Treatment programs for substance use disorders and mental health conditions generally fall into one of two categories: inpatient programs and outpatient programs. Individuals engaged in inpatient treatment live full time at their treatment facility, whereas clients at outpatient programs can choose to live at home. Both programs are equally effective for helping people recover from addictions. However, they are designed to meet the needs of people at different stages of recovery. Many people make use of both types of programs as they progress in their recovery journeys. In fact, most people who stay sober after finishing an inpatient program go on to attend an outpatient program. But what is an outpatient program?
What Do Outpatient Rehabs Treat?
Outpatient rehabs are designed to help people recover from addictions. The medical term for an addiction is “substance use disorder.” But what is a substance use disorder? The term refers to a condition that causes people to experience strong cravings and obsessive thoughts about drugs or alcohol, and it makes it impossible for them to control their use. People who suffer from addictions often recognize the severe harms that their behavior is causing, and many have a strong desire to cut down or stop. However, a substance use disorder is a mental health condition that deprives people of the ability to do so.
Many people struggle for years trying to control their use or quit on their own. This is partly due to the stigma that surrounds addiction — and around the idea of asking for help. The fact that alcohol abuse and drug use are celebrated in our culture makes it even more difficult to admit a problem. In many cases, people who suffer from addiction are simply told to control themselves or exercise more self-will. Many addicts feel intense shame, especially when they feel that they must keep their suffering hidden. However, it is important to recognize that addictions, by their very nature, cannot be managed through sheer self-will. They are legitimate mental health conditions that require treatment.
Outpatient treatment programs help people get sober and stay sober. They do so by ensuring that clients have the tools to face potential triggers and challenging situations, as well as by helping clients address underlying issues that may be triggering their substance abuse. Moreover, they work with clients to help them rebuild their lives in sobriety. Quality outpatient rehabs take a comprehensive approach to addiction recovery.
Where Do People Live in Outpatient Programs?
Outpatient programs are flexible programs that do not have a residency requirement. Clients attend their outpatient program for a finite period of time each day and then return to their own homes. Outpatient programs are suitable for people who have a safe and supportive living situation in place. The nature of each client’s living environment differs widely. Some people live in private homes or apartments. Others choose to live with family while they work on their recovery. Many rent rooms in homes with roommates. No matter what a person’s living situation is, it is important that it is a living situation that will not interfere with the recovery process.
Many people benefit from living in sober living homes while attending an outpatient program. Sober living homes do not offer addiction treatment, but they guarantee a safe, supportive, and trigger-free environment. Residents of sober living homes are required to stay sober, and residents of quality sober living homes are actively pursuing sobriety. Choosing to live in a sober living home while participating in an outpatient program can be a great way to build new sober friendships. Having people to lean on who understand what you’re going through can be enormously beneficial.
Quality outpatient programs work hard to ensure that their client’s living situation is conducive to their sobriety. If your living situation is unsafe or if there is a lot of drinking and drug use in your home, an outpatient program might not be right for you. However, it should be noted that most quality outpatient programs work with clients to help them figure out a better housing arrangement, whether that means moving in with family or supportive friends or joining a sober living house.
What Types of Outpatient Programs Are There?
Outpatient rehabs are not all the same. In fact, there are many varieties of outpatient programs. Substance use disorders exist on a spectrum, with some requiring more acute care than others. For this reason, different outpatient programs are designed to offer different levels of care. These distinct outpatient program types meet for different lengths of time, at different frequencies, and offer unique resources, services, and treatment modalities. Outpatient rehabs can be grouped into several different types, including:
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs). Partial hospitalization programs, or PHPs, offer the highest level of care. They employ physicians and other medical professionals who are prepared to meet the needs of clients who are suffering mental or physical health problems or withdrawal complications. PHPs generally meet for a significant portion of the day multiple times a week. Partial hospitalization programs are generally recommended for people whose addictions have made it difficult to function in everyday life. They are also frequently utilized as a transitional program for individuals who have recently completed a residential treatment program.
- Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). Intensive outpatient programs, or IOPs, are the second highest level of care offered by outpatient programs. Like PHPs, IOPs generally encourage clients to engage in treatment multiple times a week. Intensive outpatient programs provide an acute level of care, helping clients back on their feet and regain their ability to function. They provide highly individualized care and support for clients who are facing the challenges of early sobriety. Intensive outpatient programs are excellent for people with highly developed addictions and for those who have recently finished an inpatient program or PHP.
- Outpatient programs (OPs). Outpatient programs provide the standard care that most people who suffer from substance use disorders need. These programs generally meet once a week for a few hours. These outpatient rehabs help people develop new coping tools and strategies for dealing with triggers, and they provide support as clients rebuild their lives in the outside world. Outpatient programs are generally recommended for people who have recently graduated from a PHP or IOP, but they are also ideal for individuals who require addiction treatment but require a high degree of flexibility.
- Aftercare planning. Outpatient rehabs help clients make long-term plans for managing their substance use disorder. Aftercare services are resources that graduates use to maintain their sobriety, develop their sober social support systems, and keep progressing in recovery.
How Often Does an Outpatient Program Meet?
Outpatient rehabs are designed to be flexible programs that people can easily incorporate into their lives. The three main types of outpatient programs vary in terms of their structure and intensity. Individuals with highly developed substance use disorders often struggle to function in their everyday lives, and they therefore require a greater quantity of treatment and support during the week. Even among outpatient programs of the same time, there is considerable variation, however.
Partial hospitalization programs meet every or almost every day of the week. Participants attend treatment for 3-8 hours a day, depending on their needs.
Intensive outpatient programs generally meet several days a week. Most participants attend treatment every week for a total of 9-20 hours.
Standard outpatient programs offer less acute care, so they tend to meet only once or twice a week. One session at an outpatient program lasts on average between 1 and 2 hours. This can make outpatient rehab very easy to fit into a busy schedule.
What Therapies Are Used in Outpatient Rehab?
All outpatient programs are different. Each one has its own treatment philosophy, emphasis, and unique resources. Moreover, the specific therapies an outpatient rehab uses will depend on the needs of the individual client. Factors that affect which therapies are used include what substance or substances a client used, whether they have a comorbid mental health disorder, or any other glaring needs.
Quality outpatient programs utilize evidence-based therapies, often in combination, to help people develop the tools and confidence they need to achieve sobriety. These research-based treatment modalities include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps clients learn coping tools that can help them avoid a relapse. CBT is based on the idea that problematic behaviors and emotional events are caused by irrational thought patterns. By challenging these thought patterns and replacing them with more productive ways of thinking, clients can address their addictive behaviors at their core. CBT is helpful for identifying triggers, making plans for dealing with cravings, and improving relations with others. It is perhaps the most evidence-based treatment modality for dealing with all kinds of addictions, including cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, and methamphetamine addictions.
- Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT). Dialectical-behavioral therapy is technically a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. However, it is unique in that it emphasizes radical self-acceptance in addition to cognitive-behavioral change. Clients engaged in DBT benefit considerably from the compassionate approach, which utilizes aspects of mindfulness meditation.
- Motivational enhancement therapy. Motivational enhancement therapy, sometimes known as motivational interviewing, helps clients address any issues they have that make them reluctant to get sober. Therapists help clients work through their reluctance and find the motivation to make a change. Motivational enhancement therapy is most commonly used for marijuana and alcohol addictions.
- Family therapy. Family therapy sessions involve both the person with the addiction and one or more family members, ranging from a spouse to a parent. Sessions of family therapy focus on substance abuse issues, but they also address interpersonal conflicts related to abuse, communication difficulties, unemployment, conflict, and boundaries. Addressing these issues helps people get sober and heals relationships that have been damaged during active addiction.
- The Matrix Model. The Matrix Model is most commonly used to help people who suffer from an addiction to stimulants, including methamphetamine and cocaine. The clinician works as both a teacher and a coach, working to develop an encouraging and positive relationship with their patient. The Matrix Model combines multiple therapeutic elements, including 12-step meetings, relapse prevention, family therapy, drug testing, and drug education.
