What is outpatient rehab?

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What is outpatient rehab? 

Outpatient rehab is a flexible treatment option, unlike its counterpart, inpatient rehab. The key difference is that with outpatient rehab, there are no overnight stays.

The patient chooses an outpatient programme depending on their needs, strengths and goals, and treatment objectives. 

Outpatient rehab is one of the treatment options for addiction treatment. This treatment offers those struggling with alcohol or drug abuse a chance to get treatment without disrupting their daily routine. 

Outpatient treatment is a less intensive addiction treatment option. An inpatient rehab, also known as residential treatment, allows the patient to stay in a secure environment where they get 24-hour support.

Inpatient treatment offers a high chance of success in the recovery process. Anyone struggling with severe drug or alcohol addiction is advised to go for inpatient treatment. 

Outpatient is suitable for those struggling with mild to moderate drug and alcohol use. This treatment option is great if you have a stable environment and a support system.

If not, you can still opt for outpatient drug rehab while living in another safe environment, e.g., sober living houses. 

There are different levels of outpatient treatment programmes, from the less intensive day programmes to intensive outpatient treatment services.

When you talk to your GP or a certified addiction professional, they will help you pick out the best outpatient programme, depending on your needs. 

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab 

Inpatient and outpatient treatment have some similarities. Both offer medically-assisted detox and therapy sessions.

Moreover, you get to work with medical professionals to help you with the recovery process. Each treatment option has its benefits and unique offerings.  

For instance, with inpatient alcohol rehab treatment, the patient gets an intensive drug and alcohol treatment programme that includes medication-assisted treatment. 

When a person enters an inpatient programme, a medical provider checks their vital signs and monitors their response to treatment during their stay at the facility.

You get to stay away from your usual environment with its temptations. Inpatient rehab can involve staying at a hospital, a detox clinic, or a residential facility. 

There are extensive studies that support inpatient rehab as the best treatment option for drug and alcohol use.

The structured environment in an inpatient treatment centre offers a better experience as some patients may be struggling with a chaotic lifestyle [1].  

The comprehensive care plus 24/7 support increases the chances for better treatment outcomes. 

When a person decides to go for substance abuse treatment, one of the most difficult things to overcome is the withdrawal symptoms that show up once you stop using drugs or alcohol.  

Drugs such as synthetic opiates, benzodiazepines, alcohol, and heroin cause severe withdrawal symptoms that can be life threatening.

People who wish to quit these drugs but have been taking them in the long term are advised to seek inpatient treatment. 

Outpatient alcohol or drug abuse treatment gives you the freedom to pursue treatment while still working or in school.

Many of these outpatient care programmes allow patients to meet daily for several weeks, and in some cases, for months.  

Typically, the frequency of meetings lowers when the patient improves in their recovery goals.

An outpatient setting can include online therapy at home detox services. Outpatient care also provides detox services, but they are less intensive.  

A typical detox service in an outpatient rehab programme can last about 6.5 days. 

Types of outpatient treatment options  

There are different types of outpatient programmes. They include: 

a). Day rehab/day hab.  

This is an intensive outpatient programme that allows you to seek treatment during the day. Patients meet 5 to 7 days a week. The outpatient programme may last a full day or half a day.

Day rehab offers structured treatment programmes that involve medical detox, counselling, and other therapy sessions. 

b). Intensive outpatient programmes.  

This outpatient treatment programme is more flexible than day rehab. You get to meet with treatment professionals several times during the day or in the evening.

This treatment programme is beneficial to those who have other commitments and suffer from mild alcohol or drug abuse.

Still, this outpatient treatment option is recommended for those with a solid and stable support system at home. 

c). Continuing care groups.  

This outpatient care is the last phase in the recovery process. People in this treatment programme meet about once a week for one or two hours to discuss their accomplishments and challenges.

The meetings are based on the interests of the members. 

Outpatient alcohol rehab is less restrictive than inpatient care. It is an ideal option for those with mild to moderate addiction.

Outpatient treatment on its own is a good option for those with mild addiction. You can also make it part of your long-term treatment option. 

Related articles on outpatient rehab:

What happens in outpatient addiction rehab? 

Outpatient addiction treatment varies depending on the treatment facility. But there are some similarities such as: 

a). Detoxification  

The detox phase is critical in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. Every addict has to go through this phase so that they can benefit from other treatment options. Outpatient rehab does offer detox.  

Those with severe addiction can stay at a detox clinic or go for partial hospitalization until the detox phase ends. Medical professionals manage and monitor the detoxification process to keep the patient safe. 

Those with mild to moderate addiction can detox from home. What happens is that the patients will occasionally visit the outpatient treatment for check-ups and assessment for vital signs etc. 

Alcohol and drug addiction treatment in an outpatient rehab provides patients with a chance to balance work or studies with treatment. If you go for an intensive outpatient programme, you may have to attend evening or weekend sessions.

This time frame makes it easy for you to seek treatment without disrupting your other obligations. 

There are different outpatient rehab options with varying intensity. A standard outpatient treatment, for example, barely offers medical services.

The outpatient drug or alcohol programme may link you to an intensive care provider if you need such services, e.g., if you need addiction medicine.  

Outpatient rehab can also occur in different settings, e.g., community health clinics, hospital-affiliated clinics, or residential facilities that offer outpatient programmes. 


Therapies used in outpatient treatment 

Once the detoxification phase is over, the patient goes through several therapy sessions. The therapy options available include: 

Family therapy 

The family plays a critical role in the recovery of an individual. The love and support that they provide during treatment help motivate the patient towards recovery.

The family members can also benefit from the therapy sessions, as the therapy helps repair the damage addiction brought to the family members. 

