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What to Look for in an Outpatient Substance Abuse Rehab

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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
The editorial staff of American Addiction Centers is made up of credentialed clinical reviewers with hands-on experience in or expert knowledge of addiction treatment.

What outpatient rehab entails.Outpatient drug treatment programs are designed for individuals struggling with a mild to moderate substance abuse problem. They provide treatment sessions throughout the week, but do not require clients live on site. Outpatient programs allow clients to continue living at home, and to potentially work and participate in their daily lives outside of treatment.

For people with jobs, young children, other dependent family members, and strong social support, outpatient treatment programs can be ideal, says a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Outpatient treatment can occur in many different settings, including hospitals, community clinics, local health departments, or therapists’ private offices.

Types of Programs

There is a wide variety of treatment programs available, but the primary goal of all programs is to provide a framework of support for individuals seeking addiction treatment. Each type of treatment program takes a slightly different approach to addressing addiction in clients.

Depending on the severity of addiction, there are multiple levels of outpatient care available.

  • Day programs require a commitment to come to the treatment program, usually every day during the week for a specific block of hours. Clients participate in individual and group therapy as well as education on healthy living.
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) often start by outlining a clear treatment plan with measurable and achievable goals. For people who are serious about staying sober, but need to continue going to work or attending to daily responsibilities while seeking treatment, this can be a good option. IOPs provide individual and group therapy, education on how to prevent relapse, and participation in recovery support groups.
  • Continuing care programs are found in the form of support groups. Peer support groups can be found around the world and provide daily opportunities for individuals recovering from addiction to find support on an ongoing basis. These groups are not technically forms of treatment, but they can provide support and encouragement that is vital to long-term sobriety.

Benefits of outpatient care.Some of the main benefits of selecting an outpatient program over an inpatient program include lower costs, connection to family, and no need to take an extended absence from work or school. Because clients of an outpatient program do not sleep there, they do not have to pay the additional, and often expensive, costs of accommodation. Clients may also prefer to participate in an outpatient program because they are able to remain part of their community while seeking treatment. If discretion is of importance, there would be no need to explain a prolonged absence from home or work to anyone.

Many people who need addiction treatment are parents who simply can’t leave their young children for an extended period of time. Others have parents or family members that need their care. In either case, outpatient treatment allows people to get the focused addiction treatment they need without neglecting their personal responsibilities.

Cons of Outpatient Care

Since those in outpatient treatment don’t have round-the-clock supervision, they have a greater personal responsibility to remain sober. They have to immediately implement the tools learned in treatment in the outside world, and this is both a pro and a con.

Struggling with relapse prevention.Because clients go home each day, they must resist temptations that exist in the outside world. In an inpatient treatment program, clients don’t have access to substances of abuse. For those in outpatient treatment, alcohol or drugs may be readily accessible, so it’s important that they have a strong support system and a safe home environment that is free from substances of abuse.

Unlike an inpatient treatment program, outpatient programs offer less structure and greater levels of freedom, for better or worse. On the one hand, when individuals leave treatment for the day, they can immediately go home and implement their new healthy living techniques. If surrounded by a supportive family or social network, clients immediately apply new skills and engage friends and family members in positive ways to promote long-term recovery.

If a person has an unsafe home environment, particularly where others use drugs or drink, outpatient treatment is not the best choice. In addition, if a person has severe addiction issues or co-occurring disorders, inpatient treatment is usually recommended.

Recovery Statistics You Should Know

Maintaining recovery by attending support groups.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that in 2013, approximately 23 million Americans were addicted to drugs or alcohol, with about 2.5 million people participating in treatment. In 2016, there were over 14,000 substance abuse treatment facilities available to the public in the United States. About 82 percent of those facilities offered outpatient treatment services. IOPs were offered in 46 percent of the country’s substance abuse facilities. In 2016, there were over 1.15 million clients in substance abuse treatment facilities.

In a recent study evaluating the percentage of people who completed inpatient and outpatient treatment for substance use disorders in the US, researchers found that 52 percent of participants completed their outpatient programs while 65 percent of participants completed their inpatient programs. Overall, participants of inpatient treatment programs were almost three times as likely to complete treatment than participants of outpatient programs. That being said, speculation still remains about the impact of factors such as type of drug, social triggers, and environmental factors had on treatment program completion. Again, the key to success in outpatient treatment is often a strong support system at home.

Other studies, as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, have shown that 43 percent of outpatient treatment program participants complete their program and 18 percent of those people are still sober five years later. The rate of relapse for all drug addictions is around 40–60 percent.

For individuals who participate in continuing care programs like AA, success rates of maintaining sobriety increase, especially when they are used in conjunction with individual therapy. One study showed that 67 percent of people who attended at least 27 AA meetings in their first year of sobriety had maintained their sobriety 16 years later. For people who never attended AA, only 34 percent of the study’s participants remained sober.

What to Look For When Choosing an Option

Types of treatment programs.With a wide range of addiction treatment programs available, it is important to know what to look for in a treatment program and which questions to ask. You should also take into consideration what your particular needs are and what program will best address them. Important factors to consider are program accreditation, quality, cost, acceptance of insurance, education and experience of staff members, client success rates, and what complementary services are offered.

Some factors to look for when evaluating potential treatment programs for yourself are:

  • Client testimonials
  • A thorough mental and physical assessment
  • Individualized treatment plans
  • Programs that offer long-term support
  • A range of treatment modalities, such as individual, group, and family therapy
  • Treatment for co-occurring conditions
  • Minimum levels of treatment each week
  • Use of evidenced-based treatment methods
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Life skills training
  • Clear aftercare plans
  • Payment options
  • Onsite medical care

Unfortunately, not all treatment programs possess the same quality of service and care as others. When evaluating potential treatment programs, be wary of:

  • Programs that offer a “cure” for addiction
  • Programs that claim unrealistically high success rates
  • Short-term follow-up or no follow-up care
  • Use of unresearched treatment methods
  • Untrained or unlicensed staff members
  • Lack of formal treatment plans
  • Lack of individualized care
  • No relapse prevention or life skills training

Depending on your individual needs, some of these factors will be more important to consider than others. What is essential for someone seeking addiction treatment is to find a treatment program that meets their physical, mental, and emotional needs. Participating in an outpatient substance abuse rehab program can set you up for long-term recovery from your addiction. Take the time to find the right program for you.

Last Updated on October 4, 2018
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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
The editorial staff of American Addiction Centers is made up of credentialed clinical reviewers with hands-on experience in or expert knowledge of addiction treatment.
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