Mental Health Treatment & Services in San Diego CA

Alter Mental Health, located in San Diego, California, is a top crisis stabilization unit in California. This is a temporary short-term stabilization unit for people in acute mental health crises. This is another option instead of being in an inpatient hospitalization facility. We offer different treatment modalities and comprehensive services for our patients. It’s a specialized treatment facility that can help people in a mental health crisis and begin an individualized treatment plan that will continue elsewhere after they are stabilized.

Mental Health Disorders We Treat

sd mental health treatment

Alter Mental Health provides treatment for all different types of mental health disorders. We use a holistic, personal, and comprehensive approach to treating each person as not every person can be treated the same. Some of the mental health disorders we treat are: 


Schizophrenia is when people have an altered view of reality. People diagnosed with schizophrenia usually have hallucinations, delusions, and a disordered way of thinking that can impact daily functions and be disabling for everyday functionality. 

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia symptoms are categorized into three different categories: psychotic, negative, and cognitive. Each person diagnosed with schizophrenia experiences different symptoms and how it shows up looks different on each person.

Psychotic symptoms can include:

  • Delusions: False beliefs that have nothing to do with reality.
  • Hallucinations: Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, hearing voices is most common for people with schizophrenia.
  • Disorganized thinking: Answers to questions are completely random and have nothing to do with the question.
  • Abnormal motor behavior: This usually includes resistance to instructions, strange posture, lack of response, or excessive movement for no reason.

Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder is a combination of schizophrenia symptoms and mood disorder symptoms. The main difference between schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder is that schizoaffective disorder has mood disorder symptoms. The combination makes the symptoms a little bit different when looking at the psychotic and mood disorder symptoms. 

Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder

The two different symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are psychotic symptoms, which alter your perception of reality, and mood-related symptoms.

Psychotic symptoms affect your ability to know what’s real and what’s not. The psychotic symptoms that impact how you function daily are:

  • Delusions.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Unorganized thoughts.
  • Unusual movement.

Hallucinations give someone false perceptions, hearing voices when no one is there or seeing something or someone that isn’t there. Delusions are when someone has very strong false beliefs about something. An example of this might be if someone thinks that a person can read other peoples’ minds.

Major Depression

Major depression is a mood disorder that makes you consistently feel sad or have a loss of interest. You’re considered to have major depression when depression lasts for two or more weeks. Major depression is most commonly what people have when they are diagnosed with depression; however, many mood disorders have depression as part of their symptoms that happen. It affects how you feel, thinks, and behave, leading to emotional and physical problems. 

Symptoms of Major Depression

Major depression has a variety of symptoms. People who are diagnosed don’t need to exhibit all of the symptoms but usually have a mix of them. Common symptoms of major depression are:

  • Feeling sad, irritable, and useless.
  • Having excessive fatigue, issues waking up in the morning.
  • Losing interest in passions and hobbies you used to like.
  • Losing weight unintentionally, losing a sense of appetite, or overeating.
  • Having issues with memory, difficulty focusing, or having a tough time making decisions.
  • Having suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings that give someone emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression). The two opposites give people a hopeless feeling and a total euphoric feeling when they are having a high. These mood swings can affect energy, sleep, activity, behavior, judgment, and being able to think clearly. Besides going to mental health therapy, people with bipolar disorder also need medicine to treat and function normally with daily activities. 

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The two types of symptoms you can have when diagnosed with bipolar disorder are depressive symptoms and manic symptoms. These symptoms last for prolonged periods. If symptoms don’t last for a long time, then it’s not considered a bipolar disorder. 

Depressive Symptoms

Depressive symptoms characteristically show up as being fatigued and being in a low mood. The depressive episodes are when the depressive symptoms show up for bipolar disorder, which include:

  • Issues falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up.
  • Persistently being in a low mood.
  • Irritable or anxious.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities.
  • Isolating from social activities and interactions.
Manic Symptoms

Manic symptoms happen when someone is in a high mood and feeling euphoric. Manic symptoms occur when someone is having a manic episode, which includes:

  • Feeling on edge or tense.
  • Talking very fast than usual.
  • Lack of interest in sleeping or difficulty going to sleep.
  • Getting involved in risky gambling, sex, or spending a lot.
  • Feeling invulnerable or powerful.
Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are three sub-types of bipolar disorder. It depends on how severe they are or how mild they are from person to person. The subtypes are:

  • Bipolar I disorder: This is considered to be the most severe type of bipolar disorder. It’s more severe due to having longer or more manic episodes that can last a week or longer. 
  • Bipolar II disorder: This is a less severe type of bipolar disorder. The symptoms last a shorter amount of time and are less intense than bipolar I disorder. Usually, people diagnosed with bipolar disorder have the symptoms of bipolar II disorder. 
  • Cyclothymic disorder: This is a less common form of bipolar disorder. The depressive and hypomania symptoms happen not as frequently and are not as severe to be considered episodes. 

