How Does Outpatient Treatment Work?

Frequently, people in need of alcohol or drug rehabilitation fail to receive the appropriate care because it would mean having to be away from work and family for extended time periods. Outpatient drug rehab is an option for people with substance abuse issues who cannot take time away to enter a full-time inpatient program.

Outpatient Treatment gives patients an opportunity to remain in their home environment while benefiting from a peer-oriented, structured therapeutic program. A patient's progress in his or her treatment plan can be assessed by professional staff on a regular basis.

Outpatient versus Inpatient Rehab

Outpatient treatment programs differ from inpatient programs in that patients are not provided with the safe environment that isolates them from people and situations that might have a negative impact on their recovery. Patients live in their own homes and must provide their own motivation to refrain from drug or alcohol use, which requires a more diligence than if they were in an inpatient facility.

However, programs do provide a support network for patients in the form of official support groups, in addition to counseling on an individual and group format so that patients are never alone in their recovery. Patients get a strong support network made up of peers and sponsors.

Outpatient treatment programs provide group therapy and support which provide a positive social change in a patient's life, which in turn facilitates long-term recovery. Outpatient programs rely on the support and involvement of family. Additionally, since treatment runs side-by-side with the patient's regular life, the lessons learned through counseling and support will be immediately applied to everyday activities and daily experiences.

The Four Dimensions of Outpatient Recovery

There are 4 major dimensions that support life in outpatient rehab recovery:

i) The first is overcoming and managing addiction by abstaining from alcohol, illicit drugs or non-prescribed medications, and by making informed, healthy choices that support good physical and emotional well-being.

ii) The second is a safe and stable place to call home.

iii) The third is to find a purpose through daily activities such as a job, school, volunteer work, family care, creative activities, and also income and positive participation in society.

iv) The fourth dimension in recovery is building a community of friends and family that are supportive of the patient's recovery through friendship, love and hope.

What does a Typical Outpatient Treatment Program Look Like?

People dealing with substance abuse and addictions may be treated as an outpatient at hospitals, local general health clinics, their counselor's offices, local mental health clinics, and even at residential facilities that have outpatient clinics. However, they can stay in their homes throughout treatment.

Patients are required to check in with therapists and experts on addiction at the treatment centers regularly for medication and counseling. This check-in policy varies from program to program, and many of them allow check-in in the evenings and on weekends to adjust to patient's schedules.

Patients considering outpatient treatment should know that the addiction treatment therapy is basically the same as inpatient programs but somewhat less intensive. The length of time in the program will vary depending on individual needs.

Outpatient treatment can vary widely. Programs range from low-intensity to very intensive. Low-intensity programs include drug education classes. High-intensity programs are similar to what a patient would experience in a residential program. Several factors are used to decide what level of treatment is appropriate for each patient, such as how well a patient functions on their own and the patient's personal support structure of family and friends.

Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Rehabs

Intensive outpatient treatment is also called partial hospitalization and involves intensive treatment sessions multiple times a week. These intensive outpatient programs may involve individual counseling, group counseling, and treatment of other disorders or health problems.

Patients may be required to devote up to 30 hours a week in their treatment sessions. Additionally, they can also have 24-hour access to a team of professionals in case of crisis.

Generally, as treatment progresses, the number of sessions will be decreased. After completing partial hospitalization, patients can switch to less intensive outpatient treatment. This involves few sessions per week with a somewhat less intensive focus.

The goal of all forms of rehab is to assist the individual in maintaining sobriety. Addiction is a chronic illness, which means that treatments must be ongoing to prevent a return to using. But, the intensity of the treatment may wane over time.

Scaling Down as Part of Outpatient Rehab Strategy

As the patient's recovery stabilizes and strengthens, a reduction in the intensity of the therapy allows the patient greater freedom and fewer sessions. It is not uncommon for a patient to start with inpatient treatment, and later move to intensive outpatient therapy. After progress is made at that level, the patient could then reduce the intensity and move to weekly and eventually monthly sessions.