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Medication-assisted treatment combines pharmaceutical medications with behavioral therapy to help people during the difficult stages of drug and alcohol withdrawal. These medications can mitigate cravings and withdrawal symptoms, allowing clients to build a strong foundation of sober tools before they gradually wean off of the drugs.
Should I Go to Outpatient Rehab?
Outpatient rehab is designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of people. Since the different types of outpatient programs address different levels of care, outpatient rehabs can benefit people who are barely functioning as well as those who are already in the process of rebuilding their lives. Because outpatient rehab programs are flexible nonresidential programs, they are also highly suited for individuals who have significant commitments in their lives, including work, school, and family. For this reason, outpatient rehab is an excellent first-line treatment for addiction, and it is also often recommended after a person has finished a more acute treatment program.
People who are the best candidates for outpatient rehab include:
- People who have a strong support system consisting of friends and family members
- People who have a supportive and trigger-free living environment
- People who are motivated to to attend counseling sessions and pursue recovery
- People who have consistent transportation to their outpatient center
- People who want support building their lives back up
- People who have recently finished a residential treatment program
- People who want an affordable treatment program
- People who want help with comorbid mental health conditions
- People with a history of relapse
- People with work, school, or family commitments
Do Outpatient Programs Treat Mental Health Disorders?
Yes. In fact, there are many outpatient programs that focus entirely on helping people recover from mental health conditions. However, outpatient rehabs for addiction also treat mental health conditions. Doing so is often essential for addiction recovery.
Mental health disorders are common among people who suffer from addiction. When a person suffers from a mental illness in addition to their substance use disorder, they are commonly called dual diagnosis. Their conditions are known as comorbid when they mutually reinforce each other, as is common with addiction and mental illness. Comorbid conditions are widely prevalent in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 8.2 million adults were diagnosed as dual diagnosis in 2016. That’s 3.4% of the country’s population.
Many people turn to substance abuse in the first place as a way of self-medicating and achieving temporary relief from their undiagnosed and untreated mental health conditions. Drugs and alcohol can help relieve the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder — but only temporarily. In fact, over time they tend to worsen these conditions. As mental health deteriorates, substance abuse becomes even more appealing. The result is a vicious cycle from which it is difficult to escape.
Getting treatment for both conditions is essential, since they tend to exacerbate each other. Quality outpatient treatment programs offer integrated treatment, a modality that combines mental health care alongside addiction treatment. Clients can ensure that their mental health problems will not trigger a relapse, and they can safely treat their mental health problems without their substance abuse interfering. By simultaneously addressing both conditions, outpatient rehabs help people finally get the relief they have likely been seeking in vain for years from drugs and alcohol.
Can an Outpatient Rehab Prescribe Medications?
Many outpatient rehabs use medication to aid the recovery process and to treat comorbid mental health conditions. Partial hospitalization programs are the best equipped programs for prescribing medications, since physicians and other medical professionals work on-site to support clients. However, lower levels of care, including IOPs and OPs, also often prescribe medications.
Outpatient rehabs often use medications to help people get through difficult or dangerous withdrawal symptoms, especially alcohol withdrawal and opioid withdrawal. These medications can reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and mitigate the strong cravings that people feel when they quit physically addictive drugs. Most outpatient programs prescribe these medications in the context of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), a modality that combines medication with behavioral therapy.
Medications commonly utilized for opioid addiction treatment include:
Medications commonly utilized for alcohol addiction treatment include:
- Disulfiram (Antabuse)
Dual diagnosis clients who suffer from a comorbid mental health condition can be prescribed medications for these conditions. Combined with counseling and behavioral therapies, medications can help clients function better, and they also ensure that symptoms do not interfere in the addiction recovery process. Medications commonly utilized to treat mental health disorders include:
- Antidepressants — SSRIs and other antidepressants can relieve the symptoms of depression, though they are also effective for anxiety and insomnia as well.
- Anti-anxiety medications — Benzodiazepines and other anti-anxiety medications relieve the symptoms of anxiety disorders and panic disorders, and they can also help people with sleep, stress, fear, and worry.
