Outpatient Drug Treatment: What to Expect

Outpatient treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism is very different from other substance abuse programs like residential inpatient treatment or a day/night drug rehab program. In fact, outpatient treatment for drug abuse is similar to outpatient services for any other clinical disease like diabetes, cancer and mental illnesses. But as is the case with other serious illnesses, just because the treatment is received in an outpatient setting doesn’t mean it’s any less intense or effective than inpatient treatment or partial hospitalization programs. Outpatient drug rehab centers use many of the same evidenced-based practices and offer similar rates of success for people for whom this level of care is appropriate.

The primary difference between outpatient treatment and other types of treatment is the level of structure, services and supervision provided. Because outpatient drug and alcohol rehab centers generally only provide treatment during the day, the costs associated with an outpatient program are considerably less than that of inpatient or day/night treatment programs. This is ideal for addicts or alcoholics who need an affordable way to receive treatment without a temporary disruption of their lives. However, outpatient treatment isn’t ideal for everyone.

For people that are considering getting treatment for the first time, a residential inpatient program might be best. This is also true for people who have been to a drug rehab before, but have recently been “out” on a prolonged and severe relapse. People who attend an inpatient rehab live in the same place where they receive treatment. The environment is supervised and programs are as structured as possible to keep the patient focused on working diligently in various therapy programs.

People that have relapsed or recently completed an inpatient program might not be ready for the exposure to environmental and emotional triggers that can occur when in an outpatient program. In cases like these a partial hospitalization (PHP) or day/night program may be a wise choice. PHPs provide intensive treatment for addiction and alcoholism during the day, and then supervised clean and sober living arrangements in the evenings. These types of programs can last from 30 to 90 days or even longer.

Outpatient programs also offer intensive therapies during the day – the same therapies that inpatient and day/night treatment programs use with their patients. This consists of evidence-based practices that have proven success records with real-life patients and study groups. According to Dr. David Sackett, evidence based practice is:

“. . .the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of the individual patient. It means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research.” (Sackett D, 1996) (1)

This means that people who go to an outpatient treatment program can expect to take part in therapies that have helped thousands of other addicts and alcoholics achieve success in their quest for sobriety. The most successful of these programs, such as Recovery First’s Florida Drug Rehab, focus on reality therapy to develop an extremely effective individualized treatment plan. Patients are taught that there are some things they can control and some things they have no control over, and to recognize the difference between the two and act accordingly. Reality therapy addresses issues at a very personal and soul-searching level:

“The reality therapy approach to counseling and problem-solving focuses on the here-and-now of the client and how to create a better future. Typically, clients seek to discover what they really want and whether what they are currently doing (how they are choosing to behave) is actually bringing them nearer to, or further away from, that goal.” (2)

Other types of reality therapies that recovering addicts and alcoholics will take part in while attending an outpatient treatment program include one-on-one counseling sessions, group therapy sessions with other people in recovery, and medication when necessary. These therapies may differ from place to place and in some cases programs may be offered that are for relaxation and entertainment instead of focusing directly on treatment.

Other evidence based and reality therapies include:

*Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy: seeks to help patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to abuse drugs.

*Multidimensional Family Therapy: developed for adolescents with drug abuse problems—as well as their families—addresses a range of influences on their drug abuse patterns and is designed to improve overall family functioning.

*Motivational Interviewing: capitalizes on the readiness of individuals to change their behavior and enter treatment.

*Motivational Incentives (contingency management): uses positive reinforcement to encourage abstinence from drugs. (3)

But outpatient treatment centers aren’t just all about intense treatment. While the therapies used might be direct and focused, the environments they are employed in are often relaxed and quite welcoming. Patients form excellent working relationships with therapists and other staff, as well as relationships with other patients that can be used to bolster and secure the support network of anyone in recovery. Outpatient programs provide highly focused therapy while still allowing the patient the freedom to maintain their jobs, educational status and personal life. This is a balance that is critical to achieve and an outpatient setting is the most logical way to do so.

Because of the unique structure of outpatient treatment centers, these programs are especially useful for someone who has recently completed a PHP or Day/Night/Partial Hospitalization program, or for someone who has had a “slip” – a relapse that was short-lived or not severe in nature. You can find out if this program is right for you simply by calling the number at the top of your screen. We have substance abuse counselors standing by 24 hours a day to speak with you confidentially about getting help. There’s no obligation, and the call is free, so there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. Call us now.

(1) Sackett, David PhD What is Evidence Based Practice? University of North Carolina Health Sciences Library
(2) Wikipedia Reality Therapy
(3) National Institute on Drug Abuse Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction