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Substance Abuse Treatment: Outpatient Options


Substance Abuse Treatment: Outpatient Options

When seeking treatment for substance abuse disorders, the options for treatment may seem overwhelming. The stakes are high, and the challenge is great—it may even seem insurmountable. There are many programs to research and a lot of choices to make. As you or your loved one begin to search, one of the first and most important decisions is choosing between inpatient and outpatient treatment options.

For most people, intensive outpatient treatment for substance abuse has been demonstrated to be as effective as inpatient care. But there are certain conditions that would make inpatient care the better option. Many people start with a short session of inpatient treatment before transitioning to a longer period of outpatient rehab. Understanding the indications for different types of treatment programs will help you to determine the best course of treatment for you or your loved one, and aid in making an informed decision along with your or your loved one’s medical provider. 

Understanding Substance Abuse Treatment Options

There are many treatment options along the continuum of care. The majority of substance abuse treatment programs—outpatient and inpatient—share several similar components. These include expert medical care provided by a multidisciplinary team to facilitate safer withdrawal and support patients’ physical and mental health needs. Both treatment types feature individual and family counseling, as well as group therapy and drug and alcohol education. In addition, the majority of treatment centers incorporate some version of a 12-step program, which has a spiritual basis. Despite these similarities, there are also some key differences.

Inpatient Substance Abuse Treatment

Inpatient treatment, or residential treatment, involves moving into a treatment facility for round-the-clock care, usually for a month or more. This program may be located in a traditional hospital setting or in a less-formal treatment center. There is an opportunity for close medical monitoring and support within this structured format. Inpatient care features more personal attention and greater accountability, which some patients need to get through detox and achieve stabilization.

Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment

Outpatient treatment is characterized by a greater degree of freedom and flexibility, and there is a range of outpatient options. These include standard outpatient, intensive outpatient, and day treatment, also known as partial hospitalization. The major difference between them is the number of hours per day and/or week and the intensity of the treatment. 

Outpatient programs usually last several months, and though some patients start out in outpatient treatment, others are typically admitted following the completion of inpatient rehab. This transition represents a step down in structure and accountability from the 24-hour per day monitoring and supervision characteristic of residential care. Patients usually visit the treatment facility for several hours a few times each week, returning to their homes at night. Another option is treatment provided during the evening hours. The flexibility of outpatient therapy allows a patient to recover while working, going to school, and remaining at home with their families. It also allows participants to immediately practice and apply newly acquired strategies in the context of their home lives.

Factors Influencing the Decision Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment

Several considerations will influence the decision between inpatient and outpatient rehab. The first is the degree of involvement. The severity of a person’s substance abuse and/or the existence of a co-occurring condition will factor into this decision. The second circumstance to consider is the person’s current living arrangements. If the home or family situation is not supportive, inpatient care may offer a more conducive environment in which to recover. Financial considerations may also influence treatment decisions. Inpatient care is more costly, and in many cases, insurance carriers determine whether or not they will authorize reimbursement for inpatient or outpatient treatment based on specific diagnostic criteria.

Outpatient Programs That Make a Difference

While many substance abuse treatment programs share a list of common therapeutic modalities, some have unique features that can really make a difference. If treatment has been unsuccessful in the past, consider these innovative outpatient program components:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that has been demonstrated to be very beneficial in the treatment of substance abuse disorders. Through counseling sessions with a psychologist or licensed therapist, participants focus on thoughts and emotions that influence behavior. Outpatient programs that include CBT help patients to change negative thinking patterns and develop problem-solving skills and coping strategies to promote long-term recovery.

Brain-Based Research 

As our understanding of the brain and its role in addiction grows, these new discoveries are increasingly playing a role in novel treatments for substance abuse. Research in neuroplasticity, the brain’s potential to heal by creating new neural pathways, is informing and guiding new treatment modalities that offer hope for those who have struggled with more traditional treatment programs.

Creative Expression  

One strategy that has been found to support psychological and spiritual healing in substance abuse treatment is the exercise of creative expression. By using visual arts or creative writing, participants have the freedom to express emotions and process trauma. Since recovery from addiction must involve the body, mind, and spirit, creative expression helps to engage all three aspects in a healing pursuit. 

Physical Activity

Movement-based programs that emphasize physical activity and teamwork are combining multiple treatment modalities to increase engagement and highlight strengths. By combining a focus on personal strengths with the social interaction of supporting teammates, these programs build self-confidence as they strengthen social support networks.

Substance Abuse Treatment—Outpatient Programs Are Crucial to Recovery

The chance of finding success in substance abuse treatment increases when you can identify the right program to meet your or your loved one’s needs. This can best be accomplished by speaking to the admissions staff at your selected treatment center. Through a frank and honest discussion, they can help guide you or your loved one towards the most appropriate treatment program along the continuum of care.  

Understanding the indications for differing types of treatment programs will help you or your loved one to make an informed decision. Since most outpatient treatment programs incorporate multiple therapeutic strategies, finding one that speaks to your or your loved one’s interests will help to maintain engagement during the completion of the program. And whether or not you or your loved one start with a short stay in inpatient rehab, it is likely that outpatient treatment will play a very significant part in the recovery journey.

If you or your loved one are ready to explore substance abuse treatment options, whether it be outpatient or inpatient treatment, the team at New Choices Treatment Centers can help design the best treatment path. Reach out to us with your questions online or by phone at (726) 888-7003. We can help you verify insurance coverage and get you started today.