- Mood stabilizers — These drugs help control the mood swings that occur with bipolar disorder.
- Antipsychotics — Antipsychotics can be used to treat the symptoms of psychosis, which include hallucinations, delusions, and mood fluctuations.
What Kind of Addictions Do Outpatient Rehabs Treat?
While some outpatient programs specialize in specific addictions, the vast majority are designed to treat all drug and alcohol addictions. This is important, since many people are addicted to multiple substances, a condition known as polysubstance addiction. In many cases, people do not even have a particular drug of choice, and they engage in a pattern of polysubstance abuse without a particular preference for any one drug. In many cases, distinct addictions mutually reinforce each other, with some people abusing a drug to cope with alcohol withdrawal symptoms, for example. Quality outpatient programs treat addictions to all types of substances, from legal prescription medications to illicit street drugs.
Addictions that outpatient rehabs treat include but are not limited to:
- Heroin addiction (Opioid addiction)
- Prescription painkiller addiction (Opioid addiction)
- Alcohol addiction
- Marijuana addiction
- Crystal meth addiction
- Cocaine addiction
- Crack addiction
- Prescription stimulant addiction
- Benzodiazepine addiction
- And many more
Is Transportation Available?
Since outpatient rehab programs are not residential programs, it is essential for participants to have reliable transportation to their outpatient rehab center. Understandably, people who have DUIs or financial problems are often unable to drive, but public transportation can be just as effective. In many cases, supportive friends or family members can be relied upon for transportation. For clients who are unsure how to get to their rehab center, most outpatient programs are willing to help devise a suitable transportation plan.
Most outpatient rehabs, however, do not offer their own pickup service or transportation. While staff can assist with coordinating travel arrangements, it is crucial that clients manage getting to their rehab center themselves. For clients who are unable to do so, an outpatient treatment program may not be appropriate.
Can I Work While Attending Treatment?
Yes! In fact, outpatient programs are flexible so that clients can attend to their work duties. People with highly developed addictions often struggle to function at work, and many are habitually unemployed. For these individuals, a PHP or IOP program is generally appropriate. While they may not have a job at the start of their outpatient program, their treatment program is designed to help them develop the skills and coping tools they need to be able to pursue employment successfully. Many people begin jobs while attending treatment. This not only helps them rebuild their lives and achieve financial independence, but it is also an opportunity to put their newfound sober skills into practice.
For people who are already employed and wondering if they have the time to pursue addiction treatment, standard outpatient programs are a great option. These programs meet once or twice a week for 1-2 hours, allowing people to pursue treatment when they are finished with work. Outpatient programs aim to support people as they face challenges at work in early sobriety.
What is the Relapse Rate for Outpatient Programs?
Substance use disorders are mental health conditions that cause people to chronically relapse. Sometimes, with or without outside help, people are able to withdraw from the drugs they are physically dependent on. After withdrawal, physical cravings may disappear, but people who fail to treat their underlying substance use disorder are likely to relapse. Addiction hijacks the brain, causing people to experience cravings and obsessive thoughts about drugs and alcohol even when they know what the consequences of a relapse will be. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the relapse rate for substance use disorders is between 40% of 60%.
As a chronic disorder with a high rate of relapse, it is important to recognize that relapse is a normal and expected outcome — and an important part of the process. Quality outpatient programs support people who have a high rate of relapse, and each relapse is a source of new information, helping treatment staff re-evaluate and modify their individualized treatment plan.
Outpatient programs are as effective as inpatient programs for preventing relapse. One comprehensive study of people with alcohol use disorder showed that two years after attending an outpatient rehab, they had a 79% improvement in abstinence rates. Another study that compared residential treatment programs with outpatient rehabs showed that 6 months after graduating participants in outpatient programs were more likely to be sober. The abstinence rate for graduates of inpatient programs was 60%, whereas it was 75% for graduates of outpatient programs. However, this does not mean that one type of program is more effective. Ultimately, the people who are most likely to remain sober are people who engage in treatment over a longer period of time. For many, this means making use of both types of treatment programs.
Should I Attend Outpatient Rehab After Inpatient Rehab?
Inpatient programs are very effective for dealing with severe substance use disorders. However, inpatient programs tend to be shorter in length than outpatient programs. While residential treatment can help people reach a better place, most people benefit from longer term care. In fact, research shows that people who continue to treat their addictions for longer periods of time are more likely to remain sober over the long term.
After finishing an inpatient rehab, graduates benefit considerably from moving to a less acute level of outpatient treatment. Even if they have already achieved sobriety, it is still important to treat the underlying issues that are motivating substance abuse. Outpatient programs can help people develop new coping skills and make plans for dealing with common triggers. Moreover, they are an essential source of support while people rebuild their lives in sobriety.
Rather than jumping back into the outside world after finishing a residential treatment program, attending an outpatient program can be a great way to make the transition less jarring. Outpatient programs also offer a spectrum of levels of care, allowing participants to move from a PHP to an IOP, an IOP to an OP, and an OP to aftercare. As they progress in their recovery, gaining confidence and skills, their lives open up and become full. Flexible outpatient programs provide support and guidance throughout the entire process.
How Much Does Outpatient Rehab Cost?
Getting treatment for a substance use disorder costs money. However, it is generally a sound investment in one’s financial future. Active addiction is expensive. When a person abuses drugs and alcohol, not only do they have to pay for their substances, but they often accumulate debts due to their lifestyle choices. Legal problems, unemployment, and health problems can add to the financial disarray. Getting sober provides people with a new chance to improve their skills, pay their debts, start new careers, and even begin saving and investing.
Outpatient programs are significantly cheaper than inpatient treatment programs. This is because outpatient programs only require that clients pay for their limited time at the facility. Residential treatment programs are far more expensive because clients have to pay for their lodgings and all of the associated fees. In an outpatient rehab, clients are only responsible for paying for the therapy, medication, and other treatments they receive. This makes outpatient rehab ideal for people who are not in the best financial shape after years of active addiction.
In many cases, clients do not need to pay for treatment at all. While some free outpatient rehabs exist, most do cost money. Fortunately, insurance companies are legally obligated to pay for addiction treatment under the Affordable Care Act. This means that if you have health insurance, you can attend an outpatient program for free. However, the specific treatment programs covered by a particular health plan vary. If you are interested in a specific rehab, there is no guarantee that it will be covered by your health insurance plan.
NuView Treatment Center is covered by a wide range of health insurance plans. It is our goal to ensure that everyone who needs it has access to recovery.
How Long Does Outpatient Rehab Last?
The length of time a person stays in their outpatient treatment program varies widely. Outpatient treatment is designed to last as long as a person needs. Depending on the nature of an individual’s substance use disorder, their outpatient rehabilitation can last from a week to several years. Acute outpatient programs like IOPs and PHPs generally last over a month. However, many people receive continuing care from their outpatient program for years. In many cases, this kind of continuing care might simply entail regular check-ins.
It is important to recognize that recovery is a lifelong process. There is no medically recognized “cure” for substance use disorders. Like other chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, addictions simply need to be regularly managed on a daily basis. However, the nature of a person’s addiction treatment tends to change as they develop in their recovery. This is why outpatient rehabs offer a continuum of care. As clients achieve greater stability, they can seamlessly transition from more intensive programs to more flexible programs. Even when clients graduate from their rehab, however, they continue to pursue recovery. Outpatient programs help clients develop aftercare plans so that they can continue to make progress. Many outpatient programs also offer specific alumni support programs.
How Do I Find An Outpatient Rehab Near Me?
If you have more questions about outpatient rehab, the best way to get them answered is to talk to the director or staff of an actual outpatient rehab. At NuView Treatment Center, we offer every level of care, including partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), outpatient programs (OPs), and aftercare planning. Our highly trained staff take a compassionate person-centered approach to every client. At NuView Treatment Center, we make use of the latest evidence-based treatment modalities in constructing our individualized treatment plans. We aim to empower our clients to not only get sober, but address underlying issues and rebuild their lives from the ground up.
If you are ready to make a change, or if you have any other questions about the recovery process, contact NuView Treatment Center today.