Outpatient treatment for substance abuse can be an ideal option if you have the motivation to get sober but can’t take leave from work, disrupt school attendance or step away from other responsibilities in order to stay at an inpatient rehab center. But the most effective treatment—whether a residential program or outpatient drug rehab—really depends on the severity of your substance abuse and whether you’re also experiencing related medical or mental health complications.
Addiction to alcohol or other drugs is considered a spectrum disorder, meaning the condition can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. Outpatient rehab programs work best for those with mild or moderate substance abuse symptoms. An inpatient program is a better fit for individuals on the more severe end of the spectrum as well as those with co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety or trauma.
Different levels of outpatient rehab are available so that you can transition progressively from more frequent and intensive therapy to less intensive therapy as you show an ability to manage your own recovery with less clinical support.
What Are the Different Types of Outpatient Rehab?
Outpatient drug rehab programs vary in the number of days per week and hours per day of attendance. The right outpatient program depends on your treatment needs. Below are the three most common outpatient options:
Also known as partial hospitalization, this is the highest level of outpatient drug and alcohol rehab, typically meeting five to seven days a week for up to six hours a day. Some people start drug rehab in day treatment and others transition into this level of care after completing inpatient addiction treatment.
Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program (IOP)
Intensive outpatient programs are typically offered at a variety of times to accommodate busy schedules. Day and evening options give participants a chance to continue with work, attend school or take care of responsibilities at home. Some people start treatment in intensive outpatient and others transition in from an inpatient or day program. At Hazelden Betty Ford treatment centers, a typical intensive outpatient program schedule begins with four sessions per week and then meets less frequently as you reach your specific recovery milestones.
Continuing Care Groups
Sometimes referred to as aftercare, these counseling groups typically meet one day a week. Many are specific to a certain patient populations, such as men or women, older adults, health care professionals or individuals with opioid addiction. At Hazelden Betty Ford addiction treatment centers, these groups are facilitated by a licensed counselor, and patients take part only after completing an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.
For those who need a little more support during outpatient treatment, living away from home in a sober residence can be a healthy option. Many different types of sober housing are available with varying levels of programming and support, such as:
- Peer-Run: These sober homes are generally single family residences that are democratically run, have house meetings and encourage self-help meetings.
- Monitored: These sober homes are also usually family residences but tend to have a manager or senior resident on staff to help ensure accountability. They also have house meetings and residents participate in self-help meetings or attend treatment.
- Clinically Supervised: This type of recovery housing is typically licensed, has administrative oversight, emphasizes life skills development, and has a facility manager and credentialed staff. Residents typically participate in addiction treatment while living in this type of house.
- Clinically Integrated: This level of sober living is typically licensed and run by credentialed staff, with clinical services available in-house. Strong emphasis is placed on life skills development.
How Does Outpatient Drug Rehab Work and What Is the Difference between Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab?
Outpatient treatment works the same way inpatient does, with the main difference being that inpatient treatment programs are 24/7 and often begin with a supervised detoxification period while outpatient programs meet for a set number of days per week and hours per day.
The main components of outpatient treatment at Hazelden Betty Ford include one-to-one counseling with an addiction professional, group therapy and educational sessions. At Hazelden Betty Ford, both inpatient and outpatient rehab incorporate evidence-based treatment practices such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), medication-assisted therapies and Twelve Step Facilitation. During inpatient rehab, spiritual care, wellness and mental health services are provided as part of the care you receive whereas outpatient, you may opt to receive these services outside of the treatment program.
Family involvement in the rehab process is another important factor to consider in weighing outpatient treatment options. Because addiction affects the entire family, programs that offer family therapy, education, support and other resources are beneficial in helping family members work through the chaos they’ve experienced, set healthy boundaries and rebuild relationships.
How Long Is Outpatient Rehab for Alcohol or Other Drugs?
The goal of outpatient care programs at Hazelden Betty Ford centers is to stabilize your health and equip you with the knowledge, skills and resources to help you reclaim your life from addiction and prevent relapse.
Your pace through outpatient rehab won’t be identical to those around you. While there are common milestones in healing from addiction, your treatment and recovery path is your own—based on your specific situation, challenges and needs. Like diabetes or hypertension, addiction is a chronic disease. Regaining and maintaining your health means learning to manage your symptoms, first within the structure and support of a treatment setting and eventually in your home environment where you’re in charge of your sobriety.
Here are some of the key indicators of progress during treatment and into recovery:
- Stop alcohol or drug use in order to flush the chemicals from your system and allow the brain and body to begin healing
- Begin to rejuvenate the body by eating well and exercising
- Allow the brain and body to recalibrate so things like sleep begin to stabilize
- Mental and emotional health starts to stabilize so that spiritual healing can begin
- Develop ways to do things differently
- Replace the use of alcohol and other drugs with healthy behaviors
- Learn how to deal with cravings
- Take a look at how your behaviors didn’t reflect your values
- Begin to see that you’re not alone in your addiction and your peers can help the recovery process
- Learn what’s involved and what it takes to not use alcohol or other drugs
- Acquire and adopt healthy new skills to address problems
- Learn how to deal with feelings
- Make sober friends
- Use professional help when needed
Thriving in Sobriety
- Enjoy life without using drugs
- Practice healthy new behaviors
- Manage your disease with the help and support of a sober community
- Participate in a Twelve Step or other mutual-help group
- Be of service to others