Addiction treatment can be cleaved into two main delivery methods:
- Inpatient or residential rehab
- Outpatient rehab
Most severe alcohol use disorders and substance use disorders benefit from residential treatment. Around-the-clock medical care and medications available help to streamline the detox and withdrawal process.
Not everyone grappling with drink or drugs has a severe addiction, though, and not everyone can pack their bags and head to rehab for a month or more. This is where outpatient treatment plays a vital role for many in recovery.
What Is Outpatient Rehab?
According to Treating addiction: a guide for professionals, outpatient programs for drug and alcohol addiction provide access to the same range of treatment services you find in residential facilities. There are some notable exceptions, with outpatient programming unable to provide continuous medical support or to perform medical procedures.
Although inpatient and outpatient programs both give you access to the same therapies, there are two key differences between these forms of treatment:
- Where you reside during treatment: When you attend inpatient rehab, you remain overnight at the facility throughout your treatment. For outpatient rehab, on the other hand, you attend scheduled treatment sessions at a rehab center and then return home or to a sober living home between sessions.
- The level of care: The American Society of Addiction and Medicine (ASAM) defines five levels on the continuum of care. Outpatient services are classed as level 1, more intensive outpatient services as level 2, and residential rehab is the third level of care, coming just below the most intensive form of care, medically-managed intensive residential treatment at level 4. Where an inpatient program can provide 24/7 clinical care, you don’t benefit from this level of care with outpatient programs.
The following are the most common types of outpatient rehab:
- OPs (outpatient programs): Standard outpatient programs are intended to help you achieve the behavioral changes required to discontinue substance use. This level of care provides minimal medical services, instead connecting patients with more intensive levels of care as required. Treatment consists of anywhere from 2 to 9 hours of weekly therapy sessions.
- IOPs (intensive outpatient programs): An IOP is a more intensive form of programming offering more clinical and medical support than a standard outpatient program, but less than a PHP. With an IOP, you’ll attend therapy sessions for between 9 and 20 hours weekly. Benefit from the intensive interventions used in inpatient rehab but without the cost or the restrictions.
- PHPs (partial hospitalization programs): A PHP is sometimes referred to as a day program. Ideal for anyone requiring robust medical and clinical support without needing 24-hour monitoring, PHPs deliver between 20 and 35 hours of intensive weekly therapy sessions. After sessions, you return home or to a sober living home. Partial hospitalization programs are the most intensive form of outpatient programming, just one step down from residential rehab.
Of all these programs, IOPs offer the ideal balance between intensive treatment and the flexibility to remain anchored to everyday life.
What is Intensive Outpatient Rehab?
Research shows that intensive outpatient treatment for addiction can be equally as effective as inpatient treatment.
While inpatient treatment provides the highest level of care and medical supervision, not everyone grappling with addiction needs this. Additionally, many people are unable or unwilling to enter a residential facility due to work and family commitments. This is where an IOP plugs a treatment gap.
The care delivered via IOPs varies from provider to provider, but you can expect anywhere from 9 hours to 20 hours of weekly group therapy sessions. A program with a time commitment of less than 9 hours does not qualify as an IOP.
You will also have some access to individual counseling, and participation in some form of 12-step program is usually encouraged but never mandatory.
Therapy sessions are delivered on-site at a therapeutic or medical facility, typically a drug and alcohol rehab center.
For those with mobility or transportation problems, or for those living in remote rural areas with inadequate access to treatment, virtual IOPs provide remote treatment via secure video conferencing software. All you’ll need is a smart device or computer and an internet connection.
Sessions at an intensive outpatient program usually occur several times weekly for up to 3 hours at a time. Specifics will vary depending on the program and the provider. SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) recommends 9 to 20 hours of treatment for an IOP to be most effective.
Group therapy, then, acts as the core of most intensive outpatient programs. Some research suggests that group interventions can be just as effective as individual therapy for addiction.
Most IOPs will deliver the following:
- Family groups
- Psychoeducational groups
- Skills-development groups
- Relapse prevention groups
- Refusal training groups
What is outpatient drug rehab, exactly?
