When you or a loved one suffers from an alcohol use disorder (AUD), you may be uncertain about the various treatment services available. Or you may have already heard about inpatient programs and outpatient programs but aren’t sure which is best for you. While both rehab options are equally dedicated to achieving rehabilitation, they each have unique benefits and attributes to offer their clients.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over 14,500 specialized facilities are designated to treat substance abuse and alcohol addiction within the United States, and outpatient treatment is one of the most common options.
Although outpatient is a beneficial treatment option for some, it might not necessarily be the right level of care for others, such as those with relatively serious AUD, co-occurring disorders, and acute alcohol withdrawal complications.
If you wish to overcome your AUD and maintain a prolonged recovery, it’s highly advisable to seek support and assistance from a physician or addiction specialist. These specialists will be better equipped to advise you on the best treatment option for you.
What Is Outpatient Alcohol Rehab?
Outpatient rehab for alcohol use disorders is a form of addiction rehabilitation in which an individual receives regular treatment at an outpatient setting for several hours each week. Unlike inpatient alcohol rehabs, outpatient rehabs provide their patients with the flexibility to return home each day. Outpatient addiction treatment programs are less restrictive and structured in comparison to inpatient care. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), outpatient treatment is best suited for individuals with unavoidable responsibilities at home or work and for those who possess an adequate level of support at home. Outpatient alcohol rehabs are also best suited for those who do not require around-the-clock medical care and supervision.
There are various types of outpatient services available, each providing different levels of care, treatment hours per week, and level of medical supervision. Outpatient alcohol rehab can also be used as a step-down treatment program from a residential program to help patients gradually transition back to everyday life.
The effectiveness of outpatient care is based on the patients’ active participation in therapies, counseling, and support groups. Individuals with strong determination and discipline are most likely to benefit from this approach.
What are the Types of Outpatient Alcohol Rehabs?
There are different levels of outpatient programs based on the substance abused, the severity of their condition, and the recovery stage. Traditional outpatient facilities differ widely, depending on the care center and the needs of the individual seeking treatment. While some of these programs closely resemble an inpatient program, the main difference would be that the participants can go home at the end of the day. Your doctor or treatment provider may recommend one program over another based on your specific requirements.
The most common types of outpatient programs include:
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs): The most intensive outpatient alcohol rehab program is partial hospitalization programs, also known as day treatment. PHP offers a higher level of care, a more structured environment than any other outpatient program. Patients are expected to attend meetings at the facility five to seven days per week for multiple hours per day. Patients will receive ongoing therapy, group counseling, biofeedback, and other alternative treatments, such as art or music therapy, during this period.
After each session, patients can return home, either to their families or to a sober living home. Day services necessitate a significant time commitment, impairing an individual’s ability to work or attend school before the program is completed.
The duration of day treatment services varies depending on the individual’s condition. For some, completing a day treatment program and moving forward in the rehabilitation process may only take a few weeks, while others require more time.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs): Intensive outpatient treatments are often more flexible than day programs. They typically include meeting many hours per day during the day or evening, which is incredibly helpful for those who have other responsibilities. Meetings are frequent during the early stages of the process but will gradually reduce as the participants show progress. Intensive outpatient programs are an ideal choice of treatment for patients with a strong, stable support network at home. This approach enables participants to consult with recovery professionals during the day, learn relapse prevention methods, and implement them in real-life circumstances.
Continuing Care Groups: Continuing care groups or aftercare programs are typically the final step in the outpatient treatment process. This approach helps participants preserve their sobriety and offers them a chance to talk about their achievements and challenges as a community. Although meetings are often focused on the participants’ needs, many continuing care groups meet once a week for an hour or two.
Is Outpatient Alcohol Rehab the Right Choice for Me?
Outpatient alcohol rehab is an effective tool to overcome AUD. The flexibility provided by this program makes it possible for patients to receive treatment without the need for giving up on other responsibilities and obligations in life. Outpatient alcohol rehabs are generally more affordable than inpatient care and are most often covered by insurance.
While outpatient programs provide the same treatment options as most inpatient programs, the level of care and structure is what differs between the two. Hence the right treatment option depends solely on your condition. Talk to an addiction specialist or physician to better understand your condition and what treatment suits you best.
Therapies Offered at Outpatient Alcohol Rehab
Many outpatient rehab services utilize a combination of medical and behavioral treatment strategies. Although treatments provided may differ from one facility to another, below are some of the most commonly practiced therapeutic interventions:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): According to the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ACBT), CBT is an evidence-based treatment program that teaches patients to recognize certain maladaptive thoughts and modify their behaviors, such as drinking or abusing alcohol.
- The matrix model: The matrix model combines many aspects of addiction and provides treatment as a whole-person approach, including relationships, emotions, and behavior.
- Contingency management: This is based on the theory that individual rehabilitation can be supported when some of the rewarding aspects of consuming alcohol are substituted by other incentives to facilitate abstinence.
- Motivational interviewing: This technique focuses on meeting a person where they are rather than forcing them to recognize that they have an alcohol addiction. Instead, the psychiatrist helps the client in determining his or her own definition of the issue.
- Family therapy: This therapy integrates the patient’s family into the recovery process by including them in therapy sessions and encouraging members to establish family guidelines that promote abstinence. This approach helps rebuild strained relationships caused by alcohol addiction and helps families better understand the realities and nature of addiction.
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): This type of treatment utilizes FDA-approved medications in conjunction with counseling and behavioral interventions.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Outpatient Alcohol Rehab
When evaluating treatment options, it’s important to consider both the benefits and drawbacks of each program. Outpatient programs have increased in popularity over the last few decades due to the numerous advantages they offer, including:
- Maintaining a balance between job, family, and recovery.
- It’s generally less expensive than conventional inpatient rehab.
- Much closer to home and support network.
- Minimal disruptions to daily life and priorities.
- The opportunity to apply what you have learned in real-world scenarios.
- Ability to attend counseling sessions with family and friends.
Although there are some advantages of engaging in an outpatient treatment program, this approach has some drawbacks. Since outpatient care is less restrictive and structured, maintaining sobriety depends solely on the patient’s determination and willingness to stop drinking.
The constant triggers and temptations of the outside world can hinder a patient’s rehabilitation progress. Thus it’s not a recommended treatment option for those struggling with moderate to severe AUD. Furthermore, alcohol withdrawal symptoms and other mental health issues can be difficult to manage in an outpatient program without the constant supervision and support of medical professionals.
Outpatient alcohol rehabs are not ideal for patients with severe AUD, co-occurring disorders, history of relapse, mental health disorders, and history of medical complications.
How to Choose an Outpatient Rehab?
The effectiveness of treatment and prolonged recovery is based on choosing the right treatment option that best addresses your needs. Making a list of priorities for what is most important during recovery is the best way to get started. After compiling this list, an individual can begin to narrow down their search.
Consider the following questions about treatment when reviewing outpatient rehabs:
- What types of treatment interventions does the rehab facility use?
- Do they provide medical detox services?
- Are the medical staff and treatment providers appropriately certified?
- Can insurance support treatment, or does the rehab facility offer financial assistance?
- What does the rehab schedule look like? Is there a half-day or full-day option?
- What is their success rate? And how do they measure it?
- Is it permissible for families and friends to attend counseling sessions?
- What happens after rehab? Can they refer you to any nearby support groups?
- What sort of therapies and services are available?
- Is the program more flexible or structured? Will medical staff assist with creating a recovery plan timetable?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends gathering as much information as possible about the program or provider before making the final decision. If you know someone who has first-hand knowledge of the program, it may be beneficial to ask about their personal experience with the treatment program.