlie Health’s virtual IOP work? 

Charlie Health’s team of trauma-informed mental health professionals specialize in a wide range of mental health disciplines to provide teens and young adults with comprehensive, evidence-based care. 

Our IOP is completely virtual and typically lasts 9-12 weeks. While the program is personalized for each individual accessing care, each week of the program consists of, on average: 

  • 3 hours of supported group sessions, 3 days per week
  • 1 hour of individual therapy 
  • 1-2 hours of family therapy

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Teens and young adults are matched to their respective groups through a data-driven process that considers age, mental health history, and goals. Each session is led by a trained mental health professional from our Care Team. In group sessions as well as individual and family therapy, our providers incorporate a range of therapeutic modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) skills. Learn more about the other treatment modalities we specialize in here

By using a range of modalities that incorporate both clinical best practices and holistic programming, IOP can help people manage mental health conditions including major depressive disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, and more. Other mental health struggles we can support include: 

We also incorporate free family support groups and alumni programming. We are here for our clients during every step of their healing journey. 

Our virtual IOP is proven to lead to industry-leading outcomes for teens and young adults. In short: we believe that virtual IOP is the solution to the youth mental health crisis. 

Is Charlie Health’s IOP effective?


Recently, we conducted a study in partnership with Dr. Phyllis Solomon, Professor of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania, to understand the impact of Charlie Health’s IOP on clinical outcomes for teens and young adults. 

The study’s 495 participants were enrolled in our program between July 2021 and April 2022.

After reviewing clinical data, including self-reported intake surveys and discharge assessments, our researchers found that our virtual IOP was shown to significantly improve teens’ mental health:

  • Charlie Health participants showed up for 91% of their scheduled virtual sessions compared to the industry average of 65%.
  • Participants reported a 60% reduction in depressive symptoms.
  • Over half of participants who self-reported a history of self-harm were no longer self-harming after discharge.
  • Among participants who self-reported active suicidal ideation when completing intake surveys, 71% self-reported no longer feeling suicidal after discharge.
  • Clinical outcomes were comparable between participants on public insurance and those on private insurance, indicating that Charlie Health is both an accessible and equitable care model.

This study confirmed what we set out to do when we founded Charlie Health: provide an effective, engaging, and accessible virtual program that helps young people better manage depression, suicidal ideation, and other serious mental health conditions.

A teen girl with blonde hair sits on her computer during a virtual IOP session

Charlie Health’s origin story

Charlie Health’s CEO and Co-Founder, Carter Barnhart, struggled for years with anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation after experiencing sexual assault as a teenager. For Carter, the road to healing and recovery started at a residential treatment program that incorporated group therapy and fostered community with other teens dealing with similar challenges. 

After Carter’s treatment ended, she committed to advocating for the millions of teens and young adults facing serious mental health concerns. This began with spending over a decade helping the center that provided her own treatment become a leading inpatient program for young people. Through this work, as well as her own experience, Carter recognized the significant barriers in the way of the care and outcomes she was able to access, from affordability to insurance to limited bed space. 

Along with Co-Founders Dr. Caroline Fenkel, DSW, LCSW and Justin Weiss, Carter built Charlie Health’s primary offering, an intensive outpatient program for teens and young adults, as a direct response to the growing youth mental health crisis. The goal was to make personalized intensive treatment more accessible for teens—no matter who they are or where they live.

Why we need more accessible mental healthcare options 

Mental healthcare is especially difficult to access for people in communities of color, those who identify as LGBTQIA+, and those who live in rural areas. 

People of color are significantly less likely to access mental healthcare. Among the Black community specifically, care that is accessible is often of a lower quality compared to non-Black communities. For the LGBTQIA+ community, 84% of LGBTQIA+ youth reported wanting access to mental healthcare, but more than half of those who wanted it were unable to access it, according to this recent survey

Additionally, an estimated 158 million people currently live in places with a shortage of mental healthcare providers, and in 2021, approximately two-thirds of the areas with shortages were rural.

These statistics demonstrate the need for solutions that are both easy-to-access and successful in achieving positive clinical outcomes. This is our mission at Charlie Health: delivering better care to more young people no matter who or where they are.

Contact us

At Charlie Health, our Care Team works to individualize IOP plans based on individual preferences and experiences. If you’re wondering if you or your loved one may be a good fit for Charlie Health, get in touch today. A member of our team will get back to you within 24-48 hours.

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