By working with therapists and care providers during daylight hours at local facilities, patients may return home in the evening. No hospitalization is involved. While maintaining their own residence, patients have access to experts on addiction, counselors and physicians.

Who Needs Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient rehab is an excellent choice for patients who have jobs, classes or other commitments. These programs work best for people with the motivation to participate. Those patients with supportive families and friends are also good candidates for this type of treatment. Outpatient treatment allows you to manage your affairs while getting clean at the same time. If you have kids, it allows you to be present in their lives on a daily basis and stay close to them. However, there are several key contributing factors which will determine if outpatient treatment is, in fact, ideal for you:

Factors to Consider Before Choosing Outpatient Treatment

Although a specific treatment setting may be more appropriate for some clients, studies show other factors have more influence on outcome. Six psychosocial factors appear to be important contributing factors in drug rehab outcome.

  • Client readiness to commit to treatment (e.g. the ability to realize they have an addiction and taking steps toward changing).
  • Trust in overcoming difficult situations and challenges (self-efficacy).
  • Expectation of treatment results and respective satisfaction gained from results during and at the end of therapy.
  • The social supports perceived and experienced by the client.
  • Client clinical profile (e.g. coexisting psychiatric disorders, poly-substance abuse, negative or positive emotions).
  • The manner in which clients undergoing treatment realize the meaning of life and search for it.

In addition to these ones, there are other factors that you need to consider before settling for an outpatient program. These will be more personal in nature, and you will need to do most of the figuring out by yourself. They include:

a) Withdrawal symptoms

Some withdrawal symptoms are dangerous, even life-threatening. Addiction to drugs with strong withdrawal effects like opioids and cocaine should only be treated inside of a detox facility. Outpatient treatment is only an option if your withdrawal symptoms are manageable on your own. Ask yourself if you really will be able to manage the withdrawal symptoms on your own. If you've been hooked on drugs for a very long time, you may want to reconsider outpatient rehab, seeing as the withdrawal symptoms will be that much more brutal.

b) Level of Addiction

This is hard to determine, but it is an important consideration for patients who want to enter treatment at the outpatient level. The clinic can help you determine what your level of addiction is and which level of treatment is the best choice for you. Make sure to discuss this with a professional so that you know exactly where you stand.

c) Support System

You are not supervised by the treatment center staff 24 hours a day, and your time outside of the clinic may be quite torrid. Outpatient treatment works best when your support system is healthy enough to aid your recovery. If your support system is poor, then it will follow that relapsing will be that much easier.

d) Everyday Routine

If your routine is contributing to your drug or alcohol use, then time at an inpatient program likely will be more beneficial than keeping your regular schedule.

e) Co-Occurring Disorders

Four million Americans suffer from both a drug problem and a mental health issue. Since outpatient programs focus on behavioral therapies and meetings, they aren't designed to diagnose and treat a co-occurring disorder. Patients who have a co-occurring disorder often have a much worse time than those who don't, and are likelier to relapse.

f) Finances

Outpatient treatment tends to be less expensive than inpatient treatment. This is mostly because you are not paying for room, board and medication. If your insurance only covers certain kinds of treatment, or limits rehab costs, outpatient treatment may be your most cost-effective option. Nevertheless, this must not be your primary determinant. If anything, you should consider it last.

Benefits of Outpatient Drug Addiction Treatment

Once you do decide (with the help of a medical professional of course) that outpatient treatment is ideal for you, there are many benefits that you can expect. For starters, outpatient rehab is ideal for people who need the support of family and friends to increase their chance of success.

For some, being away from home can be detrimental. Outpatient rehab is also often the best option for patients who need to continue to work to support themselves and family. For students working toward graduation, inpatient rehab allows them to continue with their class schedule while seeking treatment.

Further, outpatient rehab is generally less expensive than residential care while still providing quality substance abuse counseling. Health insurance is accepted at outpatient treatment facilities and covers the cost of most of the treatments.

Finally, like every other addiction treatment option, outpatient rehab is confidential. In fact, in can increase privacy by alleviating the need to explain an extended absence from work or school.