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Outpatient drug rehab is a treatment used to help people with mild and moderate substance use disorders (SUD). Many outpatient programs treat both drug and alcohol use, while some dedicate their treatment services to one or the other.
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SUDs occur in a spectrum of intensities. In other words, doctors classify them as mild, moderate, or severe. Outpatient drug rehab treats people suffering from a mild to moderate drug or alcohol use disorder (AUD). It is ideal for people who have high levels of motivation to improve their health but need a flexible treatment option that works around their schedule.
Outpatient programs arrange drug or alcohol treatment sessions according to the patient’s schedule. They come in a variety of formats that differ in levels of intensity, length, and types of services. The primary objective is to provide counseling, educate the patient, and provide a system of support.
Sessions are more frequent at the beginning of treatment. As a patient’s ability to stay healthy and sober on their increases, the number of sessions will decrease. The goal is to provide the patient with tools and skills to navigate the world while remaining sober.
The ideal outpatient program will differ from person to person and depend on several factors, including:
Here are the four most effective types of outpatient drug rehab:
Day programs are typically considered the most intensive outpatient rehab programs. They provide the most structure and services during treatment. Patients must attend five to seven sessions a week for multiple hours each day.
They spend this time in ongoing talk therapy sessions, group counseling, and other therapies. Often, day programs will utilize art or music therapies. After the session, the patients return home, either to their independent residence or a sober living facility.
Intensive outpatient programs work by creating treatment plans with clearly defined and measurable goals. As a patient meets these milestones, their requirements and commitments decrease.
The early stages of treatment may require multiple sessions each week. They could involve:
IOPs are best suited for people who are transitioning from inpatient programs or individuals who are highly motivated to stay sober but need to continue working, go to school, or carry out other responsibilities.
Continuing care groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, are ongoing support groups that assist individuals with their commitment to staying sober. They typically meet weekly and are run by a licensed therapist or members who have achieved long term sobriety. They also provide counseling, a community of people in recovery, and valuable resources for people working on overcoming their SUD.
Recovery residencies, also known as sober homes, halfway houses, and Oxford Houses, are an option for people that are somewhere in between outpatient and inpatient rehab. They are non-medical, healthy, sober, and safe living environments that help people focus on recovering from their SUD.
It is common for people to transfer from inpatient rehab facilities to recovery residencies. Some facilities solely provide housing and peer-to-peer support, while others offer more intensive and structured services.
There are many outpatient treatment options available. Therefore, there is a large variety of therapies utilized. Some of the most commonly used therapies in outpatient rehab include:
While outpatient therapy is available for nearly all individuals with a SUD, it is most useful for people who have one or more of the following characteristics:
Outpatient programs allow patients to continue fulfilling their responsibilities. The flexible scheduling is appealing for people who are working, attending school, or don’t want to leave their families during recovery.
Outpatient rehab is generally cheaper than residential care while still providing quality treatment. Insurance is accepted at nearly all facilities and can often cover most of the treatments.
Many people benefit greatly from being surrounded by their families during their recovery. Inpatient treatment requires you to live in a separate facility, whereas outpatient allows you to remain at home.
With outpatient treatment, people can take what they’ve learned and immediately apply and practice it in real life situations at work, home, and with their friends.
The main disadvantage of outpatient rehab is that it is not as structured or intensive as inpatient treatment. People who are not highly motivated to stay sober may find it challenging to achieve success through outpatient treatment. Also, if a patient needs medical treatment for withdrawal symptoms or other effects, inpatient treatment may be required.
In an outpatient setting, an individual is surrounded by triggers and old friends. This increases the chance of relapse. Inpatient settings or recovery residencies help alleviate temptations and reduce risk factors.
It’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s pace through outpatient treatment will be different. Treatment and recovery paths are developed based on the individual’s progress and needs. Still, there are some common milestones that nearly all outpatient treatment programs strive for. Here are the three general stages of outpatient treatment:
The first step in getting sober is to stop substance or alcohol use. Then detoxification flushes the chemicals from your system so that your brain and body can begin the healing process. It will take time for the body’s necessary functions, such as sleep and having a healthy appetite to stabilize.
During this time, a patient also will begin to replace substance use with healthy behaviors, learn how to deal with cravings, and build a support group.
This stage involves a lot of learning and sharing. A patient will hear other people’s experiences, learn new skills and techniques, and begin exploring the various resources available. This is when they will start making sober friends and applying the new behaviors and thought processes to their everyday life.
Ongoing treatment, or “aftercare,” is common, even when someone has become sober. This helps the individual enjoy life without drugs or alcohol, continue to practice new healthy behaviors, prevent relapse, and ultimately, be of service to others.
There are two main things one needs to do to prepare for outpatient rehab:
Most outpatient rehab facilities accept health insurance, and often the treatments are covered by insurance. In these cases, the cost is dependent on your health care coverage and out-of-pocket expenses.
Outpatient programs are cheaper than inpatient programs. Many programs have a price tag of approximately $5,000 for a 3-month program. Some programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous, are donation based.
Outpatient programs may also offer financial assistance or payment programs for people who need them. Speak with an associate at the program before enlisting to review all of your payment options.
While there is a broad spectrum of outpatient rehab treatment options, they are all less intensive than inpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment is most effective for highly motivated individuals who have support systems in place.
Inpatient rehab facilities are a better option for individuals suffering from severe substance use disorders. They are also more effective at treating co-occurring disorders (when someone has a SUD and a mental health disorder occurring simultaneously).
Finding an outpatient rehab facility that fits your needs, schedule, and budget is the best way to maximize your chances of recovery. Here are some questions you should ask before enrolling to make sure the program is right for you:
If you’re looking for help in recovering from an AUD or SUD, outpatient rehab can help. Contact a professional today to begin reviewing your options.
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Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2013.
NIDA. "Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 17 Jan. 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition.
Allison.bradbury. “Behavioral Health Treatments and Services.” SAMHSA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 30 Jan. 2019, www.samhsa.gov/find-help/treatment.
“Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment for Substance Use Problems.” Cigna, Oct. 2017, www.cigna.com/individuals-families/health-wellness/hw/medical-topics/inpatient-and-outpatient-treatment-for-substance-ad1101.