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Outpatient Alcohol And Drug Rehab Centers

John Schaffer, LPCC

Medically reviewed by

John Schaffer, LPCC

February 1, 2019

Outpatient drug rehab programs can be an option for individuals whose life requires that they live at home, or for those who are seeking treatment on a smaller budget. These programs, however, are best utilized for mild to moderate addictions.

Outpatient programs may be most beneficial for individuals who have recently relapsed after a period of sobriety, or for those looking to “step down” or continue treatment after an inpatient program. In either of these cases, individuals who have a support network in place prior to beginning treatment are best suited for this method of care.

When addiction has progressed to chronic levels of abuse, and especially if a person has unsuccessfully tried to quit in the past, outpatient care may not be sufficient. But for those individuals who seek help before their addiction progresses, outpatient treatment may successfully equip you to build a sober life.

Who Does Outpatient Treatment Work Best For?

Outpatient addiction treatment programs work best for people who wish to continue with treatment after leaving an inpatient program.

If your addiction is at the early stages, and relapse is not a recurring part of your personal history, an outpatient program may be worth considering. These programs also work well for individuals who have recently relapsed.

Outpatient treatment is ideal for people whose substance abuse or addiction is still fairly manageable. It is effective for individuals who have a strong network of support—friends, family, church, and/or peer support groups—outside of treatment.

Compared to inpatient programs, outpatient rehabs offer more scheduling options and are typically less costly. During outpatient treatment, an individual can typically live at home, work part-time, and carry on with most of life’s responsibilities. Should a person need extra support, some facilities offer sober living options to accommodate these needs during treatment, and even after.

Determining If Outpatient Drug Rehab Is Right For You

Deciding whether outpatient drug rehab is the best option for you requires mindfulness and honesty about your personal treatment needs. Outpatient drug rehab is more suitable for a person who:

  • Has a substantial support system.
  • Lives in an environment with minimal addiction triggers.
  • Suffers from mild to moderate addiction for less than a year.
  • Does not exhibit strong withdrawal symptoms.
  • Doesn’t suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder.

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How Long Are Outpatient Drug And Alcohol Rehab Programs?

Outpatient treatment generally lasts from one to three months, depending on the facility and the needs of the individual participant. To accommodate the different schedules and lifestyles of their clients, programs may be found with both day and evening sessions. Most outpatient programs require a minimum commitment of hours and/or days spent in treatment.

The intensity and number of days or hours spent in therapy depends on the program itself. In most cases, participation may range from three- to eight-hour sessions, five to seven days a week.

When considering these guidelines, don’t be quick to pick the program which requires less time. Beating an addiction requires hard work, diligence, and ample time spent within treatment. Without these things, you’re leaving yourself ill-equipped to deal with the challenges a newly sober life throws your way.

What Does Treatment At An Outpatient Program Look Like?

Outpatient treatment may be offered as:

  • Day Programs: These highly-structured programs require you to meet five to seven days a week. You’ll engage in therapy, counseling, and at times peer support, as well as a variety of other treatment modalities.
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP): The number of days and commitment of time is generally less with IOPs versus within day programs. Here, you may only meet four times a week for shorter sessions (three to four hours versus six or eight). As you progress with success through treatment, the frequency and/or duration of treatment may be gradually reduced.

In general, outpatient care may include:

Some individuals may also choose to seek continuing care through a mutual support (self-help) and/or counselor-led group.

Is Detox A Part Of Outpatient Treatment?

Should a client experience withdrawal symptoms once the substance is removed, such as anxiety, sweating, tremors, and more, a medical detox should strongly be considered for a successful recovery. Drugs which foster strong physical dependencies and addiction, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids, often necessitate this care.

Without a medically-supervised detoxification, withdrawal symptoms can become severe and painful. As an added concern, those facing withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines should know that withdrawal may progress to deadly levels if not properly treated.

Most outpatient programs do not include a medical detox, so at the very least a short-term inpatient detox program may be necessary. While there are outpatient detox programs, severe addictions to certain drugs are best treated within inpatient care. People who need a medically-supervised detox should also consider inpatient drug rehab after, which allows them to move from detox to rehab without leaving the facility.

Undergoing a medical detox prior to progressing to an outpatient program might not be enough care for many individuals. Detox only treats the physical addiction. After this process is complete, the psychological addiction remains. The psychological impact of addiction can be very deep-rooted, in a way which is often difficult to treat within the constraints of an outpatient program.

Will Outpatient Rehab Work For Everyone?

Many addicted individuals may draw more benefit from a residential inpatient drug rehab program. This may be because their addiction is more progressed or deeply embedded within their life. People who have little to no support, a mental health disorder, or find that they’re struggling to remove triggers from their life may also experience greater success within these programs.

Individuals With Severe Addictions

Severe addictions, such as those to alcohol, benzodiazepines, and strong opioids (like heroin and prescription painkillers), are generally best treated in an intensive inpatient drug rehab program.

Addiction treatment to these substances is often a two-pronged approach. That is, treatment should start with a medical detox prior to treatment. Outpatient programs don’t always offer this seamless transition or intensity of care.

Individuals With Co-Occurring Disorders

Mental illnesses can trigger substance abuse and cause it to worsen once a person begins self-medicating. Sometimes an addiction causes the actual mental illness to develop. Whatever the case, these individuals need individualized dual diagnosis care.

Many times the mental illness hasn’t been diagnosed, or properly treated. Failure to treat both substance abuse and mental health disorders simultaneously can lead to failed treatment, drop-out, or relapse. Outpatient programs don’t often offer the therapies, number of sessions, or focused care which these individuals need.

Individuals Without A Support System

Addiction leads many people to alienate their loved ones. The most vital and engaging recoveries are those which work hard to mend these hurts and engage the support of loved ones.

Without this support, a person is far more apt to convince themselves that they’re not worthy of treatment, give up on their treatment goals, and relapse. Your loved ones can boost your morale, self-confidence, and hope during this transitional and transformative time.

Individuals Who Have Harmful Triggers In Their Life

Cues for drug use exist all around us, with each addicted individual experiencing their own specific triggers. Triggers may be people, places, or things. A sound, smell, image, a certain road or song—all of these things could cause a person’s thoughts to jump back to substance abuse.

A significant portion of treatment should be devoted to helping you cultivate coping and relapse prevention skills so that you can overcome triggers. For a person newly in recovery who hasn’t yet adopted or developed these skills, triggers can be very dangerous. Some individuals have many triggers in their life, so remaining at home and in their community could expose them to such a number that they relapse.

Some individuals in outpatient rehab face a greater risk of relapse, as a result of easier drug access, less structure, limited access to therapy and treatment modalities, and decreased measures of support. Outpatient rehabilitation is an effective option only under certain circumstances. Before you make your decision, let us help you take a look at your life and your needs.

Find The Rehab Program Which Best Fits Your Needs

If you’re struggling with abuse or addiction, we can help you find the rehab treatment program that best suits your needs. The sooner you seek help, the sooner your body and mind can begin to heal. Contact today for a confidential assessment.

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