What is Outpatient Treatment & How Does It Work?

What is Outpatient Treatment & How Does It Work?

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Have you or a loved one recently just begun struggling with an addiction and are wondering what options are available for treatment? Generally, there are two main types of treatment for an alcohol or drug addiction, inpatient drug rehabilitation and outpatient drug rehabilitation. ​Outpatient treatment​ is designed for those with a mild addiction who also lead a busy life and feel as though they can maintain sobriety with a lower level of care. It allows the freedom to manage everyday responsibilities such as work and/or children while still being able to gain the tools to have a successful recovery. Inpatient/residential rehabilitation centers offer a more controlled and monitored living environment where patients are admitted for a period of time, usually ranging from 30-90 days, and reside alongside other addicts who are also in the beginning stages of the recovery process. 

Being unsure about whether or not you may need help with your substance abuse problem is usually a good indicator that some level of treatment may be necessary. Knowing what type of treatment you need & admitting that you have a problem are the first steps toward beginning a new life of sobriety. Deciding whether your addiction is serious enough to require an inpatient drug rehabilitation center can sometimes be a difficult question.

Roxicodone Withdrawal Symptoms
When is Outpatient Drug Rehab the right choice?

Addiction is typically diagnosed by a certain number of criteria, including:

● Lack of control

● Desire to quit but the inability to do so

● Focusing a lot of time and energy on trying to find the substance

● Cravings for drugs or alcohol

● Lack of responsibility

● Issues with relationships or work

● Loss of interest in daily activities or normal hobbies

● Dangerous use

● Worsening situations

● High level or increased tolerance

● Withdrawal symptoms

For instance, if you only identify with two or three of these criteria, then you may be struggling with a mild addiction​. In which case, an outpatient treatment recovery program may be the appropriate choice in your path to recovery. However, if you are experiencing more of these severe consequences because of drugs or alcohol and are addicted to a substance such as heroin, or any other type of opioid, a drug detox center with a more rigorous ​inpatient residential program​ may be better suited for your recovery in order to help manage the heavier detox and withdrawal symptoms.

As mentioned earlier, outpatient drug rehab centers allow the individual suffering with a mild drug or alcohol addiction to remain in their stable home environment, or other similar living situation, while still having access to the outside world and the essential tools needed to lead a life of sobriety. There are many different programs available based upon the individual’s direct need but they typically consist of the same fundamentals, such as; one-on-one counseling with a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, group sessions with peers, regular homework assignments, the education and tools necessary to sustain a lifetime of sobriety, medication management, dual diagnosis and helping to develop a strong network of support.

Research suggests that initially an outpatient drug rehabilitation program should consist of at least ​nine hours​ of therapy per week, but keep in mind that can vary on a case-by-case basis depending on the severity of the addiction, withdrawal symptoms, amount of familial support and many other factors. Typically there are three different types of outpatient rehabilitation programs depending on the amount of care needed. 

The strictest of the three normally provided are the Partial Hospitalization programs, sometimes also referred to as Day Programs, and they are the most extensive of the bunch. They require more of a time commitment than others as it allows the most structure and control for an outpatient rehabilitation setting.

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These programs are often designed for individuals who no longer need the comprehensive care of an inpatient or residential drug rehab center but still need a monitored environment for recovery. Customarily, these programs meet 5-7 days per week and for several hours a day, based upon the client’s specific needs. Patients are asked to participate in regular one-on-one talk therapy, group sessions, and medication management. Oftentimes biofeedback and other kinds of therapies are offered, such as art or music. 

Intensive Outpatient Programs include the same sort of fundamentals for recovery but with fewer hours ordinarily required for treatment per week. A plan for treatment is commonly established with well-defined and easily measurable milestones to track and record the progress of an individual. Meetings are usually 3-4 times per week and last for several hours at a time, but as milestones are reached the time requirements decrease, making it easier to continue with regular everyday activities, as class times become more flexible.

Lastly, the standard Outpatient Program only requires to meet 1-2 times per week for a few hours each day. These are usually designed for people who may be showing signs of a potential for drug abuse, or are developing a problem with alcohol, but haven’t met enough criteria to be considered an addict, or for the patient who has progressed enough through their recovery process that a lower level of care will be more beneficial to them. Participants are asked to complete the same sort of therapies but with less frequency.

Other types of outpatient programs that aren’t offered exclusively by a rehabilitation center, but run concurrently with most treatment plans, are 12 step support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). These are considered to be a part of continued care, both during and after drug rehabilitation, and are essential to a life of sobriety. You can find various meetings that run at multiple times throughout any given day, becoming a powerful resource to build a strong support system and furthering your education on addiction. 

If you feel as though an outpatient drug rehabilitation program is the best course for you, then you may want to be prepared to make some minor changes in your life in order to accommodate the requirements that these programs may demand. By seeking help from an outside professional you can begin a healthier and sober life.

Alexandra LaFollette
Alexandra LaFollette, on in Addiction, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse, Recovery

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