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What is an Outpatient Rehab Program?

According to the National Institute of Health, approximately one in ten Americans has a substance abuse issue during their lifetime. The good news is that there are dozens of reputable treatment programs around the country, but the bad news is an estimated three out of four addicts don’t seek the treatment they need.

Many addicts steer clear from treatment due to lack of information and fear, but rehab has helped thousands of addicts turn miserable lives into happy ones. To help calm the fear and mystery of treatment let’s learn about one of the most common programs – outpatient rehab.

Let’s discuss what outpatient rehab programs are, how they work, what type of tools and techniques patients can expect, and who is a good fit for outpatient treatment. The country may be filled with addicts, but outpatient rehab is doing its best to lower those dreadful numbers.

Outpatient rehab programs are a form of drug or alcohol treatment that doesn’t require the patient to check into an inpatient treatment center. Outpatient rehab is designed to help those who think they have a mild to moderate substance abuse problem and are serious about getting sober.

All outpatient programs are led by qualified addiction counselors. The counselor is charged with making individual treatment plans, leading one-on-one and group counseling, crafting post-treatment relapse prevention plans, and more. If you’re exploring outpatient options counselors or staff should have proper licensing and certification as a Certified Addiction Counselor, Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor, or other proper licensing.  

Outpatient vs. Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient requires the patient to stay within the four walls of the treatment facility until they can leave under medical clearance. In outpatient rehab, the patient can go home, sleep in their bed, and tend to most normal daily activities. Inpatient takes place in a medically-licensed facility while outpatient therapy can take place anywhere.

Inpatient treatment is more intensive than outpatient. During inpatient therapy, you’re working on your recovery from morning readings before breakfast to daily reflection before lights out as opposed to a few hours at a time during outpatient rehab.

Can’t choose between inpatient and outpatient? You don’t have to. It’s common to stair-step treatment from inpatient to outpatient programs.

Types of Outpatient Programs

There’s no one-size-fits-all addiction treatment so there’s not one outpatient program. Outpatient programs vary depending on the addict, available time, and the outfit that’s hosting the outpatient program.

Examples of outpatient rehab includes intensive outpatient which requires the patient to attend eight hours a day Monday through Friday all the way down to weekly hour-long meetings. Different programs require different commitments by the patient and are intended to help match you to the most beneficial program.  

Best Fit for Outpatient Programs

Anyone addicted to drugs or alcohol is a good fit for outpatient rehab but there are some that would better benefit from inpatient treatment. Those who are at ‘rock-bottom’ or may quickly end up in jail or a hospital without treatment need the intense treatment of an inpatient program.

Outpatient rehab is a better fit for addicts who aren’t in immediate danger of injuring themselves, others and don’t require medical supervision during the detox process. If you’re an addict or alcoholic that wants to discontinue drug use but just can’t on your own, outpatient can help.

outpatient rehab program

Therapies and Techniques Used in Outpatient Rehab

Because every outpatient rehab is different, you can’t expect the same therapies and techniques. There are however evidence-driven methods used in most facilities. Let’s review three tools used in all outpatient settings.

One-on-One Counseling

As the name implies, one-on-one therapy involves time spent directly with an addiction counselor. Individual counseling allows the counselor and patient to establish a relationship, learned what role addiction played in the patient’s life, learn individual fears and hopes, and get direct input and tools to beat addiction for good.

The counselor may also work with the patient with other mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders. A patient with both addiction and other psychological issues is more likely to beat their addiction and their other issues when both are treated.

Counselors use a variety of evidence-based approaches and techniques through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most popular. CBT involves the patient learning to recognize negative thought patterns or other backwards ways of thinking (cognition) and then taking new and positive steps in their behaviors to address those thoughts (behavior.) CBT is safe, effective, and has helped thousands get over their psychological issues.  

Group Counseling

Fellowship is critical to addiction recovery. Luckily group counseling and exercises are an important part of any outpatient program. Group therapy allows patients to share their struggles and issues with others who are going through the same thing. Patients can give input, reflect, and speak with their peers on issues that are bothering them. Fellowship and airing your problems with other addicts are the basis for many treatment programs and is a founding principle of 12-step treatment programs. It’s easier to share and open up when you know the people around you are going through the same issues.

Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention is arguably the most important step in outpatient rehab. Before you leave the counselor will put together a relapse prevention program to help make sure you don’t come back. Many rehabs include follow-up services to check your progress and continue help.

Other Therapies

Outpatient clinics also use informal therapy and techniques that might not have the backing research like CBT does, but has proven anecdotally effective. Popular therapies include outdoor obstacle courses, animal therapies, eye movement and desensitization reprocessing, art therapy, and more. While most outpatient rehab programs use the same basic rules and regulations like counseling and CBT, finding one with extra therapy that matches you yields the best results.

Getting Started with Outpatient

If you think you or someone you love could benefit from outpatient rehab it’s best to reach out before addiction and issues progress. Pick up the phone book, look online at reputable treatment resources, and do your own research to find the right outpatient rehab match.

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