Why are Intensive Outpatient Programs Suggested After Leaving Rehab?

intensive outpatient program

Alcohol and drug addiction is a very intense, complicated disease that manifests a variety of ancillary symptoms. What’s more, compared to the long history of research into many medical and health conditions, we’ve only very recently begun to understand addiction, including how it develops, how it affects people and the most effective ways of treating addiction as a disease. People aren’t born addicts, but rather develop the disease of addiction through some combination of biological, environmental, and developmental factors. After a period of time during which an individual abuses alcohol or drugs, he or she begins to need higher and higher doses of the substance in order to achieve the same effects; however, as a result of the steadily increasing quantities of these substances, the body begins to become dependent on alcohol and drugs, often as a means of sustaining the brain’s altered chemical levels.

Due to the numerous and profound ancillary effects of drug and alcohol addiction, recovery is a process that takes a significant amount of time and effort. In fact, the current consensus is that addiction is a permanent, incurable disease that individuals can only learn to live with by managing the symptoms and maintaining long-term sobriety so as to keep one’s chemical dependency at bay. As we’ve come to better understand addiction and the needs of addicts, we’ve developed a number of treatments that often fall under one of two categories: inpatient or outpatient treatment for alcohol and drug addiction.

While there are certainly strengths and weaknesses to each type of treatment program, the optimal path of recovery treatment is often said to be a combination of both treatments, or more accurately starting with one and progressing to the other. In order to understand why this means of recovery yields the best results, it’s important to understand some of the key differences between inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment.

Inpatient versus Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs

In short, inpatient treatment is a form of a residential program in which individuals live on-site at the facility where they participate in daily therapies. Intensive outpatient treatment, on the other hand, is a more flexible form of recovery that allows individuals to incorporate therapeutic interventions into their existing daily schedules, often preventing recovery from interfering with things like employment schedules, familial obligations, and other responsibilities. Both inpatient and intensive outpatient treatments are founded upon the tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which means that the goal of both forms of treatment is to identify altered patterns of thought and behaviors, replacing unhealthy thinking by learning a variety of healthy coping mechanisms and strategies.

Of the two, inpatient addiction treatment programs are considered to be more effective. In fact, it’s common for individuals in inpatient programs to have already completed an outpatient program—oftentimes more than once—before experiencing a relapse soon after; for this reason, inpatient treatment is considered a preferred alternative to outpatient for individuals who haven’t experienced success with previous attempts at outpatient recovery. Inpatient programs tend to last a minimum of 28 days, but can also last three months, six months, or sometimes more; additionally, every day of an individual’s residency is marked by several hours of addiction treatment, often in the form of counseling and psychotherapy, but also including a number of supplementary and alternative treatments such as acupuncture, massage therapy, family and group counseling, skills-building and vocational training, and so on. Due to the amount of treatments in which recovering addicts participate on a daily basis and the possible length of the program, inpatient treatment is considered the most intense form of addiction recovery that’s available, also giving it the reputation for being the most effective.

intensive outpatient group

By contrast, outpatient treatment is often recommended for those who haven’t been in active addiction for very long, whose addiction is relatively less severe than most, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate in treatment for substance abuse due to the cost of inpatient programs, or whose schedules simply aren’t receptive to the intensity of an inpatient program. Since participants of outpatient programs don’t live in the rehabilitation facility, the facility’s environment is structured much different than that of outpatient programs. One of the most attractive features of outpatient programs is that commuting to the facility for one’s treatments allows a level of privacy and anonymity, making it possible to receive treatment for addiction without having to explain an extended absence to work colleagues, family members, and friends. Unfortunately, outpatient programs don’t offer the consistent, safe, drug-free environment that separates addicts from the circumstances of their addicts. However, there are more and more intensive outpatient programs available that offer many of the same addiction therapies—counseling, psychotherapy, group and family sessions, skills-building, relapse prevention education—that are also offered by outpatient programs, seeking to allow individuals to benefit from a similar level of intensity as an inpatient or residential program, but with much more flexibility.

Outpatient Programs as Aftercare Upon Completion of an Inpatient Program

There are certain individuals who may prefer the level of flexibility and privacy afforded by recovery via participation in an outpatient program; however, one of the most popular and often advised users for an outpatient program is as a follow-up to an inpatient treatment. Specifically, it’s recommended that when an individual completes an inpatient or residential treatment program, he or she transition to an intensive outpatient program as a form of aftercare. The purpose of this route of recovery is to afford the individual a longer duration of addiction intervention therapies while he or she is also reintegrating into society. While in an inpatient program, recovering addicts are largely separated from the community, making it much easier to remain abstinent; by transitioning into an intensive outpatient program after residential treatment, individuals can adjust to remaining sober and abstinent while being a part of the community again, meanwhile continuing to participate in addiction recovery treatment that will serve to further fortify one’s recovery.

Recover in an Inpatient or Intensive Outpatient Addiction Treatment Program Today

If you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol or drug addiction and is in need of an addiction treatment program, call Recovery Hub today at 888-220-4352. Let one of our recovery specialists help you find the residential or intensive outpatient treatment program that can deliver you back to a life of sobriety, health, and fulfillment.

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