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Outpatient Programs

Outpatient programs are not just for those who don’t have time to enter into a long-term care program. In fact, outpatient programs offer most of, if not all of, the same treatment to patients, so they can relax and know that they’re receiving the best care for their addictions.

When you’re deciding if you want to enter into an outpatient program, you probably have many questions about the process. How long will it take? Does the outpatient facility also provide recovery and rehabilitation services outside detox? What happens if you want to enter an inpatient program suddenly due to stress or other issues with the outpatient set up?
These are great questions that we’ll aim to answer for you, so you can go into your treatment without concerns about your health or wellbeing. The goal of any program is to make sure you are focused on living without the use of drugs or alcohol as a crutch; addiction is recognized as a disease, and like with any other disease, it can be treated with medications, therapies and other treatment options.

There are many kinds of outpatient programs, from those that offer long-term outpatient services to those offering short outpatient detox stays. Some are based on traditional medications, while others work with holistic or alternative therapies. Nutrition can be an important part of your program, too, as can working within a group of peers or having private therapy courses.

  • Intensive Outpatient

    Intensive outpatient is a type of addiction treatment that allows patients to attend treatment 3-5 days a week for a few hours a day so they can continue their daily lives.

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  • Outpatient Detox

    For those physically addicted to drugs and alcohol but can't take time off of work or daily life an outpatient detox can help a person manage the withdrawal process and find recovery.

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  • Partial Day

    Partial-day programs are designed for clients to attend the center for 5-6 hours per day then reside at home or in a halfway house during the hours they are not in treatment.

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What is Outpatient Treatment for Addiction

Outpatient treatment for addiction is a process that takes place for only a few hours a day instead of 24-hours per day like in an inpatient facility. Outpatient treatments offer patients the chance to come and go freely, giving them more opportunities to control their lives at home as well as to control their treatments and treatment level.

Outpatient programs are still designed to be followed in a step-by-step fashion. For instance, if a patient is struggling with addiction to a long-term pain medication, following a tapering program, coming to all scheduled appointments, and staying for the full treatment period would be expected of them.

Fortunately, those who go to outpatient treatment centers for care can continue to work, go to school, or stay home with their families or children. The best part of an outpatient program is the ability for it to be arranged around a person’s home life; no one has to miss out on work opportunities or social events while seeking treatment with this program.

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Outpatient treatments can be as effective as inpatient treatments for patients who have mild to moderate substance abuse concerns.

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Intensive outpatient treatments may involve partial hospitalization and intensive blocks of therapy.

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Outpatient programs may schedule a patient in from 2 to 8 hours a day in most cases, allowing for clients to still participate in daily life.

Can Outpatient Treatments be Intensive?

Outpatient treatments can be intensive. Intensive outpatient treatments focus on quick treatments that take place over the course of a few days. During those days, patients may attend the facility for multiple medical exams, monitoring, counseling, and other needs. Known as IOP, or an Intensive Outpatient Program, the program focuses primarily on group therapies. A variety of topics can be addressed during group meetings, including well-known subjects like 12-step programs, understanding the chemistry of addiction, and spirituality.

These programs are considered to be intensive because they start with a daily regimen. Over time, the program will decline in its intensity, allowing you to go to it fewer times per week. As you find you need less support, you can continue to go to fewer and fewer meetings or therapy sessions until you eventually only go for maintenance purposes.

This is also known as a step-down system, and it can be very helpful during the initial stages of recovery. Initially, most patients do find that they need to attend courses daily for several hours per day. After that, the length of the courses can be reduced and the number of meetings a person needs to go to will reduce as well. This can be a cost-effective method of treatment for patients as well, since they can quickly move through therapy sessions if they have a less severe addiction or can take longer if they feel they need more support over a longer period of time.

Is Outpatient Treatment for Everyone?

While outpatient treatments can be beneficial for many people, they’re not for everyone. Those with severe addictions may find that inpatient or hospitalized stays are much more beneficial to them, because they’re cared for around the clock and unable to relapse.

Outpatient treatment centers focus on flexibility. That means that anyone can go to the program and work recovery into a schedule that fits them. These treatment programs are ideal for those who need to continue working or going to school. The program normally only takes a few hours a few times a week, leaving the rest of the patient’s time open for work, school, or other activities.

Outpatient treatments can be given in a number of locations. You could go to your doctor’s office to give updates on your recovery and to work with your doctor directly. You could go to a community clinic offering outpatient detox and recovery services. Dedicated addiction treatment clinics offer a variety of outpatient services and alternative methods that can be beneficial. Sometimes, you can even be treated over the phone, particularly if you’re struggling with a craving or the risk of relapse.

Most patients will go to a specialist clinic to receive the help they need to detox and begin recovering. In these facilities, doctors and nurses can monitor the individual, help with psychological and physical conditions, and focus on their full recovery over a scheduled timeline. A daily schedule is able to be arranged for each patient, making it much easier for patients to get the help they need without having to give up their daily routines.