Everyone will have a different experience of drug addiction and outpatient programs can be highly personalized according to the substance in question.
For heroin use disorder and opioid use disorder, you can take advantage of FDA-approved medications to minimize the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. For other substances like cocaine and meth, by contrast, there are no approved medications currently utilized for treatment, meaning your focus will be on combating drug addiction through psychotherapy and counseling.
As long as your addiction to drugs is not so severe it demands a supervised medical detox and inpatient treatment, outpatient programs deliver the benefits of residential rehab in a more affordable and less restrictive form.
What is outpatient alcohol rehab, then?
For many people struggling with alcohol use disorder, a structured outpatient program can be beneficial.
In addition to MAT with FDA-approved medications (disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone), outpatient programs for alcoholism can provide the following:
- Relapse prevention training
- Relapse management
- Experiential therapies
- Holistic therapies
Outpatient programs are inadvisable for those with severe alcohol use disorder, or for those in need of a medical detox.
What is Involved in Outpatient Rehab?
If you engage with outpatient rehab, you will attend sessions at any of the following:
- Addiction treatment center
- Mental health clinic
- Behavioral counselor’s office
Sessions are held regularly at specific hours on weekdays. Occasionally, outpatient rehab programs offer evening or weekend therapy sessions, making it easier to engage with treatment around your professional commitments.
How Does Outpatient Rehab Work?
When you engage with an outpatient program at a drug and alcohol rehab center, you can expect access to the following evidence-based therapies:
- MAT: Most of the medically-assisted treatment available in inpatient rehab can be prescribed to patients on an outpatient basis. In the case of alcohol use disorder, opioid use disorder, and heroin use disorder, MAT can be highly effective. MAT is always delivered in combination with psychosocial interventions like CBT or DBT, as well as counseling.
- All psychosocial interventions: Any of the psychotherapies available in residential rehab are also offered for outpatients. From evidence-based treatments to alternative and complementary therapies, the specifics will vary from treatment center to treatment center.
- Psychoeducation: Psychoeducational services that fall outside normal therapy and intervention can be provided on an outpatient basis just as easily as in a residential setting.
- Support services: From transportation to and from rehab centers to educational and mentoring services, all of these and more are available in most outpatient programs.
In addition to all the benefits of direct interventions – medications and therapy – you could also find powerful peer support if you engage with group-based outpatient programming for addiction.
What is Considered Outpatient Treatment?
Any form of substance abuse treatment that does not require overnight stays at a residential facility or hospital is classified as outpatient treatment.
Who is Outpatient Rehab Meant For?
Outpatient rehab is most effective for mild and some moderate addictions. More severe addictions normally respond most favorably to residential treatment.
For anyone who does not require medical detox or continuous medical monitoring, it is normal to start at an appropriate level of care like outpatient rehab. Others transition to outpatient programming from a more intensive level of care, or alternatively from a standard OP to an IOP or a PHP.
You will find most health insurance policies will meet the costs of outpatient treatment, while most will resist paying for inpatient rehab unless this is unavoidable. Some people find it impractical or impossible to abandon all responsibilities for a month or more in residential rehab. Outpatient rehab delivers access to the same services without this restriction.
The District’s Outpatient Rehab
Here at The District Recovery Community, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of addiction. In addition to standard outpatient programs, we also offer IOPs and PHPs for anyone requiring more support and structure to combat addiction to drink or drugs.
If you are struggling with a co-occurring mental health disorder, inquire about our dual diagnosis treatment program. This allows you to address both conditions simultaneously.
Regardless of the time commitment appropriate for your needs, all our programs utilize evidence-based treatment, including:
- MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
- Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
- Counseling (individual and group)
- Holistic therapies
For anyone looking to engage with outpatient treatment for addiction but lacking a stable and supportive home base, our sober living homes allow you to commit to recovery surrounded by others undergoing similar experiences.
Reach out to the friendly team at 844.287.8506 to kickstart your recovery from addiction without needing residential rehab.