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) 

Motivational enhancement therapy is a popular counselling approach in substance abuse treatment. This therapy aims to invoke an internal desire to change in the addict.

It includes an initial assessment battery session, followed by two to three-hour individual therapy sessions with a therapist. 

Individual therapy sessions  

Outpatient drug treatment centres offer one-on-one counselling sessions. These sessions help the individual identify the underlying cause of the addiction.

Also, the therapist helps the patient develop coping mechanisms that will help them avoid relapse.  

Most alcohol and drug rehabilitation facilities allow the patient to choose from various individualized therapy models, e.g., cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), or psychotherapy. 

Group therapy 

Outpatient rehab offers group therapy. This option entails several patients (typically three to a dozen) assembling in a therapeutic environment to interact and learn from each other.

The individuals also share experiences, advice, and different perspectives on challenging situations that affect them. Group therapy is one of the most effective addiction therapies. 

Mental health therapy groups 

You can find an outpatient treatment centre that offers mental health therapy group sessions.

This therapy is provided because most people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction are likely to be struggling with a mental health disorder.  

As a result, this therapy group addresses the addiction and the mental health challenges associated with alcohol or drug abuse. 

Other outpatient rehab programmes offer outpatient services such as: 

Spiritual care 

Outpatient drug rehab facilities offer spiritual care as a core aspect of their overall treatment plan. The rehab facilities may offer on-site spiritual care services, e.g., prayer sessions at the facility. 

Educational & experiential workshops 

Some outpatient drug rehab facilities provide educational workshops to prepare the addict for life after treatment. The workshops offer valuable knowledge that helps the individual find a sense of purpose.

Also, the workshops could impart knowledge and skills that are recreational or others that can help the individual earn a living. 

Continuing care planning/aftercare 

Most outpatient programmes offer aftercare to help their clients in the recovery process. Aftercare is provided after the completion of treatment. This care programme usually entails regular check-ups and appointments.

There are also structured commitment programmes such as support groups and counselling sessions. 

Quality treatment providers will provide you with up to a year's worth of aftercare. This option will increase your chance of achieving long-term recovery. 

More info on alcohol addiction treatment at Abbeycare.

Benefits of outpatient treatment 

Outpatient treatment centres offer several benefits. For starters, most outpatient treatment providers are available on call and can provide medical advice on the best outpatient alcohol or drug treatment option based on your needs. 

Anyone struggling with mild to moderate substance use disorder can benefit from outpatient treatment. This is because outpatient drug and alcohol rehabs offer services like those in an inpatient treatment facility.

Moreover, most outpatient programmes provide services that address mental health issues combined with addiction. 

Outpatient services are closer to home, which helps lower the anxiety associated with seeking treatment.

Also, the patient gets to handle other personal and professional obligations while still seeking substance abuse treatment. 

Intensive outpatient programmes also impart knowledge and skills that the individual can practice in real-world situations. You can attend the therapy sessions with a friend or family member. 

Typically, outpatient services cost less compared to inpatient. This is beneficial because the person can receive treatment for as long as they need. 

You can find outpatient alcohol rehab services by contacting the substance abuse mental health services administration (SAMHSA) [2]. You can also search online for an outpatient rehab facility near you. 

Challenges of outpatient treatment 

Although there are benefits to attending outpatient drug rehab or outpatient alcohol rehab, there are also challenges. 

First of all, outpatient rehab programmes are not suitable for handling complex cases of substance use disorders.

There are instances where people mix alcohol with other drugs, which increases the risk for dangerous withdrawals. Also, it is common for substance use disorders to co-occur with other mental health issues or medical conditions. 

Many outpatient rehab facilities lack the capacity to provide coordinated care to patients with complex needs. Some rehabs link the patient to specialized treatment services to address the mental health disorder or other pre-existing conditions. 

A challenge with outpatient care is that some people may continue drinking when not under supervision. Since people are still in their home environment, they may struggle with abstaining from drug or alcohol use.

That's why it is advisable for people who struggle with drug or alcohol use disorder to go for residential treatment. 

Commuting to the rehab centre may be a challenge as some patients may not have access to reliable transportation. 

Does insurance cover outpatient rehab? 

Insurance does cover outpatient rehab. Most people pay for alcohol rehab or drug rehab using private insurance. Some private insurance providers can offer a full cover for the entire outpatient programme. Others may provide part payments. 

Those without private insurance still have a variety of options. Options include enlisting for NHS rehab services.

 Most alcohol rehab centres offer sliding payment plans and other flexible payment options that make it easy to get treatment. 

Most of the treatment providers listed in the national institute on alcohol abuse accept public and private insurance.

Read our complete guide on insurance covering outpatient rehab

Any treatment facility you find on the SAMHSA platform will provide a flexible payment option so that you can get the care you need. 

If you are looking for a specific treatment provider, e.g., one who offers comprehensive care for mothers struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, a great place to start will be talking to your GP or medical provider.

Local governments can also help you find treatment providers in their locale. You can reach them to find a specific treatment centre or log in to their addiction services sites for a specific treatment centre listing. 

If you or your loved one would like to seek addiction treatment, you can reach out to a treatment provider to guide you on the best option available, depending on your needs.  

Alcohol rehab, be it inpatient or outpatient, is the best option for anyone who wants to put an end to addiction.

When you reach out to a rehab centre, you get benefits such as professional treatment advice, medically assisted treatment, and support groups.  

The extensive services provided in rehab are all designed to help you achieve a healthy, drug-free life. 

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

Last Updated: February 23, 2022

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Peter also co-authored the new 6th edition of Drugs In Use by Linda Dodds, writing Chapter 15 on Alcohol Related Liver Disease. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.