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Outpatient Addiction Treatment


Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 6/19/2023

Outpatient treatment is a type of addiction treatment that doesn’t hold patients overnight. Outpatient treatment programs are typically found at smaller clinics, hospitals, and counselors’ offices. The common treatment modalities for outpatient programs include detox, medically-assisted detox (MAT), partial hospitalization, behavioral therapy, and treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders.

What Is Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient rehab is a flexible treatment modality for people who want to treat addictions without committing to inpatient or residential programs. Most outpatient programs are adaptable and come with flexible schedules so recovering alcoholics can make time for treatment, work, and even their families. For people who have obligations and no time to take off work, outpatient rehabilitation is the best option.

When it comes to outpatient rehab there are several treatment modalities. The most common treatment methods include variations of therapy, medically-assisted detoxes, group therapy sessions, and more. Depending on the addiction and the severity of the addiction, outpatient programs also offer medically assisted programs that allow patients to remain in the clinic during the detox period.

Outpatient rehab programs are customizable and most clinics tailor programs to the needs of patients. Therefore, it’s best to inquire with a provider to understand all of your treatment options.

How Does Outpatient Rehab Work?

Outpatient Rehab is a straightforward process that typically begins with an evaluation. The evaluation gives medical professionals an idea of how severe your addiction is and what they need to do to treat it. Exams can be physical, written, or both. The exam is used by medical professionals to understand your medical history, medications you can or can’t take, and how severe withdrawal symptoms might be.

Depending on the severity of your addiction, treatment options change drastically. Severe cases of withdrawal might begin partial hospitalization. Partial hospitalization holds patients on-site for 3-5 hours to monitor vitals, mood, and mental health during severe cases of withdrawal. These programs usually meet 3 to 5 times per week.

For less severe cases, medical professionals might recommend intensive outpatient care (IOP). These programs are similar to partial hospitalization but the sessions are shorter. Instead of keeping someone on-site for 5 hours 3 times per week, intensive outpatient programs might keep someone on-site for 3 hours 3 times per week.

The last level of outpatient treatment is the most common, which is basic outpatient care. These are programs that meet weekly for counseling sessions. Counseling sessions can be held individually, in groups, with family, or even a combination of the three.

Outpatient care is a specific treatment that varies based on the person who receives it, so it depends on what the patient needs. That said, these are common offerings you’ll see at outpatient rehab clinics.

What are the Types of Outpatient Rehab?

There are three common types of outpatient rehab that people can participate in. Each type has benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to evaluate each one carefully.

The three types of outpatient rehab are:

  • Day programs
  • Intensive outpatient programs
  • Continuing care

1. Day Programs

Day programs are straightforward programs that have patients visit rehab clinics three days per week for a few hours each visit. These programs typically consist of behavioral therapy and help patients develop a mental toolbox to combat addiction on their own. Sessions vary based on the needs of each patient, especially if there are co-occurring disorders. Day programs are great for flexibility and for patients that have employment commitments and family commitments.

2. Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

Intensive outpatient programs are more hands-on than day programs. Most IOP programs meet 5 days per week and patients are at the clinic for 3-5 hours. During this time patients are monitored during withdrawal and receive medical support if needed. That said, IOP programs also implement behavioral therapy.

3. Continuing Care

Continuing care is a treatment that continues after standard outpatient therapy comes to an end. Continuing care tends to take the form of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings where patients can meet with other individuals who are in a similar stage of recovery. Continuing care groups tend to meet less frequently than IOP and day programs.

Before choosing any addiction treatment program it’s important to consult with your insurance provider and doctor to make sure you get the proper level of care.

What are the Therapy Sessions During Outpatient Visits?

When participating in outpatient programs there are three types of therapy options. These options are:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy

1. Individual Therapy

Individual therapy consists of patients working one-on-one with a licensed mental health professional or addiction counselor. During these sessions, patients will learn about co-occurring disorders that can be linked to addiction as well as tools to combat addiction on their own. These sessions are helpful because it helps patients talk about their addiction without feeling judged. These sessions are evidence-based and vary based on the needs of patients.

2. Group Therapy

Group therapy involves a group of patients and someone to mediate the group. These sessions are more about discussing addiction among the group and building camaraderie amongst peers. Group therapy sessions can help patients feel like they’re not in recovery alone and provide an outlet for people to heal together. Bonds formed in group therapy can last beyond the standard outpatient treatment cycle.

3. Family Therapy

Family therapy is unique in that it allows family members to learn about addiction and how it impacts people. It helps family members cope with addiction treatment and provides education to help family members be more supportive of recovering family members. We recommend family therapy for people who have a strong support network or for people who have a history of alcoholism in their family. After all, it’s possible for alcoholism to be genetic.

While each therapy type is different, a combination of all three helps patients develop an understanding of their addiction and how it impacts themselves and others.

What are the Benefits of Outpatient Rehab?

The benefits of outpatient Rehab are based on flexibility and a patient’s ability to get treatment without committing to lengthy residential programs.

The benefits of outpatient rehab are as follows:

  • You can continue to work
  • Programs are more affordable and insurance-friendly
  • You can boost your quality of life
  • There’s a treatment for co-occurring disorders
  • There’s a strong support system that extends beyond treatment
  • People can remain at home with their families
  • Exposes patients to a network of resources and additional treatment options

Outpatient treatment programs help people maintain their obligations while also getting addiction treatment.

How Long Does Outpatient Rehab Last?

Standard outpatient programs for alcoholism tend to last for 30 days. While these are standard program lengths, outpatient treatment typically lasts much longer. Patients can remain in outpatient programs for months or even years. Moreover, patients can continue care with groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to maintain sobriety with a strong support system and sponsor.

What are the Differences Between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient and inpatient rehab use similar treatment modalities but the big difference is that inpatient programs require patients to stay at the clinic 24/7, while outpatient programs are more flexible.

Inpatient rehab programs are residential and provide patients with around-the-clock care, while outpatient programs allow people to remain employed and seek help around their schedule. That said, both inpatient and outpatient treatment types can be beneficial based on your needs.