Trauma and PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is triggered by a terrifying event, either experiencing it or seeing it happen. People with trauma and PTSD may have difficulty adjusting to the real world. It’s important to get help and talk it through with a professional so they can truly process their trauma and PTSD.

PTSD Trauma Symptoms

PTSD symptoms can cause issues in your social or work life and relationships. There are four types of symptoms you can get with PTSD, which are: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. 

Intrusive memories:
  • Recurring, unwanted distressing memories from the traumatic event.
  • Continuing to relive the traumatic events as if it’s happening at that very moment (flashbacks).
  • Having upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event.
  • Being in emotional distress state to something that reminds you of the event.
  • Avoiding thinking or talking about the traumatic event.
  • Avoiding places, activities, or people reminding you of the traumatic event.
Negative changes in thinking and mood:
  • Having negative thoughts about yourself and other people.
  • Being hopeless about the future.
  • Having memory issues, which includes not remembering important parts of the traumatic event.
  • Feeling detached from family and friends.
  • Feeling emotionally numb.
Changes in physical and emotional reactions:
  • Being startled easily.
  • Always being on guard for danger.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Irritable or having angry outbursts.
  • Having overwhelming guilt or shame.

Trauma-Focused Psychotherapy

Trauma-focused psychotherapy helps people process traumatic experiences through a variety of techniques. The techniques can involve visualizing, talking, or thinking about traumatic memory. It’s usually done in a one-on-one setting between patient and provider. 

Personality Disorder

A personality disorder is when there are long-lasting, disrupting patterns of thinking, behavior, and mood that cause significant distress to a person. 

Types of Personality Disorders and Their Symptoms

There are ten types of personality disorders. Mental health experts put these personality disorders into one of three clusters, each cluster shares common traits among the personality disorders. 

Cluster A Personality Disorders

Cluster A personality disorders are disorders that have an unusual way of thinking and behaving, which seems to be out of touch with reality. The versions and symptoms of them are the following: 

  • Paranoid personality disorder: Characterized by having excessive or unwarranted distrust in others, holding grudges and anger, unwilling to share surface-level information
  • Schizoid personality disorder: This personality disorder has limited or restricted interest in other people, lack of emotions, and difficulty feeling pleasure
  • Schizotypal personality disorder: Getting anxiety with interpersonal relationships and intimacy, magical thinking, and having great difficulty with understanding reality
Cluster B Personality Disorders

Cluster B personality disorders’ main characteristics are unpredictable and shocking behaviors, specifically in social interactions. The types of cluster B disorders and symptoms are the following: 

  • Antisocial personality disorder: This disorder is characterized by being impulsive with behavior, having a lack of concern for social norms, and having issues understanding other peoples’ emotions
  • Borderline personality disorder: People with this disorder usually have an extreme fear of abandonment, no self-image, or very unstable, mood swings
  • Histrionic personality disorder: It’s characterized as having boredom and a desire for self-gratification, an unusually high desire for attention, and an unusually high concern for what they look like
  • Narcissistic personality disorder: People who have this personality disorder have an unhealthy sense of self-importance, feeling entitled or superior, an exaggeration in the belief of their skills or power
Cluster C Personality Disorders

Cluster C personality disorders’ main characteristics are anxiety and fear. Some of the symptoms and personality disorders under this type are:

  • Avoidant personality disorder: Having extreme fear of rejection, having a poor self-image, and hesitancy in interacting with other people.
  • Dependent personality disorder: This disorder has the characteristics of helplessness to others, inability to accept responsibility, and having an intense desire for approval and support from others.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: People with this disorder are extreme perfectionists, have issues accepting change, and are unusually inflexible.

Although obsessive-compulsive disorder sounds very similar to obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, they are very different. People with OCD have extreme obsessions and compulsions. People with OCPD are more focused on perfectionism. 

Panic Disorders

Panic disorders are people who have frequent and unexpected panic attacks. The attacks happen due to having a sudden feeling of fear or discomfort or losing control when there’s no clear trigger. Usually, people with panic disorders get panic attacks from prolonged stress and anxiety about a situation that hasn’t been treated with talk therapy or medicine to help prevent the panic attacks. 

What is Clinical Anxiety?

Anxiety is identified as a type of panic disorder. Anxiety can be present when it’s mimicking other feelings. Anxiety may look different, depending if you’re a man or a woman. It’s sometimes hard to identify that the feeling people are feeling in the moment is anxiety and not something else. If symptoms of anxiety continue to persist and hinder the way you interact and function, it’s important to seek help from a therapist or get medication. 

