Effective addiction recovery treatment is going to look different for each person entering a rehabilitation program. Just like no one’s substance use disorder is exactly the same, no one’s treatment is going to be exactly the same because what works for someone may not be at all helpful for someone else, given the unique factors involved like:
- Mental health
- Physical health
- Severity of addiction
- Medical history
- Home environment
For some people, a successful recovery cannot happen unless they are able to be removed from their regular lives and taken to a treatment facility for the more intensive 24-hour care and monitoring that an inpatient or long-term residential treatment program provides. Living onsite allows someone to be able to focus fully on their recovery, but it’s not going to be necessary for everyone.
Table of Contents
If a person is in a fairly early stage of a substance use disorder, is in general good health, and has their own support system that they can fall back on, and a stable home environment, then an outpatient program may be the more effective, practical treatment choice.
Choosing outpatient addiction treatment means being able to carry on with your normal life while regularly visiting either an outpatient clinic or treatment facility for therapy, detox services, and more.
What Is Outpatient Treatment?
An outpatient treatment program, by definition, is an addiction recovery program that is conducted without someone having to eat, sleep, and live on the premises of a treatment facility. Instead, someone in outpatient treatment will have regular appointments at either a treatment clinic or medical facility for therapy sessions, medical check-ins, and more for varying amounts of time, generally several days a week.
On the spectrum of addiction rehabilitation treatment, on one end are long-term residential treatment programs, where someone lives at a professional rehabilitation facility for anywhere from three months to as long as a year. On the other end are programs like general counseling or 12-step programs and support groups that are not connected to any specific treatment center.
In between those two treatments are outpatient programs. Those in outpatient treatment can expect to experience much the same level of care from licensed and experienced medical professionals and clinicians as those in an inpatient program, but once finished with a particular check-in or session, can return home.
What Are the Types of Outpatient Programs?
Now that we’ve explained outpatient treatment, we can break down the different subtypes of outpatient programs that those seeking treatment can choose from, as someone may not have a severe enough substance use disorder to require inpatient treatment, but still may have specific needs such as a co-occurring disorder, that require a higher level of care than the most basic level of an outpatient program.
All of these options are still able to be done without needing to stay on the premises of a treatment facility, but some of them do require a longer treatment time, as well as more check-ins per week for longer amounts of time. The three main types outpatient rehab are:
The basic template for someone’s outpatient addiction treatment really depends on the specific motivations and needs of the person seeking it out and is overall much less structured than other programs within the outpatient rehab category. Generally, it will involve at least some form of educational classes, counseling, and medical check-ins for a minimum of two hours a week.
Generally abbreviated to IOP, this comprehensive form of outpatient rehab involves a level of care that is typically associated with inpatient treatment. IOP is extremely useful for those with a co-occurring disorder or history of relapsing but has been evaluated by a doctor as not requiring round-the-clock medical monitoring or intervention. Intensive outpatient treatment usually requires at least three appointments a week for sessions lasting around two to four hours at a time.
PHP, as it is called, is the most intense level of outpatient addiction treatment and is of most use for those who might have a serious medical condition or other situation that does require ongoing medical observation, but not to the point where they need to be fully hospitalized as long as they have a reliably stable and supportive home environment. PHP is usually offered at hospitals, as the name would suggest, and requires between three and five appointments per week for sessions that usually around four to six hours in length.
An outpatient addiction treatment program can last anywhere between one and three months, depending on the needs of the person in the program as well as outside factors like how much treatment time someone’s insurance policy will cover. Long-term outpatient treatment, meaning treatment lasting longer than 90 days, is extremely uncommon and would typically be indicative of them needing inpatient care to progress to the next stage of recovery.
Outpatient Treatment Services
There is the mistaken belief that when choosing an addiction recovery treatment program, residential or inpatient care is someone’s only option for getting access to the highest level and quality of services provided to facilitate recovery and that outpatient treatment is only going to offer the bare minimum of addiction treatment.
However, while this may have been true at some point, it definitely is not the case today. Outpatient rehab programs have the same resources and a wide range of services as the vast majority of inpatient treatment programs, with the added bonus of clients being able to use the tools and techniques they learn in treatment in their daily lives.
Some of the services commonly available to those in outpatient treatment include:
- Detoxification treatment
- Medical maintenance therapy
- Group therapy
- Individual therapy
- Family therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Motivational Interviewing
- Stress management
- Educational classes
- Relapse prevention planning
In the case of an outpatient detox, someone can expect their initial visit to involve a physical exam to gauge their general health as well as blood tests and other screenings before they are given medication to help ease typical symptoms of drug or alcohol withdrawal, including nausea, insomnia, or anxiety. During this visit, it is common to be held for several hours for observational purposes until it is safe for them to go back home.
After this first appointment, those entering outpatient treatment will work with their counselor or therapist to put together a treatment program that works best for them, taking advantage of the various therapeutic services provided. They can participate in therapy sessions, classes, workshops, and more to get the skills they need to better manage their addiction in the context of their day-to-day life.
What Are the Benefits of Outpatient Treatment?
As we already mentioned, as advancements have been made in addiction recovery research, pharmacology, and medicinal technology, the level of care provided in outpatient treatment has been proven equal in its effectiveness to inpatient treatment.
In fact, in some instances, it can be a more effective and more efficient option for addiction treatment for people with less severe substance use disorders who may require more support than individual counseling or outside groups can provide, but do not require the more encompassing, round-the-clock level of treatment offered by inpatient care.
Of the many benefits that come with choosing outpatient rehab, some of the biggest ones are:
It gives clients the freedom and flexibility to schedule their treatment sessions around their regular life and other daily activities. This also means they get more privacy in regards to their addiction recovery rather than having to noticeably withdraw from their life to an inpatient facility. The social stigma surrounding addiction will often keep people from seeking out the help they need for a substance use disorder.
It costs substantially less than inpatient or long-term residential care while offering many of the same therapies and services. Cost can be a significant barrier for people when it comes to seeking out addiction treatment. The fact that outpatient treatment programs are also more likely to be covered by someone’s insurance policy than inpatient treatment helps make it a feasible option.
It provides a more practical means of treatment for those who do not have the ability or the means to leave their family, work, or school to enter into addiction treatment. This can be another major barrier that keeps people from getting the help they need
It gives clients the opportunity to put the addiction management tools and skills they’ve been learning to immediate use in their regular life, which makes it easier to course-correct and try something new if it becomes obvious that a current coping technique is proving ineffective.
Start Your Journey to Recovery Today
If you or someone you care about is currently battling with a substance use disorder, help is available at New Perspectives, where we can help get you or your loved one the professional resources and support needed to ensure a successful recovery and a substance-free life.
ResourcesNational Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Types of Treatment Programs. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs
Rapp, R. C., Xu, J., Carr, C. A., Lane, D. T., Wang, J., & Carlson, R. (2006, April). Retrieved April 19, 2018, from from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1986793/Treatment
C. F. (n.d.). Chapter 4. Services in Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64094/