Outpatient programs are most beneficial for those struggling with only minor or mild addictions, but that doesn’t mean those with more severe conditions can’t use these programs.

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What to Expect at an Outpatient Treatment Program

What should you expect from your outpatient treatment program? Every facility’s program will be a little bit different, and each patient may have a varied plan for recovery. There are a few things you can expect in general, though.

Outpatient Treatment Program Steps

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First Step

First, you'll be welcomed to your first appointment for a medical evaluation. Addiction is very complex, so an evaluation is necessary to see what condition your body and mind are in. A doctor performing an evaluation can be looking for signs of a dual-diagnosis, like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, and he will also be making sure your body is healthy enough for the kind of detox and recovery you want to try. In some cases, nutritional issues or other medical concerns will need to be addressed to help stabilize a patient before beginning the full treatment. For instance, if a patient is found to have bipolar disorder, failing to treat that disorder could put the entire recovery process at risk. Therefore, working with the patient to find the best medications and treatments for that condition along with a recovery program can be highly beneficial.

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Second Step

Second, you won't be forced to stay at the facility. Outpatient programs aren't designed to keep patients on site except for, in some cases, if they are working through detoxification. Generally speaking, outpatient facilities offer no overnight options. The normal day may consist of arriving for two hours to go over your medical conditions and to attend a therapy session with a counselor, for instance.

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Third Step

Third, you'll be expected to follow the plan. While everyone has a slightly different plan for recovery, yours will likely be similar to this:

  • Do not take drugs or drink alcohol; remain abstinent throughout the program.
  • Set goals and form a treatment plan that helps you reach those goals.
  • Agree to a number of treatment times each week and come on time for each one.
  • Attend all required seminars and classes.
  • Obey all rules required during treatment.
  • Speak up if the program isn't working well; modifications can be made.
  • Talk openly with a therapist or group when you're comfortable.

Each program can be tailor-made for individuals, so you may have a different experience than the above. It’s important to talk to the facility you believe you’ll be attending to determine if the program options are right for you.

Are there Holistic or Alternative Options for Treatment?

There are a few kinds of alternative and holistic therapies for those interested. As far as holistic therapies go, patients are able to access many options such as acupuncture, massage, and other approaches. Alternative options for treatment include animal-assisted therapy, known as AAT, art or music therapy, or equine therapy.

Many of these treatments can be accessed on an outpatient basis.

Massage and Substance Abuse Treatment

The benefits of massage for substance abuse recovery are vast. The main reasons it’s so helpful are because it helps circulate a person’s blood flow, reduce tension in the muscles, and reduce or eliminate pain.

Since studies in the 1990s, it’s been found that massage has many health benefits for people in all conditions. It’s been assumed that the link between massage and its benefits during outpatient therapies is because of altering what a person’s body and brain find relaxing or comforting. People are always pulled toward activities that make them feel good, so if the brain can be shifted to a new, safe activity that feels good but offers medical benefits or a healthy release of tension, then that’s a huge step forward for a person addicted to substances like alcohol or drugs.

When a person is going through withdrawal and detox, the body is low on certain endorphins. Massage is known to trigger the production of those endorphins, helping the individual reduce stress and feel safe and relaxed.

Acupuncture and Substance Abuse Treatment

Acupuncture is considered helpful in many addiction treatment circles, because it has the ability to soothe frayed nerves, reduce or cure insomnia, and alleviate withdrawal symptoms and pain. The kind of acupuncture used for treating addiction patients is called auricular acupuncture. It specifically treats the patient by placing needles into point along the ear. There are usually only around five specific points that need to be hit.

These points are said to related to other body parts; one could link to the lungs, another to the brain, and so on. While some scientists and medical doctors don’t believe in acupuncture as a healing agent, there have been major studies on the subject. Numerous studies have been able to show that acupuncture can help reduce symptoms of withdrawal and may even boost the number of people who make it through recovery.

Others claim that the real benefit is emotional. Some feel that the time spent sitting or lying patiently for the treatment allows them to get in touch with their feelings and to unwind. What is known is that a study on auricular acupuncture in the Journal of Dual Diagnosis in 2006 showed that 61 percent of participants finished their drug treatment programs with the addition of biweekly acupuncture, while 32 percent of patients finished when they hadn’t had acupuncture. It’s certainly something to consider adding to an outpatient program on a semi-regular basis.

Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy is another kind of program you may be interested in. Animals are known to lower the stress levels of humans, and they can help you in your day-to-day life, too. For instance, if you have a helper dog who can recognize when you’re feeling depressed, that dog can do things to help you cheer up. It could also be able to identify when it needs to call for help, which is absolutely beneficial for some.

Animal-assisted therapy can reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue. It is used for people in long-term care facilities, nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities. Also known as pet therapy, this kind of therapy can be ideal for outpatients. Pets can go to and from therapy meetings with their owners and patients, helping them move through their days and learn to care for another living being if they never have before. Pets also need regular exercise, feeding, and other care, which can help someone develop a schedule and routine. This is also helpful for many people recovering from addiction, since the very basis of addiction is falling into a negative, dangerous routine or habit.

