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Mental Health Month: South County Psychiatry offers unique Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

by Dr. Anthony Gallo, founder, South County Psychiatry

“If you’re struggling to go to work or school, keep up with day-to-day activities, or function in your daily life, or if you feel like your current mental health treatment isn’t enough to meet your needs right now, our Intensive Outpatient Program is the program for you!”

The South County Psychiatry (SCP) Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is excited to share what makes our program unique and how we  prioritize providing superb quality evidence based care. We are currently the only generalist IOP in the state of Rhode Island, which enables us to provide a much needed service to the community. For this reason, as well as our excellent reputation, the program has doubled in capacity since its inception.

Our program serves a diverse, adult (18+) patient population of all gender identities, with the goal of providing culturally sensitive and inclusive care to all patients. Common presenting concerns include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, suicidality, personality pathology (e.g., borderline personality disorder), post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others.

Providers in our program are five PhD level psychologists, a licensed mental health counselor, and three psychiatrists. We all have extensive history providing treatment for severe mental illness at partial hospital level of care. It is our understanding that the majority of comparable programs typically staff masters level clinicians. This program intentionally hires veteran clinicians with years of specialty training in delivering evidence based treatments from a third-wave behavior therapy lens including. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Exposure and Response Prevention, and Prolonged Exposure.

Furthermore, the director of this IOP, Dr. Zimmerman, is a leading researcher in the field with over 450 published articles on making valid and reliable diagnoses, particularly personality disorders, which can be notoriously difficult to diagnose. All providers have years of experience as part of the psychology training consortium at Brown University Medical School previously supervising Brown residents and postdocs.

This IOP is also a training program composed of PA students from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Next year, two psychology externs have accepted positions to train within our program. Because we are a training program, we prioritize staying up to date and utilizing the newest research findings to treat/offer patients. 

Another special aspect of our program is that all patients who participate undergo a comprehensive structured interview (SCID) for the purposes of accurate diagnosis. We are often given the feedback that patients understand their diagnoses for the first time, leading to connection with accurate treatment options. We are also told that their diagnoses have been missed by previous providers which has been detrimental to them getting connected with appropriate treatment. As a result, our patients have a higher likelihood of being prescribed appropriate medications and learning necessary skills to cope with their symptoms and live fulfilling and meaningful  lives.

We intentionally keep our groups small (no more than 12 patients per process group). We have been given feedback that patients are unable to hide in groups, and are pushed outside of their comfort zone which encourages them to more fully engage in treatment. Program staff have daily meetings to work as a team and provide seamless multidisciplinary care. Furthermore, since groups are kept small, all patients are known by staff members both by their individual providers, but also by group leaders, so they can be nudged to participate when relevant. Lastly, since providers are in such close and regular communication, group topics are tailored towards skills that would be most helpful to current patients in the program meaning that care is flexibly delivered to meet individual patient needs. 

Additional strengths of our program include the emphasis on coordination of care. IOP treatment providers reach out to referring providers with the goal of coordinating care when patients start the program, and the intake and discharge summary reports are sent to outpatient providers with patient’s permission to increase continuity of care.

We are also proud that our program offers short term couples therapy with a licensed marriage and family therapist. We have received feedback from patients how helpful it is to them to work on their own emotional regulation while in the program, and also be able to work on interpersonal communication with important people (parent, partner, or child) in their life to supplement the program. 

Consistent with our commitment to integrative research and clinical care, our group was one of the first research programs to publish data comparing in person and virtual care.  Our findings suggest that remote treatment: increases access to people who may not otherwise have presented to treatment; increases patient attendance and retention in treatment; and results in comparable outcomes to in-person treatment (Zimmerman et al., 2021).

Similarly, our research indicates that our approach, which is based on cutting edge, evidence-based, third wave behavior therapies with documented effectiveness in treating a range of psychological concerns significantly reduce symptoms, improve psychosocial functioning and quality of life, and cope more effectively with stress. This outcome is achieved through a combination of individual sessions and group therapy, and working with patients in an individualized manner.  We are in the process of generating more research from this IOP specifically since this program was established. 

We are currently in the process of LBGTQ and safe zone training, and our goal in the next year is to start offering outpatient aftercare groups for once patients have been discharged from our program to support them in continuing and maintaining gains they have made while in our program. We share a commitment to clinical research and evidence-based practice and continued excellence and improvement of our program. 

(401) 500-0424

Dr. Anthony Gallo is a native of Rhode Island. He is an alumnus of Providence College where he completed the honors program and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. From there, he matriculated directly to Boston University School of Medicine, and stayed there for his residency at Boston Medical Center. Dr. Gallo is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and is double-boarded in Adult Psychiatry and Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.

After finishing his residency, he worked in community hospitals in Massachusetts before returning to Rhode Island. In 2006, he joined the Psychiatry staff of Rhode Island Hospital / Lifespan where he stayed for over a decade. During that time, he worked in various services all throughout the department, as well as consulting in different areas of the hospital and promoting numerous quality initiatives.

Dr. Gallo founded South County Psychiatry to meet the need for quality mental health care in Rhode Island.  He relaxes with cooking, listening to jazz, clay shooting, and spending time on the water with his wife, boys, and dog.

South County Psychiatry – https://www.southcountypsychiatryri.com/

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