General Anxiety Disorders

General anxiety disorder is characterized by someone having excessive, ongoing anxiety and worry when things or situations are out of their control and interfere with daily activities. People who get diagnosed with anxiety usually have a general anxiety disorder, but if there’s a specific reason for the anxiety they get a more specific anxiety disorder diagnosis. 

Types and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

The way anxiety is presented is how there’s a differentiation of anxiety disorders. Some of the types of general anxiety disorders are:

  • General anxiety disorder (GAD): GAD is characterized by persistent, inappropriate anxiety about daily situations and events. People with this anxiety disorder constantly feel on edge. 
  • Panic disorder: The panic attacks people experience are extreme periods and intense anxiety over a shorter time. People who get diagnosed with panic disorder have to have had two or more panic attacks, in addition to long-term changes in behavior or thoughts focused on the panic attacks. 
  • Phobia disorders: Phobias are irrational intense fears that focus on a specific situation or object. There are five categories of phobias, which includes: animal phobias, natural environment phobias (ocean or heights), blood or injection phobias, situational phobias (closed spaces or driving a car), and other phobias that are in an others category.
  • Social anxiety disorder: This is when someone has anxiety about social interactions that interferes with being able to live a normal life. 
  • Agoraphobia: When someone has agoraphobia, they have a fear of leaving their home, being out in open or crowded spaces, or being somewhere they can’t escape. 
  • Separation anxiety disorder: This anxiety disorder is characterized by the fear of being separated from your home or family and friends. 
  • Selective mutism: This psychiatric disorder is when people lose their ability to speak in social situations. It usually starts in childhood and might continue into adulthood. 

Services We Offer

We offer different services for patients who have various mental health issues. We offer the support and help you need when in need of mental health services, tailoring the best treatment for you. We provide the top services for our patients due to having the necessary services for treating people with mental health issues, which are the following: 

Evidence-Based Treatment

Evidence-based treatment is a treatment that’s been shown to work. There’s proof that the treatment works and there are impressive results from the treatment too. Their treatments are backed up specifically by clinical studies. The evidence-based treatment options we offer at Alter Mental Health are crisis stabilization, medication management, whole-person wellness, recovery and safety planning, support services, family and community support, and nutrition and recreation services. 

Family & Community Support

Family and community support is important for any person going through mental health issues. The support of the community and their loved ones can make a difference for them in feeling motivated to continue to get mental health treatment. Even if the person going through treatment doesn’t have a strong family support system, they will find a support system when going through treatment via group therapy provided at the facility. Some of the group therapies we offer are psycho-educational groups, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy. 

Crisis Assessment

The crisis assessment is the first step to admitting patients into the Alter’s Crisis Stabilization Unit. Potential patients who go through the crisis assessment must be ready for treatment that would be done entering a psychiatric hospital, as this is an alternative option. The Alter Mental Health crisis assessment goes through the patient’s family history, a thorough diagnostic test, complete a biopsychosocial assessment, a PHQ-9 test, a GAD-7 test, and additional tests that the clinician thinks are necessary. 

Medication Management

Medication management is important for people going through mental health treatment. It can be harder to keep track of what you need to take for medicine or if you have already, which is why having someone in charge of keeping you on track to take your medicine is essential. The services provided under medication management are medication reconciliation, medication education, medication adjustment, adherence support, and safe medication storage. 

Whole-Person Wellness

Whole-person wellness is a scientifically-backed approach to balancing someone’s mental, emotional, and physical needs to prioritize. At Alter Mental Health, we have 6 dimensions of wellness. The 6 dimensions are emotional wellness, social wellness, physical wellness, intellectual wellness, spiritual wellness, and occupational wellness. 

Crisis Stabilization

Part of the crisis stabilization program we have at Alter Mental Health is our 6-step crisis stabilization plan. The 6 steps are: define the program, ensure safety, provide support, examine alternatives, make a plan, and obtain commitment. Our program is unique compared to other crisis stabilization programs as we have modernized, trauma-informed care methodologies. 

Why Choose Alter Mental Health San Diego

Alter Mental Health San Diego looks at each patient admitted separately and assesses their situation, not comparing to others. Each treatment plan is tailored for each patient that comes into the facility for crisis stabilization. They serve San Diego, College Ave District, La Mesa, and La Jolla. If their facility isn’t right for your needs, they will outsource and refer you to another mental health treatment facility to get the help you need. It’s important to seek help for you or a loved one suffering from a mental health disorder, call Alter Mental Health San Diego at 657-218-5095.