For mental health, animals can help lift spirits, encourage communication, and increase socialization. Pets help reduce boredom, can lower anxiety, and reduce loneliness. Best of all, animals can motivate a patient to recover more quickly, giving them a goal for sobriety that they maintain for their new companion.

Hobby-Based Therapies

Other than animal-assisted therapy, there are many kinds of hobby-based therapies in the world of recovery. Are you interested in art or music? Both can be exceptional in helping you overcome anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Art gives you the ability to express yourself, possibly without words, while music gives you an outlet for your emotions. You may be able to learn new techniques or even start a new hobby while you’re in your outpatient treatment program, giving you something to do when you’re at home that can take your mind off your addiction and the process you’re currently in.

An outpatient treatment program may be able to help you or your loved one get back on the right track to sobriety. If you’re considering entering an outpatient program or have questions about the options there are, our team can help. Call us at 844-242-0890 or find us online at

How to Choose Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatments

The main treatment options open to individuals are inpatient or outpatient programs. These programs differ, so it’s important to consider the options that you have with each kind of program. One may be better for single parents, for instance, while another may be best suited to those in volatile home situations. Below are some of the benefits of inpatient and outpatient treatment plans, so you can have a better idea of how they differ and how they provide you with the care you need.

The Benefits of Inpatient Treatments

The primary benefit of an inpatient treatment is that the person seeking treatment lives at the facility. Because living at the facility provides a safe haven, it’s easier for these individuals to focus on recovery instead of their daily lives.

In the daily life of someone addicted to drugs or alcohol, there could be traumatic incidences, struggles to do with withdrawal or side effects, or fights among family and friends. In an inpatient treatment center, all of that goes away.

Inpatient facilities provide room and board. Meals are provided, as are behavior therapy courses and medications when needed. Medical care is provided around the clock. Inpatients typically sign up for a program that lasts between a month and 180 days, depending on the severity of an addiction.

The Benefits of Outpatient Treatments

Outpatient treatments are different that inpatient therapies, because they allow the patient to come and go as he needs; that may mean that he comes to treatment in the morning or only attends in the evening. Overall, the way these programs are set up means that the person can continue to work, go to school, take care of his children or family, and so on.

Many people struggle with the idea of going into an inpatient facility. They may see it as unnecessary; maybe they don’t feel they’re as severely affected as those in an inpatient facility. Others may be functioning at a high level even though they are addicted to drugs or alcohol, making it more beneficial for them to stay in school or at their job while they work through their troubles.

Outpatient treatment programs are most often suggested for those who are physically dependent on a drug or alcohol but not psychologically affected in a severe manner. In that kind of situation, a person may want to be off the medications, drugs, or alcohol but could struggle with withdrawal or pain when quitting. Tapering programs or rapid detox can be used in outpatient facilities to help these individuals quit the substances.

Physical dependence can take place without a person ever having a recognized desire to take more or higher doses of a drug. They may feel they are simply following their prescription or taking enough to feel better, but over time, the body needs more and more to work at the same level and with the same effects. That’s when an outpatient service may be useful; detoxification can take a few days, but then it’s possible for the patient to check in with a medical-care staff to make sure they’re physically fit following their initial treatment.

The difference with those who are solely physically dependent or addicted is that they don’t often crave the substance. Taking it is a way to address withdrawal only. For those who are psychologically, emotionally, and physically dependent on drugs, outpatient facilities can still help. It’s possible for those who still need to work or perform other important responsibilities to go through an outpatient program around his or her work hours. It’s also possible that, if that person has a strong support team at home, he won’t need to worry about relapsing when he’s away from the outpatient program.

It’s often not advised for those who have a troublesome home life, no home, or a risk of relapse to use an outpatient program, because they’re higher-risk patients. Those individuals may best benefit from an inpatient facility where they can get the 24-hour care they need. Outpatient facilities often have 24-hour hours for calling in, but most patients will not be able to stay at the facility overnight or for more than several hours. If that’s what they need, then it’s most common for the patients to be transferred to an inpatient program where they can get a more comprehensive treatment plan in place.

Find Recovery at an Outpatient Treatment Program

Recovery doesn’t happen in a day, and you shouldn’t feel that you have to rush through your treatment. You can go to an outpatient program for as long as it takes to get yourself to a place of stability and sobriety.

Patients live at home during an outpatient treatment, but they may spend most of their initial treatment program at a hospital or drug treatment facility.

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There’s not one particular method of overcoming an alcohol or drug addiction that works best for everyone. Instead, one must find the treatments that best address his or her particular recovery needs. If you or someone you know would benefit from a free consultation and assessment, call Addiction Information at 844-242-0890. Our recovery specialists are available anytime, day or night, to help anyone begin his or her journey to lasting health, happiness, and sobriety.

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